Cooperative forms of governance: Problems of democratic accountability in complex environments


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Abstract. Various schools of research in public policy (the literature on ‘governance’ and its continental counterparts) are converging to focus on the growth of policy styles based on cooperation and partnership in networks, instead of on vertical control by the state. This article focuses on issues of democratic accountability and responsiveness with these governance arrangements. It argues that until recently the legitimacy of governance networks was not at the forefront of theoretical developments, even though the ‘democratic deficit’ of governance is problematic both for normative and for pragmatic reasons. There is now increased sensitivity to this problem, but the remedies presented in the literature are unsatisfactory, and critiques of governance presuppose a somewhat idealised image of representative democracy in terms of accountability or responsiveness of decision-makers. They also fail to offer adequate solutions to some of the central legitimacy problems of policy-making in complex societies.