Politics Beyond the State

Actors and Policies in Complex Institutional Settings
Authors: 
Theo Jans
Kris Deschouwer

States, national institutions and policy processes guide our understanding of politics. Processes of globalization and regional integration increasingly push politics beyond the state. Global economic operators and supranational institutions give rise to significant volumes of collective decision making occurring outside or only vaguely related to the national context and its state-based institutions. The centrifugal migration of politics away from state-based institutions does not only occur in an upward fashion towards the international level but also endows decentralized and private actors with policy making powers. The resulting picture is one in which state institutions and policy processes seem to be a less appropriate unit to analyze politics. Political processes are dispersed and spread over different tiers of government, ranging from the supra- to the sub-national level. Central states continue to be an important, but not the sole component in the complex, multi-level depiction of politics.

This volume seeks to capture the changing nature of politics both within and beyond the state. The presence of multiple tiers of government re-orients policy processes and affects actors and policy outcomes at all levels.

The chapters on electoral politics and coalition formation highlight the changing political dynamics in complex multi-tiered systems. The chapters on interest representation and lobbying present the European Union as a supranational magnet for national and regional interests. Supranational government offers opportunities as well as limitations to interest representation and lobbying. Central states relied heavily on taxation and command-and-control legislation to achieve policy outcomes. In complex multi-level systems other policy approaches are developed to complement the traditional tools of government. The last chapters of this book present some of the ‘governance’ tools to achieve policy outcomes in a context where resources are thinly spread over private actors and a myriad of public authorities.

The analysis of ‘politics beyond the state’ clarifies that the central state continues to guide our understanding of politics but that it needs to be complemented with ample attention to both the sub- and the supranational tiers of government.

Kris Deschouwer is professor of Politics at the Department of Political Science of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. His research focuses on political parties and elections, more in particular on the meaning and organization of party political representation in complex and multi-layered systems. He is editor-in-chief of the European Journal of Political Research.

M. Theo Jans is professor of Politics at the Department of Political Science of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Senior Fellow at the Institute for European Studies. His research focuses on policy-making in complex, multi-level systems, namely, the Belgian Federation and the European Union.