13 February 2017

Editorial for virtual special issue: The emergence of new forms of flexible governance arrangements in and for urban regions: an European perspective

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/21681376.2016.1256227

Introduction

There has been growing academic, theoretical and empirical interest in the past 35 years in ‘governance’, as employed to motivate cooperation in and across specialized systems, which impact the everyday life of citizens and organizations. Rhodes (1996Rhodes, R. (1996). The new governance: Governing without governmentPolitical Studies, 4465266710.1111/j.1467-9248.1996.tb01747.x[CrossRef][Web of Science ®]) notes that ‘governance’ is a pervasive, albeit inconsistent, term, whilst Jessop (1998Jessop, B. (1998). The rise of governance and the risks of failure: The case of economic developmentInternational Social Science Journal, 50294510.1111/issj.1998.50.issue-155[CrossRef]) traces its origin to the classical Latin and ancient Greek words for ‘steering boats’, in the sense of actions or manners of governing, guiding or ‘steering’ conduct, often overlapping with ‘government’. Academics define ‘governance’ in multiple ways (Stead, 2013Stead, D. (2013). Dimensions of territorial governancePlanning Theory and Practice, 1414214710.1080/14649357.2012.758494[Taylor & Francis Online]), which are not all mutually cognate (Rhodes, 1996Rhodes, R. (1996). The new governance: Governing without governmentPolitical Studies, 4465266710.1111/j.1467-9248.1996.tb01747.x[CrossRef][Web of Science ®]). Kohler-Koch and Eising (1999Kohler-Koch, B., & Eising, R. (1999). Governance in the European Union. A comparative assessment. In B. Kohler-Koch and R. Eising (Eds.), The transformation of governance in the European Union (pp. 267285). LondonRoutledge10.4324/9780203279625[CrossRef]) argue that governance varies from country to country, and even within countries. The term is not static, but rather flexible and continually adapting, as shown by this special issue’s six papers.
Stead (2013Stead, D. (2013). Dimensions of territorial governancePlanning Theory and Practice, 1414214710.1080/14649357.2012.758494[Taylor & Francis Online]) attributes this definitional disparity to different institutional settings between places as well as differences in the nature of influential non-governmental interest groups, key players and cultural factors. Jessop (1998Jessop, B. (1998). The rise of governance and the risks of failure: The case of economic developmentInternational Social Science Journal, 50294510.1111/issj.1998.50.issue-155[CrossRef]) regards governance as representing the modes and manner of governing, government to the institutions and agents charged with governing, and governing to the act of governing itself. Kohler-Koch and Eising (1999Kohler-Koch, B., & Eising, R. (1999). Governance in the European Union. A comparative assessment. In B. Kohler-Koch and R. Eising (Eds.), The transformation of governance in the European Union (pp. 267285). LondonRoutledge10.4324/9780203279625[CrossRef]) popularized the definition of governance as ‘structured ways and means in which the divergent preferences of independent actors are translated into policy choices “to allocate values”, so that the plurality of interests is transformed into co-ordinated action and the compliance of actors is achieved’ (p. 4). Stead (2013Stead, D. (2013). Dimensions of territorial governancePlanning Theory and Practice, 1414214710.1080/14649357.2012.758494[Taylor & Francis Online]) regards governance as being primarily concerned with the attainment of binding decisions in the public domain, comprising both formal and informal, and horizontal and vertical, practices. Faludi (2012Faludi, A. (2012). Multilevel (Territorial) governance: Three criticismsPlanning Theory & Practice, 1319721110.1080/14649357.2012.677578[Taylor & Francis Online]) defines governance being commonly perceived more broadly than by government institutions. Bevir (2011Bevir, M. (2011). Governance as theory, practice, and dilemma. In M. Bevir (Ed.), The SAGE handbook of governance (pp. 116). LondonSage10.4135/9781446200964[CrossRef]) argues that governance ‘refers to theories and issues of social coordination and the nature of all patterns of rule’, as well as practices and dilemmas, which place ‘less emphasis than did their predecessors on hierarchy and the state’ (p. 1).
In the mid-2000s, primarily European spatial planners began to invoke the multilevel territorial governance concept (inter alia Schmitt & Van Well, 2016Schmitt, P., & Van Well, L. (2016). Territorial governance across Europe: Pathways, practices and prospectsOxonRoutledge.; and Faludi, 2012Faludi, A. (2012). Multilevel (Territorial) governance: Three criticismsPlanning Theory & Practice, 1319721110.1080/14649357.2012.677578[Taylor & Francis Online], for more critical views), just as the terms ‘territory’ and ‘territorial cohesion’ were entering spatial planning discourses. Multilevel governance approaches highlight vertical and horizontal coordination linkages, integrating relevant interest groups and key players. Multilevel governance mushroomed from the 1990s onwards in order to capture changing relationships between the European Union’s (EU) different territorial governmental levels. Despite this focus, little attention has been paid to governance’s more specific territorial-oriented dimensions or how knowledge of territorial specificities supports spatial policy-making. This is despite the increasing complexity of European multilevel governance (e.g., more innovative types of regional cooperation, cross-border interactions and soft governance spaces).