The Politics of Reflexive Governance: Challenges for Designing Adaptive Management and Transition Management
Jan-Peter Voß, Technische Universität Berlin, Innovation in Governance Research Group
Basil Bornemann, Leuphana Universität Lüneburg, Center for the Study of Democracy
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New concepts of governance take account of ambivalence, uncertainty, and distributed power in societal change. They aim for reflexivity regarding the limits of prognostic knowledge and actual control of complex processes of change. Adaptive management and transition management are two examples that evolved from the analysis of social–ecological and sociotechnical systems, respectively. Both feature strategies of collective experimentation and learning. In this paper, we ask how these two designs of reflexive governance consider politics. Based on a framework of different dimensions and levels of politics, we show that they are mainly concerned with problem solving by a focal process, but conflict and asymmetric power relations, as well as the embedding of processes within broader political contexts, are neglected. We suggest two routes for integrating politics into the design of reflexive governance: (1) recognize the politics of learning for sustainable development and develop safeguards against domination and capture by powerful actors, and (2) systematically consider the embedding of governance designs in political contexts and their ongoing dynamics for political fit.
adaptive management; embedding in political context; governance design; politics; reflexive governance; societal learning; transition management