Introduction: away from the central element of governance,


The concept or the term ‘governance’ has become
ubiquitous in almost every sphere of socio-political arena. It has pervaded not
only from political science to business studies, it has even become an
intrinsic part of everyday discourse. Yet the term doesn’t have a single
universally accepted definition. Albeit the genesis of the term lies in the
academia, it has become a common verbiage of the politicians, managers,
national and international organizations. Some understood it as a prelude of
the status quo, to some it lies in participation and some perceive it as a
technique of management. With the transformation of the concept of governance
over time, the state somewhat have been pushed away from the central element of
governance, a limitation that must be explored. Some crucial elements of
governance such as, the capacity of the state and power relation within the
society have been neglected. The objective of this essay is to try to trails
and explores the transformation of the concept of governance and reexamines
various elements. This essay argues that the state capacity should be subsumed
as a central constituent while conceptualize governance. This essay also
exhorts the conception of including violent and non violent non state actors in
the elements of governance.


Transformation of the definition of governance and its

As mentioned before, we don’t find a single
universally accepted definition of governance. Plethora of definitions can be
found from different perspectives; both extensive and constrained understandings of governance. The definition
of Kaufman et al describes, “Governance includes the process by which governments
are selected, monitored and replaced; the capacity of the government to
effectively formulate and implement sound policies; and the respect of citizens
and the state for the institutions that govern economic and social interactions
among them”. 1 We can
see an implication of a democratic system of government by the insertion of the
process of ‘selecting, monitoring and replacing’. On the contrary, Fukuyama bluntly
casts aside the essentiality of democracy as a component of governance while
defining governance “as a government’s ability to make and enforce rules, and
to deliver services, regardless of whether that government is democratic or not”.
2  For a better understanding of the transformation
of the concept of governance among different scholars and organization we can
look at the table below.



World Bank, 1989

“the exercise of political power to manage a nation’s affairs” 3

World Bank, (n.d)

process and institutions through which decisions are made and authority in a
country is exercised”. 4

World Bank, 2007

manner in which public officials and institutions acquire and exercise the
authority to shape public policy and provide public goods and services”5

World Bank 2010

‘the rule of the rulers, typically within a given set of rules.’6


“limited  to 
economic  aspects  of 
governance…in  two spheres:
improving the management of public resources…; supporting the
development  and  maintenance 
of  a  transparent 
and  stable  economic 
and regulatory environment conducive to efficient private sector

and Mease,2004

formation and stewardship of the formal and informal rules that regulate the
public realm, the arena in which state as well as economic and societal
actors interact to make decisions”8

Dixit, 2009

economic governance I mean the structure and functioning of the legal
and  social  institutions  that 
support  economic  activity 
and  economic transactions by
protecting property rights, enforcing contracts, and  taking collective action to provide physical
and organizational infrastructure”9


If we carefully look and read the definitions, we can
see different approaches from different scholars and very interestingly, sometimes,
different explanations within the very same organization, i.e. World Bank. We can
also see the metamorphosis in the definition used by the World Bank elucidates,
over time, a gradual shift away from the structure of government as a component
of governance. This transference is not an exclusive phenomenon to the WB, but closer examination of debates and
discussions demonstrates that this has been the case with others too. Two
elements can be found in the shifting related to conceptualization of the term
and its use; first, even in administration and public policy spheres, actors
beyond the state in general, especially the government, are included; and
second, both formal and informal rules and institutions are now regarded as
part of governance. While these shifts indicate to the proliferation of the
concept both horizontally (state and non-state actors) and vertically (formal
and informal rules), they inversely diminish the importance of the state in
governance. This phenomenon is a matter of concern here because, both
empirically and analytically the state cannot be divorced from governance. Peters
and Pierre aptly puts, “The most appropriate place at which to begin an
analysis of governance is the state, rather than beginning with the external
actors – social or economic. … Analytically, beginning with the state enables
us to see what deviations from this a
priori expectation i.e. the role of the state may have occurred, and
hence identify the points at which either international economic or domestic
social forces may have intervened”10

start the analysis at the level of state, we should consider governance as an
integral part of the state capacity. Again, there are different approaches to
conceptualize the capacity of the state. The prime debate here is the
relationship between state and society. Structural-functionalist works on political
development has considered the capacity of state as a fundamental issue in
understanding the state as an institution.11  The idea of state capacity has been used in the
milieu of understanding a result of a process or events, e.g., economic
development, civil conflict and political stability.12  In the
Marxist tradition, state is regarded as an apparatus of the dominant class,
that is bourgeoisie in the capitalist system; hence, the capacity of a
capitalist state is to be judged by its ability to serve its masters. In the
1980s these two traditions were challenged by the neo-statists like Theda
Skocpol. They emphasized state capacity as a central concept and argued that “the
state (its structure, capacity, and strength vis-à-vis civil society) cannot be
reduced to a reflection of class forces”13
This renewed discourse was labeled as the ‘Bringing the State Back In’
movement. Under this contention, the state can and does act independently
relative to society and the capacity of state means the state’s ability to
implement policies even against social opposition. The concept of state
autonomy also indebted to neo-Marxists like Ralph Miliband who stated that, “‘there
is basic distinction to be made between class power and state power”.14 Michael Mann emphasized
two dimensions of state capacity, infrastructural and despotic. Infrastructural
power is “the capacity of the state to actually penetrate society, and to
implement logistically political decisions throughout the realm” and despotic
power is “the range of actions that the state can take without routine,
institutionalized negotiation with civil society groups”.15 Placing the argument in historical perspective of formation
of state, Mann asserted that authoritarian states have high degree of despotic
and infrastructural power. Migdal argued that, “state capacity should be
measured by its ability to penetrate society, regulate social relationships,
extract resources and appropriate or use resources in determined ways”.16

Even with all these differences, some common
denominators can be identified. In present day global political sphere a state
must have at least three capacities: extractive capacity, coercive capacity,
and administrative capacity.17 These
features of the capacity of state mainly confide on the Weberian notion of the
state where state is regarded as a human community that successfully claims a
monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.18 Not only state has a
set of bureaucracy entwined with armed forces that formulate and execute
policies and represents a concentration of economic and political power, it embodies
a concentration of authority also. Which means, in the ideological sense, it
can give legitimacy to the actions of those who act in its name. Therefore, the
role of state should not be perceived in terms of its economic activity but beyond
that to those roles that are crucial to the economic process, and as an agency
of hegemony. I the light of the above circumstances, I argue that, the capacity
of state should include legitimation capacity to its discourse. In this
conceptualization, the state must have four capacities: legitimation capacity,
coercive capacity, extractive capacity, and administrative capacity.