Contemporary talk about public governance — as distinct from ‘government’ — emerged at roughly the same time as the introduction of the so-called managerialist reforms into the public sector. This coincidence was significant. The terms governance and managerialism each signalled an intention to break decisively with allegedly outmoded forms of administration. If governance meant something other than government (both are defined in dictionaries as the practice of continuous authority in a political system), it seemed to be in the lesser emphasis that the former placed on hierarchical organisation. Governance suggested a benign structure of mutually supportive, independently active parts rather than the hierarchical, authoritarian mode of rule traditionally associated with government. It also indicated a blurring of the boundary between government agencies and nongovernment actors, who had now become partners in responsibility for the provision of services and the maintenance of regulatory regimes. It implied, according to Rhodes (1996), a change in the very meaning of societal government. The concept was not without its sceptics (Marinetto 2003) and there was no particular consensus on exactly what set of phenomena it was supposed to cover (Kooiman 2003). Yet it was clear enough that the vogue for ‘governance’ was stimulated by a sense that a new way must be found of governing complex societies in a globalising environment, a way better suited to a dynamic, more thoroughly egalitarian and less deferential age.
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