Governance Under Limited Sovereignty

30 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 29 Aug 2010

See all articles by Thomas Risse

Thomas Risse

Free University of Berlin (FUB) - Center on Transatlantic Foreign and Security Policy Studies

Date Written: 2010


The social science debate on governance implicitly or explicitly remains wedded to an ideal type of modern statehood – with full domestic sovereignty and the capacity to make, implement, and en-force decisions. From a global as well as historical perspective, however, the Western modern na-tion state constitutes the exception rather than the rule. Outside the developed OECD world, we find areas of limited statehood that lack domestic sovereignty. This paper focuses on a particular example that is nevertheless ubiquitous in the developing world, namely areas of limited statehood in which the state lacks authority and/or effective control, i.e. domestic sovereignty. Emphasizing governance rather than statehood then allows us to ask who is providing which rules structures and which public services under these conditions. I argue in the following that limited sovereignty does not represent the end of governance. Rather, rule-making, collective goods and services are provided by various combinations of state and non-state actors using predominantly non-hierarchical modes of steering). Governance in areas of limited statehood is multi-level governance linking inter- and transnational actors to local ones in a variety of rule and authority structures. These so-called “new” modes of governance are often effective even in the absence of consolidated statehood casting a credible “shadow of hierarchy.” I discuss functional equivalents for such consolidated statehood of fully sovereign states.

Keywords: governance, sovereignty, statehood

Suggested Citation

Risse, Thomas, Governance Under Limited Sovereignty (2010). APSA 2010 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN:

Thomas Risse (Contact Author)

Free University of Berlin (FUB) - Center on Transatlantic Foreign and Security Policy Studies ( email )

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