Evaluating Trustworthiness, Representation and Political Accountability in New Modes of Governance
NEW MODES OF GOVERNANCE IN EUROPE, pp. 135-162, A. Heretier and M. Rhodes, eds., Palgrave Macmillan, January 2011
40 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2011
Date Written: September 28, 2011
This chapter looks at the New Modes of Governance (NMG) from a normative perspective, assessing their democratic legitimacy. Of the four questions underlining the New Modes of Governance Project, therefore, we concentrate on evaluation, discussing only briefly and at the beginning how NMG emerged, evolved, and operate. Under NMG we consider a variety of forms, such as regulatory networks negotiating agreed standards, policy co-ordination through benchmarking and comparative analysis of policy performance, and independent regulatory authorities whose responsibility is to set standards and define the terms of compliance in particular industrial or service sectors. But we also consider, more generally, the way in which Committees and civil society organizations play a role in European social dialogue and more generally in European governance.
From a normative perspective, the emergence of NMG has been supported on the basis of two main arguments. One is centred on considerations of effectiveness, suggesting that networks and private actors have greater expertise, which makes them able to respond more speedily and appropriately than public actors to changing circumstances in a given policy domain. The other is centred on the idea of credibility, and the way in which expert-based institutions and arrangements can make more credible long-term commitments than directly political institutions, since they are insulated from partisan politics and from the political cycles characterizing democratic government.
But it would seem that NMG have emerged not only because of their alleged superiority in terms of effectiveness and credibility, but also as an effect of the weakness of traditional forms of democratic legitimacy at the EU level. Moreover, NMG have been promoted in areas where majoritarian politics at the European level is either unavailable or regarded as inappropriate. The more informal and less hierarchical ways in which NMG function have been seen, by political and societal actors, as providing more participative and negotiated ways of decision-making compared to the more hierarchical and authoritative mechanisms of traditional democratic politics present at the national level. This supposed superiority of NMG, however, is a rather contested issue, and one that poses difficult questions in terms of legitimacy, democratic representation, and political accountability. In this chapter, we shall assess how NMG fare from these three perspectives, but we start first with a brief discussion of the emergence and nature of NMG as part of European governance at large.
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