Governance: The Concept and Its Dimensions

Date01 March 2018
Published date01 March 2018
AuthorArvind K. Sharma
Subject MatterArticles
Indian Journal of Public
64(1) 1–14
© 2018 IIPA
SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/0019556117735443
1 Former Professor of Public Administration, Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi and
Former Vice-Chancellor, Mizoram University, Aizawl (Mizoram), India.
Corresponding author:
Arvind K. Sharma, B-948, Ansals’ Palam Vihar, Gurugram 122017, Haryana, India.
The Concept and
Its Dimensions
Arvind K. Sharma1
Governance, as the term came to be used since the 1980s and the 1990s under
the influence of the neo-liberals, is about a minimalist state. It seeks a state
rollback on the ground that state is inherently inefficient when compared with
the markets. Apart from this, since then other versions have developed, which
led one commentator to say that so numerous are the definitions of governance
that it has become analytically an intractable construct. This article presents its
subject matter in three sections. The first section focuses on the semantics; it
underlines the need to distinguish between the conventional and the neo-liberal
usages of the term governance. The second section, which forms the bulk of the
present article, discusses the five strands that collectively form the complex whole
we call governance. The third and the concluding section contrasts the positivism
of the neoclassical economics and new institutional economics, from which the
neo-liberal governance paradigm is shaped, with the normative orientation of the
classical school of administrative thoughts that dominated the discipline of public
administration during the first fifty years (the 1887–1937 period).
Neo-liberalism, new public management, executive agencies, networks, non-
state players
Different Shades of Meaning
A general concept of governance, to refer to a pattern of rule or the activity of
ruling, has a long lineage in the English language.1 But the current interest in
governance derives from the neo-liberal public sector reforms of the 1980s and
the 1990s, in the West, that typically led to a shift from a hierarchic bureaucracy

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