Metagovernance - an introduction

mgov figMetagovernance (Jessop 1997) is an approach aiming at combining and managing successful combinations of ideas from different gover-nance styles. It can be defined as an approach which produces some degree of coordinated governance, by designing and managing sound combinations of hierarchical, market, and network governance, to achieve the best possible outcomes from the viewpoint of those responsible for public sector performance. Metagovernance is not a super-governance style but an attitude and an approach that is expected to help overcome some of the typical failures of each of the governance styles and of their combinations (definition based on Meuleman 2008, PhD Thesis).

(2013) Cultural diversity and sustainability metagovernance

English (UK) Louis Meuleman  In:  L. Meuleman (Ed.) (2012), Transgovernance: Advancing Sustainability Governance. Heidelberg: Springer Verlag, pp  37-81. Download this book chapter

Existing governance frameworks seem to deny this social complexity and uncertainty. They also favour centralised negotiations and institutions, view governments as exclusive decision makers, and imply hegemony of Western economic, political and cultural principles. This book chapter sheds light on the problematic relations between cultural diversity, sustainable development and governance. These three concepts share a normative character, which is always a good predictor of trouble if interaction takes place. It is argued that the implementation deficit of sustainable development can be traced back to three problems: a neglect of the opportunities which cultural diversity offers, an implicit preference for central top-down political solutions, and an underestimation of the ‘wickedness’ of many sustainability challenges. It is concluded that sustainability governance should be more culturally sensitive, reflexive and dynamic.


(2009) Review of: Public Management and the Metagovernance of Hierarchies, Networks and Markets

English (UK) Judith van der Veer, Acta Politica

"What I find particularly inspiring about the author’s approach is that he exceeds the widespread division of governance into three separated styles and takes in a helicopter view to comprehensively study the concept. In the research framework, the author cleverly finds a middle way between two extreme directions students of governance are often pulled towards: including all sorts of possible relevant contextual variables on the one hand, or isolating one small part of the governance system from its context on the other hand. Despite the complexity of the model, the author succeeds in clearly describing the model and in convincing the reader of its value. (...) It is especially the focus on the internal organization that makes this thesis work as an important contribution to the discipline’s literature, which is crowded with studies on decision making and interactions between public and private actors in policy networks, and less informed with notions on structure and processes within public sector organizations at the moment." Download this review article

(2011) Metagovernance - definition 

English (UK) Louis Meuleman 

A description of the concept of metagovernance by Louis was published in the International Encyclopedia of Political Science (2011, pp  1555-1558), edited by Bertrand Badie & Dirk Berg-Schlosser & Leonardo Morlino. 

(2008) Summary of: Public Management and the Metagovernance of Hierarchies, Networks and Markets

English (UK) Louis Meuleman

The Spanish Business school Esade published a summary article (2008) of Louis Meuleman's PhD thesis 'Public Management and the Metagovernance of Hierarchies, Networks and Markets'. Download article 

(2010) Metagovernance of Climate Policies: Moving towards more Variation

English (UK) Louis Meuleman (2011), Paper presented at the Unitar/Yale conference „Strengthening Institutions to Address Climate Change and Advance a Green Economy‟ (Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, 17-19 September 2010)

Climate change is a so-called 'wicked problem': complex, value-laden, contested and extreemly difficult to tackle. Until recently - the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009 was a good example - climate governance was dominated by an implicit centralist, hierarchical view. For example, it was believed that only legally binding agreements on a global scale would be useful. In the aftermath of Copenhagen, some governments have begun to understand that this is not enough, and should also not be central. A more pluralist, multi-track approach is emerging, in which legally binding agreements are only one of the many approaches. This makes the governance mixture richer and promises better results. Download the conference paper

(2008) Review of: Public Management and the Metagovernance of Hierarchies, Networks and Markets

Nederlands André van Montfort

'Public Management and the Metagovernance of Hierarchies, Networks and Markets' was reviewed in the Dutch weekly 'Binnenlands Bestuur'. Download review article

(2009) Metagovernance - een samenvatting

Nederlands Louis Meuleman

Een korte samenvatting van het concept metagovernance and het proefschrift 'Public Management and the Metagovernance of Hierarchies, Networks and Markets', zoals gepubliceerd in 2009 op Download article

Other publications on Metagovernance 

English (UK) Meuleman, L. (2011), Metagoverning governance styles: broadening the public manager’s action perspective. In: Torfing, J. and Triantafillou, P. (Eds.). Interactive Policymaking, Metagovernance and Democracy. ECPR, pp 95-110.

Nederlands Meuleman, L. (2011), Publiek Management als metagovernance. In: Karssing, E., H. Bossert and L. Meuleman (Eds.) (2011), Management in Beweging. De belangrijkste inzichten en ontwikkelingen in de publieke sector, pp 141-158. Assen: Van Gorcum.

English (UK) Meuleman, L. (2010), The Cultural Dimension of Metagovernance. Why Governance Doctrines May Fail. Public Organization ReviewVolume 10, Number 1 / March, 2010, pp 49-70.

English (UK) Meuleman, L. (2008): Reflections on metagovernance and community policing: The Utrecht case in the Netherlands and questions about the cultural transferability of governancer approaches and metagovernance. In: Bissessar (ed.)(2008), Governance And Institutional Reengineering.  Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing Ltd, pp 151-183.

Nederlands Meuleman, L. (2007), Programmasturing: schakelen tussen netwerken, hierarchie en marktdenken. In:Programmasturing: Een tussenstand. Basisprincipes, ontwikkeling en theorie. Warnsveld: School voor Politieleiderschap.

English (UK) L. Meuleman (2006), Internal metagovernance as a new challenge for management development. Post-Bureaucratic management: a new age for public services? EFMD conference held: Aix-en-Provence, 14-16 June 2006.

English (UK) L. Meuleman (2003), Flexibly organising governance styles. In: Meuleman/Niestroy/Hey (eds.):Environmental Governance in Europe (pp. 220-237). RMNO/EEAC. Utrecht: Lemma.

metagov small(2008) Public Management and the Metagovernance of Hierarchies, Networks and Markets

English (UK) Louis Meuleman, PhD thesis. Heidelberg: Springer.

What is modern governance? Is it the battle against ‘old-fashioned’ hierarchy, or is it the restoration of key hierarchical values? Is it optimizing network management, or maximizing the benefits of market thinking in the public-sector? This book argues that it is the combination of all this. The next question is: In practice, how do successful public managers design and manage combinations of hierarchical, network and market governance? In other words: what is their rationale to apply metagovernance?

B. Guy Peters (2010: 37): "Louis Meuleman (2008) has provided the most extensive discussion of the concept of meta-governance now available" (in: Osborne, S.P. (2010), The New Public Governance? Emerging perspectives on the theory and practice of public governance).

The Preface and Table of Contents of this PhD thesis can be downloaded here: Preface  Table of Contents