Styles of governance

In academic literature the notion of styles of policy or governance has been given a number of different meanings. Among political scientists, emphasis is often given to structural factors, such as institutional frameworks, formalized decision-making structures and, more generally, to the ways in which the organs of government interact with one another. Distinctions tend to be made between centralized and decentralized forms of policy-making, between open and closed states, and between degrees of formality and informality - what is sometimes called the degree of transparency - in governance procedures.

In science and technology policy there has been a strong interest in recent years to identify "national systems" of research and development, or innovation, as well as to characterize different types and degrees of state involvement in policy-making. Often, attempts to identify styles of policy have been made for advisory reasons, that is, in order to help to improve interaction among different bodies and to fashion hybrid networks and institutions that can better mobilize the particular national resources that are available (e.g. Nelson 1993). In environmental policy there has been a tendency, particularly among political scientists, to focus on forms of institutionalization: the ways in which legal, financial, and regulatory institutions have been put in place to create a particular national policy "capacity" for environmental protection, or, more recently, for ecological modernization (e.g. Janicke and Weidner 1997). In general it can be argued that for most political scientists, policy-making, or governance, is usually seen to be a matter of form rather than content; of mechanisms, or instruments, rather than dynamic, cultural processes.

In my research projects - on the cultural dimensions of science and technology policy in developing countries, and on public participation in environmental science and technology policy in Europe - I have tried to develop a somewhat different meaning of policy style derived from the theory of science, cultural studies, and intellectual history. For me, a style of governance is something that has emerged over time in the patterns of interaction among the various "policy cultures" that can be said to represent the different constituencies or "publics" that are involved in the making of policy - bureaucratic, economic, academic and civic (Baark and Jamison 1995; Jamison ed. 1998). The style is more like a set of working relations, or mode of interactive behavior, than a fixed system or formal institutional framework.

Let me briefly illustrate policy styles in operation with reference to the countries that were involved in the project on public participation (better known, perhaps, as PESTO). In Sweden, for example, the powerful state bureaucracy that was established in the seventeenth century and the legacy of the nineteenth-century industrialization process, dominated by large mechanical firms (Ericsson, ASEA, Alfa-Laval), together have served to constrain recent efforts to reconstitute environmental science and technology policy in more sustainable directions. The recent conflict over nuclear energy, which deeply affected Swedish society during the 1970s, was particularly important in constructing contemporary policy tensions. The "dilemmas" of polarization are very much alive in the current debates about sustainable development, roughly dividing Sweden into two antagonistic camps: one remains firmly committed to large-scale, environmentally problematic industrial development, and the other promulgates more ecological paths to socio-economic development.

In my terms these camps consist, in large measure, of alliances between representatives of the economic and bureaucratic policy cultures, on the one hand - policy entrepreneurs in business and certain branches of government - and between civil servants in other branches and representatives of civil society, on the other - what might be termed the "leftovers" of the Swedish model in the social democratic party and public-interest organizations. The style of governance is highly polarized and often conflictual, as the two camps counter each other's initiatives and seek to incorporate the quest for sustainable development into their own "cultural" preferences and interests. ASEA, now fused into ASEA Brown Boveri, is a particularly important agent of globalization, of course, and, while talking up a new green rhetoric, continues to support the nuclear energy that it played so important a role in developing. The former opponents of nuclear energy have meanwhile attained influence within both the ruling social democratic party, which has recently begun the controversial process of closing nuclear plants, and, perhaps most crucially, at the local and regional level of government. The result is a curious combination of government-sponsored "activism" and corporate-sponsored resistance (Jamison 1997).

Denmark (and, in a similar vein, the Netherlands) has developed very different kinds of cultural tension around sustainable development. The "consensual mode" of policy-making, and stronger civic traditions, have led to a greater public acceptance of sustainable development programs in both countries, as well as a more active combination of economic and environmental policies. The problem for these front-running countries is in finding market niches for the new cleaner and greener products that their industries are starting to produce while, at the same time, not neglecting the older, more traditional concerns of environmental protection, particularly in relation to agriculture. The so-called greening of industry, which has been particularly influential in Denmark and the Netherlands, has also led to tensions between the emerging green experts and the more activist wings of the civil society (Baark 1997; Andringa and Schot 1997).

In Britain the quest for sustainable development has been less pronounced due to other policy priorities being higher on the political agenda as well as to stronger forces of both resistance and inertia. Here the legacy of Thatcherite neo-liberalism has been marked; also significant is the continuing and all-but-hegemonic hold of the representatives of academic culture over the realm of science and technology policy-making in general. Not surprisingly, in the country where the institutions of modern science were first established, it has been more difficult for the civic culture to play a particularly active role in green knowledge-making. In any case, environmental organizations have been much more militant in Britain than in most other European countries, and it is in Britain that the new wave of radical environmentalism has been most pronounced (van Zwanenberg 1997).

The Lithuanian experience is especially interesting because the environmental issue, as in many other countries of eastern Europe, emerged as part of a struggle for national independence and, when that struggle was won, other economic priorities have been seen as more pressing and urgent (Rinkevicius 1997). An emerging economic culture has been relatively weak, and the previously strong alliance between the civic and academic cultures, which was a constituent part of the independence movement, has been diminished as new external actors - nongovernmental organizations, international organizations, transnational firms - have entered the country in a more active way (Rinkevicius 2000).

If we look outside of Europe we see still different patterns or styles of governance at work. Vietnam, for example, provides a very different kind of experience, in that the civic culture has been given a very small role to play in the quest for sustainable development. Alliances between the hegemonic bureaucratic culture and an emergent economic culture have tended to overwhelm initiatives from the civic culture, and have kept environmental issues from becoming a central policy concern. As in eastern Europe, it has been the influence of transnational non-governmental organizations and, to a certain extent, intergovernmental organizations such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) that have brought environmental concern on to the policy agenda (Bach 1998).

India, meanwhile, is a country where conflict among the policy cultures has been accompanied by conflict among regions as well as among people with different religious affiliations. The existence of a dual society of urban and rural life-worlds has also meant that policies in the environmental field, as in most other policy areas, have had highly skewed impacts. The relatively high level of democracy and of democratic institutions - in comparison to most other developing countries - has also meant that a wide range of groups and organizations seeking to represent a large and variegated civil society have been able to play a significant part in environmental policy-making in relation to many specific controversies and decisions. The openness of the political culture has also led to a number of innovative links between the academic and civic cultures, both on the individual and the organizational level (Gadgil and Guha 1992).

In these terms the United States is a country in which the bureaucratic policy culture is a good deal weaker than in most European countries, while the economic culture and the civic culture have long histories of influencing policy-making in the environmental field, as well as in most other areas of public policy. In the name of American exceptionalism, the state has had a much more limited range of functions than in most other parts of the world (Jasanoff 1990). Through powerful public interest organizations and think-tanks, both the economic and civic cultures exert pressure on the bureaucratic culture in order to achieve their ends. In the environmental arena this has led to a number of pitched battles through the years, but also to a rather large gap between federal and local decisions and policies. The gap has fostered highly fragmented responses to environmental challenges from the private sector, or economic culture, as well as from the environmental movement representing the various publics of the highly diverse civil society (see Dowie 1996). The style of governance is not so much oriented to the shaping of consensus, or even to the coordination of effort, as much as to a balancing of interests. In many aspects of the quest for sustainable development, particularly after the Reagan administration had "de-regulated" so much of the state policy apparatus, it has been the economic culture that established priorities, constituted programs, and provided the main support for projects and initiatives, but often in a rather decentralized and highly differentiated manner (see Vig and Kraft 1999).

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