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PhD Thesis "The politics of democratic governance

Published on
November 23, 2012

The implementation of the Water Framework Directive in the Netherlands

By Jelle Behagel

Governance, understood as a new form of steering, is frequently promoted as a democratic good. This also applies to the European Union (EU), which views the introduction of new modes of governance as a strategy to deal with a democratic deficit. At the same time, the key elements of governance – the increased involvement of non-state actors, decentralised decision making, and new modes of steering by the central state – have all been criticised for their possible negative effects on democratic legitimacy. These two perspectives on democratic governance present a paradox in which governance is presented as both an affirmation of, and a challenge to, democracy.

This thesis focuses on the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) in the Netherlands. This directive is described in scholarly and policy debates about good governance in the EU as ‘a new mode of governance’ or as ‘experimentalist governance’ and is believed to stimulate participatory, bottom-up, and deliberative policymaking. The question is, however, how exactly the key governance elements of the WFD are put into practice and how their associated norms are articulated. This thesis seeks to gain a new understanding of democratic governance – one that goes beyond the contradictions and dichotomies that characterise current governance debates – by studying the political processes in which democratic norms are articulated in the policy implementation discourse and how these norms are performed in practice.

Jelle Behagel will defend his thesis on 10 December 2012, at 11 o'clock.