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Article

School Boards  

Michael Ford

School boards are a fixture of America’s public education system. The vast majority of public school students obtain an education overseen by one of over 13,000 locally elected school boards. Yet scholars and advocates continue to debate the legitimacy, efficacy, and even need for school boards. Supporters argue that school boards are bastions of local control designed to represent citizen values. Critics dismiss school boards as under qualified, overly political, and generally not up to the task of improving student outcomes. Key areas of school board research include board zones of discretion, superintendent relations, the link between school board governance and outcomes, and role of special interest groups in board elections. All of these research areas relate to the larger question of whether school boards are the appropriate model for the oversight of public education.

Article

European Union Governance  

Ingeborg Tömmel

The term “governance” refers to interactive forms of political steering, characterized by the coordination of a wide spectrum of actors in pursuit of common goals (e.g., Rhodes, 1996; Pierre & Peters, 2000, 2005; Kooiman, 2003; Torfing, Peters, Pierre, & Sörensen, 2013; Ansell & Torfing 2016). Governance processes involve multiple actors and institutions into cooperative relationships and network structures. The corresponding steering mechanisms may range from hierarchical rule to mere persuasion. The governance perspective appeared particularly suited to analyze political steering in the European Union (EU). The Union is not sovereign; it therefore developed steering mechanisms that do not (or only partly) rely on formal competences and hierarchical rule. The evolving system of European governance constituted the EU as a multilevel polity, held together by interlocking relationships of policy coordination and cooperation (Marks et al., 1996; Hooghe & Marks, 2001; Piattoni, 2010). Scholarly reflection on EU governance evolved comparatively late during the 1990s (Hix, 1998); it proliferated after the turn of the century, when the European Union introduced the so-called Open Method of Coordination (OMC) (Kohler-Koch & Rittberger, 2006). Later, the perspective widened to the whole spectrum of governance modes and its innovative forms (e.g., Sabel & Zeitlin, 2008, 2010a; Tömmel & Verdun, 2009a, Héritier & Rhodes, 2011). Yet salient issues remained under-researched, particularly the power dimension of EU governance (Torfing et al., 2013, pp. 48–70).

Article

Non-State Actors and Foreign Policy  

Frank A. Stengel and Rainer Baumann

The rise of non-state (international, private, and transnational) actors in global politics has far-reaching consequences for foreign policy theory and practice. In order to be able to explain foreign policy in the 21st century, foreign policy research needs to take into account the growing importance of nonstate actorss. A good way to do this would be to engage the literature on globalization and global governance. Both fields would benefit from such an exchange of ideas because their respective strengths could cancel out each other’s weaknesses. Foreign policy research, on the one hand, has a strong track record explaining foreign policy outcomes, using a broad range of theoretical concepts, but almost completely ignores non-state actors. This is highly problematic for at least two reasons: first, foreign policy is increasingly made in international organizations and intergovernmental and transnational governance networks instead of national institutions like foreign ministries. Second, the latter increasingly open up to, and involve, non-state actors in their policymaking procedures. Thus, if foreign policy research wants to avoid becoming marginalized in the future, it needs to take into account this change. However, systemic approaches like neorealism or constructivism have difficulties adapting to the new reality of foreign policy. They stress the importance of states at the expense of non-state actors, which are only of marginal interest to them, as is global governance. Moreover, they also conceptualize states as unitary actors, which forecloses the possibility of examining the involvement of non-state actors in states’ decision-making processes. Agency-based approaches such as foreign policy analysis (FPA) fare much better, at least in principle. FPA scholars stress the importance of disaggregating the state and looking at the individuals and group dynamics that influence their decision-making. However, while this commitment to opening up the state allows for a great deal more flexibility vis-à-vis different types of actors, FPA research has so far remained state-centric and only very recently turned to non-state actors. On the other hand, non-state actors’ involvement in policymaking is the strong suit of the literature on globalization and global governance, which has spent a lot of time and effort analyzing various forms of “hybrid” governance. At the same time, however, this literature has been rather descriptive, so far mainly systematizing different governance arrangements and the conditions under which non-state actors are included in governance arrangements. This literature could profit from foreign policy research’s rich theoretical knowledge in explaining policy outcomes in hybrid governance networks and international organizations (IOs). Foreign policy researchers should take non-state actors seriously. In this regard, three avenues in particular are relevant for future research: (1) comparative empirical research to establish the extent of non-state actors’ participation in foreign policymaking across different countries and governance arrangements; (2) explanatory studies that analyze the conditions under which non-state actors are involved in states’ foreign policymaking processes; and (3) the normative implications of increased hybrid foreign policymaking for democratic legitimacy.

Article

African Public Administration  

Goran Hyden

Public administration in Africa has its own specific features for at least two reasons. First, African societies are not organized along the lines of competing interests driven by their grounding in the economic production process. These societies have never been subject to an agrarian revolution, let alone an industrial one, that allows for the evolution of a system of social stratification similar to what is found in economically developed countries. In the latter, society is shaped by the state, much of it in its own image. The second reason, therefore, is that the African state—the locus of public administration—is a foreign creation imposed on society without roots in the economy or society. This tends to make its governance capricious and shaped foremost by political battles over how rents and privileges are shared among groups that come together for reasons of consumption rather than production. This is a general feature of the African scene, but it is qualified by a variable colonial legacy and a postindependence development experience. Former British and French colonies differ because of the legal systems they inherited—the former the common law tradition, the latter the Napoleonic civil law apparatus. This difference is important in shaping not only public administration but also the wider political outlook—a factor that affects inter-African cooperation. Since independence, public administration in these countries has been influenced by international and domestic pressures to accelerate development and promote democratic governance. This postindependence experience has been variable, some having managed to steer clear of violence, others having suffered political breakdowns. The African story of public administration since independence is diverse and representative of both successes and failures. Three countries—Botswana, Kenya, and Rwanda—are of special interest because they indicate different pathways that other countries in the region may follow to improve their governance and public administration.