Governance in Areas of Limited Statehood

Introduction and Overview

Thomas Risse

In the twenty-first century, it is becoming increasingly clear that conventional modes of political steering by nation-states and international regulations are not effectively dealing with global challenges such as environmental problems, humanitarian catastrophes, and new security threats.1 This is one of the reasons governance has become such a central topic of research within the social sciences, focusing in particular on nonstate actors that participate in rule making and implementation. There is wide agreement that governance is supposed to achieve certain standards in the areas of rule and authority (Herrschaft), such as human rights, democracy, and the rule of law, as well as to provide common goods such as security, welfare, and a clean environment.

Yet the governance discourse remains centered on an “ideal type” of modern statehood—with full internal and external sovereignty, a legitimate monopoly on the use of force, and checks and balances that constrain political rule and authority. Similarly, the “global governance” debate in international relations, while focusing on “governance without government” and the rise of private authority in world politics (e.g., Cutler et al. 1999; O’Brien et al. 2000; Hall and Biersteker 2002; Grande and Pauly 2005), is based on the assumption that functioning states are capable of implementing and enforcing global norms and rules. Even the discourse on failed, failing, and fragile states centers on state building as the main remedy for establishing or restoring political and social order (see, e.g., Rotberg 2003; Rotberg 2004; Schneckener 2004; Beisheim and Schuppert 2007).

From a global as well as a historical perspective, however, the modern nation-state is the exception rather than the rule. Outside the developed OECD world, we find areas of “limited statehood,” from developing and transition countries to failing and failed states in today’s conflict zones and— historically—in colonial societies. Areas of limited statehood lack the capacity to implement and enforce central decisions and a monopoly on the use of force. While their “international sovereignty,” that is, recognition by the international community, is still intact, they lack “domestic sovereignty,” to use Stephen Krasner’s terms (Krasner 1999).

This book starts from the assumption that “limited statehood” is not a historical accident or some deplorable deficit of most Third World and transition countries that has to be overcome by the relentless forces of economic and political modernization in an era of globalization. Rather, we suggest that “limited statehood” is here to stay—even in so-called Western and modern societies—and that governance research has to take this fundamental condition into account. The book then asks how effective and legitimate governance is possible under conditions of limited statehood and how security and other collective goods can be provided under these circumstances.

The authors of this volume investigate the governance problematic in areas of limited statehood from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including political science, history, and law. From a theoretical perspective, the volume challenges the conventional wisdom of the governance debate as being biased toward modern developed nation-states. Moreover, if we confront the central tenets of the governance debate with the empirical reality of historical or contemporary areas of limited statehood, serious conceptual and theoretical problems arise. If one of the key concepts of modern social sciences is not applicable to two-thirds of the international community, we face not only theoretical challenges but also eminently political and practical ones.

The authors probe the following assumptions: First, governance in areas of limited statehood rests on the systematic involvement of nonstate actors and on nonhierarchical modes of political steering, including bargaining and various forms of competition (see particularly chapters by Chojnacki and Branovic, Liese and Beisheim, Borzel et al., and Enderlein et al.). Yet these modes of governance do not complement hierarchical steering by a well?functioning state but have to provide functional equivalents to developed statehood (see chapters by Schuppert and Ladwig and Rudolf). Second, governance in areas of limited statehood is “multilevel governance,” which links the local with national, regional, and global levels and is based on shared sovereignty. This is fairly obvious in colonial governance as well as in modern “protectorates” where international and transnational actors provide governance services ranging from security to public authority (see chapters by Conrad and Stange, Ladwig and Rudolf, Schneckener, and Brozus). But it is also the case in many other weak states that the international community co-governs through the provision of collective goods and services (see chapters by Liese and Beisheim, and Enderlein et al.).

This chapter begins by introducing the book’s key concepts such as limited statehood and governance. I then discuss some conceptual issues that arise when governance is applied to areas of limited statehood. Drawing on the contributions to this volume, the next section highlights the contribution of nonstate actors in the provision of governance in areas of limited statehood. The chapter concludes by pointing to the “multilevel” features of governance in areas of limited statehood, in particular the role of external actors in the provision of collective goods and services.

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