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Limits of governability: Institutional implications for fisheries and coastal governance

by Shreya Mehta last modified Jan 10, 2013 11:52 AM
Contributors: Svein Jentoft

Drawing on some recent developments in so-called ‘‘interactive governance theory’’, it is argued that fisheries and coastal governance is basically a relationship between two systems, which could be termed a ‘‘governing system’’ and a ‘‘system-to-be-governed.’’ The former system is social: it is made up of institutions and steering mechanisms. The latter system is partly natural, partly social: it consists of an ecosystem and the resources that it harbors, as well as a system of users and stakeholders who form political coalitions and institutions among themselves. Obviously, we need to be concerned with the relationship and interaction between the governing system and the system-to-be-governed, which forms a system in its own right. According to governance theory, these systems share similar structural attributes: they are diverse, complex, dynamic and vulnerable. In order for governance to work they must somehow be compatible, in order to be mutually responsive. This is not a matter of natural mechanism but of institutional design by societal actors such as legislative bodies, planning agencies and civic organizations—alone, or in concert. What conditions, mechanisms and institutions are conducive to creating a better rapport between the governing system and the system-to-be-governed? Before we can start this discussion, we need to rethink our basic assumptions of what governance is, what governors do, and what we can expect from governance. How do we get from where we are now to where we want to be? In order to accomplish this we need something other than an instrumental, rational model. We need ‘‘a technology of foolishness’’ that emphasizes institutional experimentation and learning by doing

Author(s): Svein Jentoft

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