This course focuses on the scientific study of public governance and legitimacy in a rapidly transforming world. Modern governance systems developed from centuries of (path dependent) philosophy-in-action, redefining the nature of the administrative state, its legitimate bases of executive power, including the relation of governance systems with citizens, NGO’s, corporations, international organizations, and networks of actors. Governance systems developed from responses to societal and technological transformations, including digital transformation and globalization, that came with the rise of neoliberalism, social movements (protest movements), and new democratic innovations.
Theorizing about governance is one thing; observing its functioning in a contemporary tech-based society or ‘algorithmic society’ is something quite different. Modern governance in the fourth industrial revolution is more than “plug and play Plato.” Nevertheless, the invasion of modern, algorithm-based devices in the administrative state and other governance actors, including (political) communication) has fundamentally altered the legitimacy bases of modern governance systems. One example is the algorithm-based policies pursued by the Dutch Tax Revenue Service, implementing anti-fraud measures to such a disproportional extent that thousands of citizens were derived of their fundamental (human) rights. What went wrong in the balance of power? The checks and balances that theories of public governance take for granted did not prevent the governance system to grow into a pathological structure of (algorithmic) oppression. Another example is the rise of anti-democratic (populist) social movements in the recent past – best symbolized by the storming of the U.S. Capitol last year. Supported by a president-in-office a group of concerned citizens (alleged patriots if you like) expressed their rage and distrust against the administrative institutions of the U.S. democratic state. Again, those disruptions in the legitimacy-base of the U.S. governance system were (at least partly) driven by societal challenges that arise in the current technological age.
Intended learning outcomes
At the end of the course:
- Students will have gained insight in the theoretical basis of conceptualizing governance as a “set of diverse practices that people are constantly creating and recreating through their concrete activity, and the philosophical debates about post-positivism and their relevance for the study of governance.
- Students are able to use governance theory to analyze and reflect on the state, nation, network, and market choice – as legitimate manifestations of public governance.
- Students are able to evaluate future developments in public governance and legitimacy on the basis of governance theory.
- Students are able to describe and interpret the significance of algorithmic governance and the algorithmic society in terms of technology, power and knowledge
- Students are able to use governance theory to analyze and reflect on the administrative behavior of governance actors in the shaping of the algorithmic society.
- Students are able to analyze cooperation problems in complex governance systems. They are able to evaluate legitimacy of public governance systems from their capacity to overcome hurdles to cooperation which arise from disruptive socio-technical innovations.
- Students are able to evaluate legitimacy in terms of a mechanism of governance and in terms of an outcome of governance.