What Is Governance?

This commentary points to the poor state of empirical measures of the quality of states, that is, executive branches and their bureaucracies. Much of the problem is conceptual, as there is very little agreement on what constitutes high-quality government. The commentary suggests four approaches: (1) procedural measures, such as the Weberian criteria of bureaucratic modernity; (2) capacity measures, which include both resources and degree of professionalization; (3) output measures; and (4) measures of bureaucratic autonomy. It rejects output measures and suggests a two-dimensional framework of using capacity and autonomy as a measure of executive branch quality. This framework explains the conundrum of why low-income countries are advised to reduce bureaucratic autonomy while high-income ones seek to increase it.

This commentary is the beginning of an effort to better measure governance, which at this point will amount to nothing more than an elaboration of the issue’s complexity and the confused state of current discussions. Before we can measure good governance, however, we have to better conceptualize what it is.

The state, that is, the functioning of executive branches and their bureaucracies, has received relatively little attention in contemporary political science. Since the onset of the Third Wave of democratizations now more than a generation ago, the overwhelming emphasis in comparative politics has been on democracy, transitions to democracy, human rights, transitional justice, and the like. Studies of nondemocratic countries focus on issues like authoritarian persistence, meaning that the focus still remains the question of democracy in the long run or democratic transition. In other words, everyone is interested in studying political institutions that limit or check power-democratic accountability and rule of law-but very few people pay attention to the institution that accumulates and uses power, the state.

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SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a bachelor's degree in political science and international relations as well as a Master's degree in international security studies, alongside a passion for web development. During my studies, I gained a strong understanding of key political concepts, theories in international relations, security and strategic studies, as well as the tools and research methods used in these fields.

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