Revista de Administración Pública

Esta revista forma parte del acervo de la Biblioteca Jurídica Virtual del Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas de la UNAM
Matute González Governance: the governing process
Revista de
Luis F. Aguilar Villanueva. Governance: the governing process.
México, Fundación Friedrich Naumann para la libertad, 2010.
67 páginas. ISBN 978-607-95144-2-6
Carlos F. Matute González
What is government? That is the question Aguilar Villanueva asks
himself in different ways throughout his book, to answer this he resorts
firstly to explaining the government crisis contemporary societies are
going through and subsequently to the concepts of governability and
governance which are ways the government becomes evident in the
state based on the rule of law.
In this sense, the most important point the book explains is why the
abilities to direct democratic States has decreased significantly in
the last decades; this has happened for various reasons and not all
of them are the ruler’s responsibility. The conditions have changed,
with more democratic legitimacy; leaders are not capable of directing social will towards specific ends valuable to the community. To
overcome the authoritarian past it is not enough to create governments endowed with capacity and leadership, analytic, technical and
political competence. After taking on power, the latter had enough
legitimacy and power to act; however, they were subject to constant
pressure from a society that demanded results.
The government separates itself from the people or the groups that
supported to become a series of monitorable processes exposed to
public criticism. Legitimization must be found in managerial capacity,
it has been proven that democratic governments do not necessarily
have this quality and even social governments were exposed to a
permanent crisis because of the existing deficit between what was
required by society and what governments could actually provide.
DR © 2011. instituto Nacional de Administración Pública
Esta revista forma parte del acervo de la Biblioteca Jurídica Virtual del Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas de la UNAM
Revista de Administración Pública XLVI 1
This circumstance prompted the terms government and gobernability
to be linked to one another, what were the odds the democratically elected authorities with a lot of promises towards the electorate
had to impose a determined order to guide society to pre-established
goals. This problem was considered a structural damage of the public income-social spending relationship.
Governance emphasizes the capacity to govern independently from
the abstract relationships between the State and the market. This is
a significant change, by contrasting centralist and hierarchical ways
with decentralized and inter-organizational ones, the government becomes another actor in the constellation of participants that determine the course of society.
A permanent confrontation of ideas, values and strategies as a viable
process to reach agreements, is very different from the social state’s
rigid style. The need to control executive structures is substituted by
a more discreet position to coordinate private and public bodies that
participate actively in the political arena.
The author proposes a chronological sequence to conceive government, in the beginning it saw itself as the center of social activity,
capable of interpreting rationality and authentic public interest and
therefore, authoritarian. Subsequently, it becomes a democratic and
inclusive body, concrete expressions of public interest are very numerous, thus, it is impossible for it to finance and give them attention;
this highlights the risk of ungovernability and leads to the modification of the ways of expression social leaders had.
The important thing is what was theoretically described in the 70’s of
the last century happened; ungovernability affected societies which suddenly discovered that government actions did not mean valuable social results, a lot of activities did not translate into social well-being and
only benefited government organizations or their clientelar allies.
The first theoretical reaction against public administrations that consumed budgets in an inefficient and unbalanced way and whose
spending was not directly linked to the generation of well-being was
the New Public Management proposal based on decentralization,
thinning of the State and privatization; it also emphasized the legality-efficiency paradox and the hierarchy-process management one.
DR © 2011. instituto Nacional de Administración Pública
Esta revista forma parte del acervo de la Biblioteca Jurídica Virtual del Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas de la UNAM
Matute González Governance: the governing process
Aguilar Villanueva presents these loss of managerial capacity processes that democratic governments have suffered at various levels,
from the economical one linked to globalization, to the political one
to pluralism, the administrative one with growth of public space and
the sociological one to functional separation of society. Governability
finds its worst enemies in the circumstances that promoted the overcoming of authoritarian governments: market liberalization related
to globalization and democratization that created new types of demands. “The two related impacts have helped generalize the image
of a limited government and have made us understand that managerial deficiencies of democratic governments are due to impotence
and not just to incompetence” (p.24).
The book does not only make a diagnosis, it proposes some solutions
on the topic of governability and Governance which the author thinks
of not only as complementary; Governance could not exist theoretically without the first. In other words, governability is not enough
to give the government is managerial capacity back; it can even be
a step back in democratic terms and a new style of government is
needed: Governance.
Aguilar Villanueva concludes the aforementioned after considering
the differences between both theoretical responses: governability is
the way the government is seen by society in relation to its capacity
or incapacity to lead, thus, it is strictly government related and is closely linked to results-oriented legitimacy.
On the other hand, Governance is the way coordination can be achieved among the different agents that participate in the public space;
it means a new managerial process that needs a government that is
“expert and competent, incoherence and deficiency free organizationally and operationally, financially robust, legally impeccable and
administratively efficient” (p. 51) to achieve good coordination.
The governability approach recognizes the natural chaos societies
experience and their need to have an actor who is responsible of
social achievements without having to have the centrality of authoritarian regimes; because a good government is capable of directing
society. This vision still prevails in States whose economic and political actors are related to exploitation and social inequality; thus, it
gives an excessive importance to government action which acts as a
stability factor that promotes development.
DR © 2011. instituto Nacional de Administración Pública
Esta revista forma parte del acervo de la Biblioteca Jurídica Virtual del Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas de la UNAM
Revista de Administración Pública XLVI 1
In this sense, the one who constantly support “State Reforms” are
pro-government in the same way they think that by allocating resources to the State will make it strong enough to direct economic and
social activity. Aguilar Villanueva does not think this is the right path
and provides two main criticisms directed towards the ones who seek
to improve governability in democratic societies to make it the relegitimizing strategy of social power: the world has changed and the
conditions make the government just another actor and the efficiency
of government actions depend on the activities of other actors.
Instead, Governance sees governability as a condition to make managerial capacity more efficient and it is also a post-government process. “It is a step towards a system of government that requires,
activates and joins resources from the public sector, markets and
social networks” (p. 30).
After Aguilar Villanueva lets us know he is in favor of the Governance
approach, he states its concept, essential characteristics and structure with Aristotelic order and precision. He synthesizes the knowledge of this topic, and warns the reader about normative definitions that
think of it as the panacea, ideological ones that list it as neoliberal
and theoretical definitions that think of it as an effect, and not a form
of government.
The essential contents of the concept are:
It is a direction of society process;
It is an activity of orientation towards specific purposes;
It is a process structures institutionally and technically;
It includes two levels of decision: goals and activities to execute through participation and government agreement and
extra-governmental actors;
• It needs a government action or authority instance to solve
or make problem-solving easier;
• It needs groups and sectors to dialogue at inclusive, symmetric and rational levels; and
• It is the result of government and social participation in situations of constant change (weight and influence of the
ones involved).
The new Governance seeks to relinquish the idea that the government is the one who decides, and is inclined to determine for society
the transcendent in a deliberate, co-responsible, interacting and interdependent way. It is the governing process that recognized that
DR © 2011. instituto Nacional de Administración Pública
Esta revista forma parte del acervo de la Biblioteca Jurídica Virtual del Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas de la UNAM
Matute González Governance: the governing process
no subject has absolute control over resources, or over the content
of public interest and, “to summarize, it is a concept of decentralized
management of society” (p. 44).
The structural components can be institutional or technical. The institutional are:
The institutions of public powers;
The security and justice system;
The market;
Civil society; and
The system of international political institutions.
The technical are:
Science and technology system;
Public policies;
Public finances; and
Public administration.
These components define the capacities, achievements and limits to
govern. The theoretical exposure that includes concept, importance
and diagnosis, is instructive and exhaustive. But Aguilar Villanueva
goes further and asks himself the possibility and probability the Governance style has in Latin-American societies; which are characterized by the distortion of public interest and citizen participation,
concentration of economic and political power, avoidance of accountability and confusion of responsibilities.
To back up this idea, he quotes some authors and lists factors that
hinder the creation of a new government-society relation; the most
important ones are poverty and inequality. The main difficulty Governance faces is that society is still an object and not a subject (associated) with development; this creates a hierarchical Governance,
unlike the participative in which the government makes up for the
huge deficiencies of social actors; who need the State’s resources to
fulfill their functions.
Nonetheless, the author does not think these obstacles are unsalvageable, they are more likely the main reason to promote Governance: “the real difficulty to govern with Governance does not cancel, but
opens the need to do it to solve chronic and critical issues and encourage society towards situations of greater quality of life” (p. 59).
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Esta revista forma parte del acervo de la Biblioteca Jurídica Virtual del Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas de la UNAM
Revista de Administración Pública XLVI 1
He also acknowledges the criticism regarding the de-naturalizing of
the public because of the intervention of extra-governmental actors
in social decision processes, overcoming it by resorting to the formal
record that the State gives the acts it issues. In my opinion, this is
valid although insufficient; many times non-state public actors –such
as political parties– act without any punishment from government
agencies. There are other factors that give publicity to Governance,
such as being tied to an administrative regime.
Topics concerning citizen participation and social responsibility –such
as transparency and accountability– are relevant to Governance. The
first one promotes a higher social intervention because it promotes
better policies to solve problems and meet needs. However, this is
not necessarily true; sometimes there is no correspondence between
higher citizen participation and the validity and social effectiveness
of the actions of the government. The second one has even more
complex relationships; the intervention of private actors can create a
diffuse accountability system that promotes the concealment of information. In both topics a theory that maintains, promotes and ensures
its existence in Governance has not been developed.
Finally, Aguilar Villanueva reminds us that there is an agreement
between government and other extra-government actors that is an
important element in Governance; since processes require the participation of various actors that have their own resources, opposite
interests, levels of interest, different approaches and different organizational capacities; and the only way to reconcile them is through
permanent consultation.
Hence the importance of implementing a process accepted by the
ones involved; so as to provide Governance with an intentional structure an operative technique, essential to increase the probability of
reaching agreements. The problem is that we “have not identified
which are the rules or guidelines that promote or facilitate coordination and agreement among actors during the negotiation or dialogue
of public complex thorny topics” (p.65). It would be ideal to have a
series of universals principles to reach an agreement, even in circumstances that include confrontational interests.
Governance is a tricky path, because it indispensably requires a government that has validity in the effectiveness of its actions, greater social participation, implementation of inclusive processes and a
political debate to discuss topics that are very important to society.
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Esta revista forma parte del acervo de la Biblioteca Jurídica Virtual del Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas de la UNAM
Matute González Governance: the governing process
This situation contrasts with the proposal of a self-sufficient government that provides security to the life of its citizens; this would be a
backward step. Aguilar Villanueva invites us to a new way of governing that involves government resources and market and civil society
creativity; so as to access higher levels of economic prosperity and
social welfare.
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