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Overestimating the Shift from Government to Governance: Evidence from Swiss Metropolitan Areas



There is an oft-stated claim in political science research that public sector reforms in Western democracies are consistent with a shift from government to governance. This article challenges that claim. Based on a comparative analysis of governance reforms in Swiss metropolitan areas, the article reveals that what seems to be a shift to governance may turn out to be a path to government, however, including a change either from the local to the metropolitan level or from general-purpose authorities to task-specific jurisdictions. Further, the article analyzes the political dynamics behind governance reforms. It shows that exogenous pressures put existing governance schemes under strain. Its impact, however, is mediated by the initial institutional setting and the narratives responding to case-specific political dilemmas.