Is hierarchical governance in decline? Evidence from empirical research

Hill, C. J.; Lynn, L. E.
April 2005
Journal of Public Administration Research & Theory;4/1/2005, Vol. 15 Issue 2, p173
Academic Journal
The growing acceptance of "governance" as an organizing concept for public management reform reflects a widespread, though not universal, belief that the focus of administrative practice is shifting from hierarchical government toward greater reliance on horizontal, hybridized, and associational forms of governance. Recent arguments to this effect, however, make limited recourse to the body of empirical evidence that might shed light on the actual extent of this transformation. In this article, we report on our review of over eight hundred individual research studies in order to assess what we know about governance based on available empirical evidence across a range of disciplines and substantive fields. We find that hierarchical investigations of the nature and consequences of governmental action predominate in the literature. We supplement this primary finding with additional analyses of research on performance and on public management. We then discuss possible reasons for the observed hierarchical orientation of research. While we cannot rule out the possibility that our findings reflect researchers' biases rather than actual governance, we infer that the shifts away from hierarchical government toward horizontal governing reflect instead a gradual addition of new administrative forms that facilitate governance within a system of constitutional authority that is necessarily hierarchical. In conclusion, we propose additional research that might confirm or refute this inference and that could fill the gaps of our understanding of public governance.


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