Skip to main content

2019 | Book

Configurations, Dynamics and Mechanisms of Multilevel Governance

Editors: Prof. Dr. Nathalie Behnke, Dr. Jörg Broschek, Dr. Jared Sonnicksen

Publisher: Springer International Publishing

Book Series: Comparative Territorial Politics


About this book

This edited volume provides a comprehensive overview of the diverse and multi-faceted research on governance in multilevel systems. The book features a collection of cutting-edge trans-Atlantic contributions, covering topics such as federalism, decentralization as well as various forms and processes of regionalization and Europeanization. While the field of multilevel governance is comparatively young, research in the subject has also come of age as considerable theoretical, conceptual and empirical advances have been achieved since the first influential works were published in the early noughties. The present volume aims to gauge the state-of-the-art in the different research areas as it brings together a selection of original contributions that are united by a variety of configurations, dynamics and mechanisms related to governing in multilevel systems.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction: The Relevance of Studying Multilevel Governance
This introductory chapter situates the volume in the broader context of research on multilevel politics. Approximately 20 years after the first influential works on the then new notion of multilevel governance, it aims to present an up-to-date state of the art. Multilevel governance theory has become more refined since; also, its notions are fruitfully being used by different strands of research. Mirroring Arthur Benz’s multifaceted research agenda, the volume bundles contributions in four interrelated themes: Governance within the modern state, especially in the field of public administration (1); governance among various tiers inside and outside the framework of the modern state (2); federalism, with a special focus on its relationship with democracy (3) and, finally, continuity and change of (multilevel) governance arrangements (4). We argue that this array of contributions illustrates the great potential of multilevel governance for analysing most instances of modern governing under conditions of complexity and interdependence.
Nathalie Behnke, Jörg Broschek, Jared Sonnicksen

Government, Governance and the State—Varied Modes of Coordination in Policy-Making

Chapter 2. Transformation of the State and Multilevel Governance
This chapter reconsiders recent theorizing on the transformation of the state and the rise of multilevel governance. Both represent changing configurations of political authority. The state constitutes an institutional order, which transforms in processes of regionalization and internationalization of power. Multilevel governance evolves as dynamic pattern of coordination, cutting across territorial and functional jurisdictions defined by the state, but is still affected by institutions and power of the state. The chapter suggests considering transformation as a continuous process simultaneously affecting both the state and multilevel governance. Moreover, it presents a theoretical framework, which takes into account the path-dependence of institutional change, the power of actors to revise rules and patterns of interaction, and the impact of societal forces. All these forces interact and thus cause increasing territorial differentiation of political power and growing interdependence between levels of politics, while power disseminates to different corporate actors within and beyond the state.
Arthur Benz
Chapter 3. How Bureaucratic Networks Make Intergovernmental Relations Work: A Mechanism Perspective
While intergovernmental negotiations in multilevel systems are typically fraught with conflict and potential deadlock due to conflict of interest, this chapter argues that the specific role of bureaucrats in those negotiations is a key to understanding successful decision-making in intergovernmental arenas. Public servants differ from politicians in relevant respects: being not subject to (re-)election, but appointed to office for long periods of time, they develop neutral and expert positions on issues. Also, in repeated rounds of interaction trust and reciprocity evolve, helping them to smoothen negotiations. Based on a network survey and expert interviews among German bureaucrats, this chapter shows that those mechanisms are indeed at work and can be transferred to other multilevel systems, if certain scope conditions are met.
Nathalie Behnke
Chapter 4. ‘Governance Fatigue’ and Public Mismanagement: The Case for Classic Bureaucracy and Public Values
The scholarly discourse about public administration has been shaped in recent decades by an anti-Weberian approach which left many students of the public sector unsatisfied due to its one-sidedness and a resulting distance towards real-world governmental agencies and the way they function. After all, public administration, on the one hand, remains hierarchical, rule-bound and ‘bureaucratic’ in nature as characterized by Max Weber. On the other hand, classic bureaucracy is far less monolithic, hierarchized and rule-bound than its stylized textbook version may make us believe. Bureaucratic governance requires autonomy, discretion, institutional integrity and a sense of responsibility among the leadership. To neglect these classic ingredients of bureaucracy may imply to neglect its classic virtues as well. This chapter illustrates this risk with an empirical case of public mismanagement in Germany that claimed the lives of 21 people.
Wolfgang Seibel
Chapter 5. Cooperative Administration in Multilevel Governance Analysis: Incorporating Governance Mechanisms into the Concept
The Hagen governance approach consists of three layers. Starting from the base, there are governance mechanisms, governance forms, and governance regimes. While forms and regimes are in the centre of the approach, the governance mechanisms are only loosely connected to the two other layers. In trying to overcome this shortcoming, Dose intends to enhance the analytical strength of the approach. The approach has been effective in identifying deadlocks in the political and administrative process. It can also explain these deadlocks in abstract terms. However, as this chapter argues the governance mechanisms are not wholly suitable for a thorough analysis on the micro level. Therefore, Dose adds knowledge from the instrument approach of public policy. Since he provides examples by using a number of small empirical cases that he groups into a typology, this knowledge can help to gain some systematic insights into the strategies, which might help to deal with deadlocks.
Nicolai Dose

Coping with Complexities: Governance in Multilevel Systems

Chapter 6. Policy-Making as a Source of Change in Federalism: A Dynamic Approach
Policy problems are an important source of change in federal systems. This chapter argues that federations’ performance depends on how federal actors find solutions to specific policy problems. Because the search for policy solutions may touch upon the basic interests of governments of a federation, robust performance can only be achieved if they find appropriate policy solutions and avoid federal conflicts at once. Drawing on their research on fiscal consolidation and the harmonisation of education policy, Braun and Schnabel develop an analytical model to evaluate federations’ performance in individual policy areas that stresses federalism’s dynamic character. In distinguishing four ways of governance in which federations tackle policy problems on their agenda (self-rule, arguing, bargaining, hierarchy), they explain why some federations seem to struggle more than others in achieving robustness even though all four governance modes have the potential to effectively solve policy problems as well as minimise federal conflicts.
Dietmar Braun, Johanna Schnabel
Chapter 7. National Parliaments as Multi-Arena-Players: A New Deliberative Role Within the EU Multilevel System?
The Lisbon Treaty strengthened in the EU multilevel system in several ways, for example through the Early Warning System (EWS) and a stronger focus on inter-parliamentary cooperation. These provisions, Auel argues, provide national parliaments with the opportunity to move on from the role of strategic ‘external veto players’ (Benz in West Eur Polit 27(5): 875–900, 2004) and to adopt a more proactive, constructive and deliberative role as ‘multi-arena players’ that reflects the multilevel character of the EU. Although their impact in terms of parliamentary influence seems to have remained marginal so far, it has been argued that the new provisions can contribute to establishing a public European space by providing a structure of communication not only among parliaments, but also among national demoi. Auel discusses the potential of the new parliamentary role of ‘multi-arena player’ for the development of such a public European space and provides an assessment of its emergence in political practice.
Katrin Auel
Chapter 8. Intermediary Levels of Governance in Multilevel Systems: Exploring the Second Tier of Local Government from the Assessment of Laymen Politicians
Governing in multilevel systems in considered complex from various perspectives. One level which is vastly neglected in multilevel research concerns the ‘second tier’ of local politics, which is situated between the lowest (municipal) level and the upper levels (state or provincial government, national) of government. In different countries, this ‘second tier’ of local politics (e.g. Kreise in Germany, counties in England, etc.) is responsible for different issues and policies and it is also different in terms of politics. Using survey data of more than 5000 elected county council members from 14 European countries, this chapter pursues the question of how active politicians from this level of government assess the importance of their political units within the multilevel system they are embedded in and how they see the future of this special level of government in their respective countries. Findings are based on a cross-country comparative statistical analysis taking into account the county councillors’ notions towards the mutual influence of upper levels, the county level and the municipal level as well as their opinion on institutional reforms recently discussed in connection with the county level.
Björn Egner
Chapter 9. Bridging the Gap Between the Local and the Global Scale? Taming the Wicked Problem of Climate Change Through Trans-Local Governance
Cities and urban regions are not only the main originators of global climate change but particularly “incubators” of developments towards low-carbon-transitions. Notably in Europe, local climate policies are increasingly embedded in a dense structure of vertical and horizontal multilevel governance arrangements. Scholarship on cities and climate change ascribes two essential functions to multilevel activities: first, to bridge the trans-boundary and multi-scalar nature of climate change action; and secondly, to facilitate learning from best practice. However, local actors have the difficult task to explain publicly why a particular contribution of a city is necessary in order to tackle the wicked problem of global climate change. Kemmerzell argues that cities are particularly affected by the consequences of wickedness. Therefore, local actors need to embed climate policies within broader strategic settings. Based on research on the German cities Frankfurt, Munich, and Stuttgart, the chapter identifies and applies four mechanisms which trace the impact of trans-local action on local climate policy.
Jörg Kemmerzell
Chapter 10. Multilevel Coordination in EU Energy Policy: A New Type of “Harder” Soft Governance?
This chapter deals with a new trend in European governance which combines soft governance mechanisms with harder elements in order to enhance the EU’s capacity to steer in areas with limited European competences. It first develops theoretically a new type of governance, the ‘horizontal joint decision-making+’ in comparison with other types of multilevel governance. Energy policy was chosen as one of the areas where the new type of governance can be detected. The policy field is characterized by only limited competences at the EU level and no competences when it comes to decisions concerning the energy mix of the member states. Within the legislative package “Clean Energy for All Europeans” the EU designed an energy governance regulation which focuses on a better coordination of national energy policies. Despite the recourse to the soft method of open coordination, the regulation contains elements of a more binding and “harder” nature, potentially leading to the point of intervening in the national energy mix of Member States. This chapter analyses the steering potential of the EU Commission through “harder” soft governance in the multilevel system in an area of limited European competences.
Michèle Knodt
Chapter 11. Soft Law Implementation in the EU Multilevel System: Legitimacy and Governance Efficiency Revisited
Soft law instruments such as recommendations, guidelines or communications do not entail jurisdictional control, but produce important legal and practical effects. The literature on soft law frequently praises these instruments for enhancing governance efficiency through flexible problem solving. On the other hand critiques stress a lack of legitimacy as soft law is typically adopted outside the legislative arena. Yet, relatively little is known about concrete effects it takes at the national level. On the basis of case study evidence from Germany, this chapter shows that despite being non-binding, EU soft law is frequently implemented. Comparing implementation of nine soft law instruments in financial market regulation, social and environmental policy the chapter highlights that actors implement soft EU instruments either in the form of soft or hard law. Efficiency gains are frequently a main driver of implementation, while legitimacy and accountability become a concern where responsibilities are blurred during implementation.
Miriam Hartlapp

Federalism and Democracy

Chapter 12. The Ambivalence of Federalism and Democracy: The Challenging Case of Authoritarianism—With Evidence from the Russian Case
Although federalism is often conceptualized as a subcomponent of democracy, a considerable number of hybrid and authoritarian regimes feature federal structures as well. To explore this puzzle, the chapter discusses basic tensions with which ‘authoritarian federalism’ is faced: one arising from the defective rule of law, another one from restrictions of plurality, and, finally, from loyalty conflicts to which sub-federal incumbents are exposed. It is argued that similar tensions resulting from federal organization also occur in democracies, but authoritarian and democratic federations respond differently to these challenges. Moreover, the chapter reveals that even though federalism triggers uncertainty in authoritarian regimes, rulers at the central level profit from federal organization. Evidence is taken from the Russian case which can be understood as a ‘typical case’ in this respect.
Sabine Kropp
Chapter 13. Popular Federalism for a Compound Polity? The Federalism of the Antifederalists and Implications for Multilevel Governance
Debates on the nature of the Union have accompanied the European integration project from the outset and well into the present. Much research has already looked to experience and theory of US federalism for orientation and comparability, though there remains a clear bias toward the ‘Federalism of the Federalists’. In contrast, we examine the ‘Federalism of the Antifederalists’ with a two-fold analytical purpose. First, revisiting the ideational-historical transformation of federalism allows the provision of another concept of democratic federalism. Drawing on Dahl’s classic dualism between Madisonian and Populistic democracy, we conceptualize ‘Popular Federalism’ in contrast to ‘Madisonian Federalism’. Building upon that, we depict the democratic-federal and integration challenges the EU faces. Finally, we draw conclusions on how Popular Federalism provides not only a useful concept for comparative federalism, but also for ensuring balance between effective governance, integration and popular rule in a compound polity.
Dirk Jörke, Jared Sonnicksen
Chapter 14. Multilevel Democracy: A Comparative Perspective
Treating electoral accountability as a necessary institutional precondition of both input- and output-oriented democratic legitimacy, the chapter explores its realization in several variants of multilevel government. Whereas US “dual federalism” and German “joint-decision federalism” differ significantly in the allocation of governing powers and in coupling or decoupling of governing processes, they are highly effective in establishing the political accountability of governments to electorates on both levels. By contrast, both the EU and the European Monetary Union (EMU) lack a politically accountable government. And whereas EU legislation might draw upon the democratic legitimacy of national governments, the present EMU regime must be able to control and override the exercise of national governing powers by democratically accountable national governments.
Fritz W. Scharpf
Chapter 15. On Cross-Level Responsiveness in Multilevel Politics: A Comparison of Airport Expansions in Germany, Switzerland and the UK
The principle of democratic representation can either be facilitated or undermined in multilevel settings. At the same time, the state of representative democracy itself is being intensely discussed, with scholars either pointing towards a crisis or a transformation. Against this double background, Hornig takes a policy specific view on responsiveness across levels in the case of aviation infrastructure as a special variant of the democratic dilemma of multilevel politics. The author compares the performance of two ways of interest articulation in generating cross-level responsiveness: parliamentary representation of negatively affected local areas and the use of direct democracy. Specific challenges of aviation infrastructure policy as well as cross-level responsiveness are explored. Cases of airport expansion in a federal (Munich, Germany), a unitarian (London Heathrow, UK) and a semi-direct democratic system (Zürich Kloten, CH) are analysed. Given the scarcity of previous research on aviation infrastructure as an issue of multilevel politics and democracy, the following investigation is primarily of an exploratory nature. Yet its result puts the question of the capacity of representative systems, especially confronted with multilevel, cross-jurisdictional policy issues, into perspective. Cross-level responsiveness is possible and rather a result of representational shares of affected groups than of direct democracy.
Eike-Christian Hornig
Chapter 16. Demoi-cracy: A Useful Framework for Theorizing the Democratization of Multilevel Governance?
The concept of demoi-cracy has gained prominence in democratic theory, especially in applications to the European Union. This chapter explores whether it can inform scholarship on multilevel governance (MLG). The chapter starts by taking stock of challenges that MLG implies for democracy. It then reviews theories of demoi-cracy to assess how they address these challenges. The discussion reveals ambiguities in demoi-cratic theorizing, which are spelled out by distinguishing four variants: (1) demoi-cracy as consociationalism, (2) demoi-cracy as variable multilateralism, (3) demoi-cracy as network governance, and (4) demoi-cracy as multi-venue contestation. In principle, demoi-cracy—particularly in its fourth understanding—has the potential to make a valuable contribution to MLG scholarship, by highlighting the embeddedness of MLG in overlapping political communities and providing normative guidelines for the reconciliation of conflicting democratic objectives. However, the concept must be further specified, in dialogue with MLG approaches, to allow for this potential to be realized.
Achim Hurrelmann, Joan DeBardeleben
Chapter 17. Extending the Coupling Concept: Slack, Agency and Fields
Much has been written on the theories and practices of federalism and democracy. Some scholars have been interested moreover in the contingent relationship between the two terms, an approach taken in particular by Arthur Benz, who has placed emphasis on the manner in which federalism and democracy are coupled. There may be no coupling; they may be loosely coupled; or they might be tightly coupled. Benz sees loose couplings as the mode of coupling that is most suitable to democracy. This chapter addresses the following question: Under what conditions (if any) may parliamentary fields ensure favourable couplings of federalism and democracy? The author first briefly outlines how Benz understands these three forms of coupling before discussing three ways of further extending the debate on the important and fruitful notion of coupling federalism and democracy that Benz has introduced. The first discusses coupling in relation to the notion of slack; the second discusses the role of coupling agents and introduces the notion of ambiguous coupling; and the third discusses the relationship between coupling and field.
John Erik Fossum

Explaining Dynamics in Multilevel Systems

Chapter 18. The Evolution of Legislative Power-Sharing in the EU Multilevel System
While governance in multilevel systems involves many processes, legislation at the upper jurisdictional level is at its core. The lower levels of jurisdiction are represented at the upper level through a second legislative chamber. The exact competences of the second versus the first chamber are indicative of the degree of integration of a multilevel system. This chapter explores the evolution of the relationship of the two chambers in the European Union: the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. The authors develop an empirical approach to evaluate the gradual change of their relative legislative influence. The Consultation, Cooperation and Codecision II procedures are analysed for the period from 1976–2009, covering the most important changes. Parliament has clearly gained influence on legislation through Cooperation and, most prominently, Codecision II. Whereas a unanimous Council could mostly have its will in Consultation, Parliament and Council are on equal footing in Codecision II.
Katharina Holzinger, Jan Biesenbender
Chapter 19. Hidden Power Shifts: Multilevel Governance and Interstitial Institutional Change in Europe
The chapter focuses on how multilevel governance affects interstitial institutional change in decision-making in the EU. Interstitial institutional change occurs if formal institutional rules are ambiguous, and in consequence, when applied, are renegotiated by actors. Each concerned actor seeks to strengthen its own institutional power in these renegotiations in order to influence policy outcomes. This leads to an informal institutional change between formal treaty revisions. Héritier argues that MLG and multi-arena governance offer additional opportunities for actors to strengthen their institutional powers in the re-negotiation of incomplete formal rules during implementation, but may also set limits to such endeavours. The chapter analyses in three cases of European politics, the nomination and investiture of the Commission President, the nomination and investiture of individual Commissioners and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations, the conditions in which multilevel and multi-arena strategies of the European Parliament bring about an informal interstitial institutional change. All these cases imply a power shift between European institutional actors in favour of the parliament.
Adrienne Héritier
Chapter 20. Sub-Federal State-Building and the Origins of Federalism: A Comparison of Austria, Germany and Switzerland
This chapter accounts for federal institution-building based on the concept of sequencing. It argues that state-building processes on the level of constituent units that preceded nation-state formation encouraged a more functional rather than dual allocation of powers. Inspired by historical institutionalism, this long-term historical perspective illustrates diverging federal development paths between European federations (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) on the one hand and Anglo-Saxon settler societies (USA, Canada, Australia) on the other. Furthermore, the constituent units’ infrastructural capacities at the time of federalization shaped the historical development paths that Germany, Austria and Switzerland took and explain the considerable variation in autonomy of the constituent units. While Swiss Cantons dispose of high authority, Austrian Länder are much weaker and German Länder take on a middle position.
Gerhard Lehmbruch
Chapter 21. Conclusion: Governing Under the Condition of Complexity
This chapter draws conclusions from what we have learned from research on multilevel governance. Starting from the institutional constraints caused by multiple linkages between levels of government and administration, executive-parliament relations and policy sectors, it will discuss the various ways actors can deal with these constraints. Some of the strategies aimed at avoiding conflicts or vetoes have negative effects for effectiveness or democratic legitimacy, while others, taking advantage of the institutional diversity and dynamics, facilitate reducing these consequences. Therefore, complexity of governance constrains and enables policy-making in a particular way, as is expected from liberal and democratic government. Managing this dilemma requires flexible structures and strategic actors. The resulting dynamics of MLG can either destabilize or restore a balance of power. While comparative research has discovered various patterns of coordination and policy-making in MLG and considered dynamics, there is still the need to refine the analytical categories and apply them in empirical research in order to better understand the mechanisms and conditions which make governance work in multilevel structures.
Arthur Benz
Configurations, Dynamics and Mechanisms of Multilevel Governance
Prof. Dr. Nathalie Behnke
Dr. Jörg Broschek
Dr. Jared Sonnicksen
Copyright Year
Electronic ISBN
Print ISBN