Jean Monnet Center at NYU School of Law


II. Governance through civil society?

Governance is a term that is difficult to translate into German. But it is not only a language problem that renders understanding difficult. In other languages, too, there is considerable disagreement about the way how to interpret the fashionable catchphrase of governance.2 However, there seems to be agreement that civil society has to be involved more deeply in the process of decision-taking, at least in the form of consultations. This is the approach of the Commission, too. The integration and involvement of civil society is at the core of the White Paper (p. 19). Upon closer examination, however, one realises that, in spite of the affirmations to fulfil the aspirations of the "Citizens" and "Europeans" (p. 9), to link Europe better with the Citizens (p. 3), to ask the question of how the Community uses the competencies derived from the European citizens (p. 10), the concrete propositions yet again concern only the involvement of organised interest groups. Churches and religious communities, non-governmental organisations, trade unions and employer's organisations are explicitly mentioned (p. 19). For the rest, a statement defining civil society by the Economic and Social Council3 is referred to - probably because of the conceptual difficulties of developing a concept of how to govern with the entire civil society. Confronted with this approach, one cannot ignore the danger that only the educated, active, and conscious are included in this concept of governance - the élite, those already now participating as organised, financially and conceptually powerful lobbying groups.4 This expresses a criticism often levelled at the governance concept: in spite of the alleged dynamics of the theory, in reality, the status quo would be theoretically legitimised and perpetuated. Hidden problems are not put on the agenda - not only are the underprivileged and uneducated not heard, they are left out.5 Because of this and because of the growing individualisation and dominance of economic criteria taken as the only reference point in society, the German political scientist Franz Walter calls the ",,ambitious promise of a Citizens' society a beautiful fairy tale" which is not able to meet the expectations that it has created in today's hedonistic society.6

On the other hand, the Commission does not believe in "governance without government",7 to take up the popular formula created by James Rosenau. She envisages only consulting the actors of civil society; only in the very narrowly defined area of co-regulation is she prepared to delegate regulatory competencies to the actors of civil society. In her opinion, it remains the Commission's task and privilege to decide what to do with the opinions given by civil society. But how is Civil Society conceptualised?

2 An attempt to categorise the different approaches was carried out earlier on, cf., Philipp Steinberg, Governance-Modelle in der Politikwissenschaft und Möglichkeiten ihrer verfassungsrechtlichen Umsetzung, WHI-Paper 6/99, For an analysis of political science concepts and concepts influenced by the Theory of International Relations, see Barbara Holland-Cunz, Perspektiven der Verhandlungsdemokratie - Governance-Prozesse aus frauenpolitischer Sicht, in: Leggewie/Münch, Politik im 21. Jahrhundert, 2001, 281 (283 ff.). For a French interpretation, see Marie Claude-Smouts, Du bon usage de la gouvernance en relations internationales, (1998) RISS 155, 84; see Anthony Arnull, What is governance?, (2001) ELR 26, 411 for the attempt at a British answer.

3 JO C 329, 17. 11. 1999.

4 Beate Kohler-Koch, Organized Interests in European Integration; The Evolution of a New Type of Governance? in H. Wallace et A. R. Young, Participation und Policy-.Making in the European Union, 1997, 42; Hans Joas, Ungleichheit in der Bürgergesellschaft, Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte June 2001, 15. Also see, however, James N. Rosenau, Changing Capacities of Citizenship, 1945 - 1995, in: Issues in Global Governance, 1995, 1; Skadi Krause/Herfried Münkler, Der aktive Bürger - Eine Gestalt der politischen Theorie im Wandel, in: Leggewie/Münch ( op. cit. note 2), 299 propose a differentiated approach.

5 Renate Mayntz, Politische Steuerung: Aufstieg, Niedergang und Transformation einer Theorie, in: Mayntz/Scharpf, Soziale Dynamik und politische Steuerung, 1995, 263 (at 272); see, for the regime-theory, Susan Strange, Cave! hic dragones; a critique of regime analysis, in: Stephen Krasner, International Regimes, 1983, S. 337 (338).

6 Franz Walter, Die Bürgergesellschaft - eine süße Utopie, Berliner Republik 4/2001, 44 (at 47).

7 James N. Rosenau; Ernst-Otto Czempiel, Governance without government?, 1992.




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