Governance without a state: Can it work?


Tanja A. Börzel, Research Center “Governance in Areas of Limited Statehood,” Freie Universität Berlin, Binger Str. 40, 14195 Berlin, Germany. Email:


In this article we explore how much state is necessary to make governance work. We begin by clarifying concepts of governance and the “shadow of hierarchy” and we follow this clarification with a brief overview of empirical findings on governance research in developed countries. We then discuss the dilemmas for governance in areas of limited statehood, where political institutions are too weak to hierarchically adopt and enforce collectively binding rules. While prospects for effective policymaking appear to be rather bleak in these areas, we argue that governance research has consistently overlooked the existence of functional equivalents to the shadow of hierarchy. We assert that governance with(out) government can work even in the absence of a strong shadow of hierarchy, we identify functional equivalents to the shadow of hierarchy, and we discuss to what extent they can help overcome issues of legitimacy and effectiveness in areas of limited statehood.