The Three Worlds of Governance: Arguments for a Parsimonius Theory of Quality of Government

33 Pages Posted: 19 Aug 2013

Date Written: 2013


It is necessary to conceptualize and provide better measures of good governance because in contrast to democratization, empirical studies show that it has strong positive effects on measures of human well-being, social trust, life satisfaction, peace and political legitimacy. A central problem is that the term “governance” is conceptualized differently in three main approaches to governance which has led to much confusion. To avoid this, the term quality of government (QoG) is preferred. This paper argues for a parsimonious conceptualization of QoG built the “Rawls-Machiavelli programme”. This is a combination of the Rawlsian understanding of what should be seen as a just political order and the empirical strategy used by Machiavelli stating what is possible to implement. It is argued that complex definitions are impossible to operationalize and that such a strategy would leave political science without a proper conceptualization as well as measures of the part of the state that is most important for humans’ well-being and political legitimacy. The theory proposed is that impartiality in the exercise of public power should be the basic norm for how QoG should be defined. The advantage with this strategy is that it does not include in the definition of QoG what we want to explain (efficiency, prosperity, administrative capacity and other “good outcomes”) and that recent empirical research shows that this theory can be operationalized and used to measure QoG in ways that have the predicted

Keywords: Governance, State Capacity, Corruption, Political Legitimacy, Impartiality

JEL Classification: H11, H40, O00,

Suggested Citation

Rothstein, Bo, The Three Worlds of Governance: Arguments for a Parsimonius Theory of Quality of Government (2013). APSA 2013 Annual Meeting Paper, American Political Science Association 2013 Annual Meeting, Available at SSRN:

Bo Rothstein (Contact Author)

University of Gothenburg ( email )

Box 711
Gothenburg, SE 40530
+46317864599 (Fax)


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