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Government and Governance

 2/15/2016  1146

Let’s now revert to this distinction.

What’s Government? In its simplest yet broadest sense, to govern means to rule or control others. In this sense, the term government can therefore be taken to include any mechanism through which ordered rule is maintained just because, the so called government carries some essential features that lie in its ability to make collective decisions and the capacity to enforce them, This is possible due to the fact that the government tends to carry at its back an element of legitimacy which people have conferred on it in one or the other way so as to enable it to make collective decisions on their behalf. Being so, it does carry along a coercive element to enforce such decisions.

Having said that a form of government can thus be identified in almost all social institutions right from families, schools, businesses, trade unions and so on, but the larger question remains: is there any governance in all such social institutions?

While trying to answer this question, we will again come to the conclusion that governance is certainly something more and beyond what we commonly understand as government and certainly carry some attributes which are not being subsumed under the concept of government.

Notwithstanding the various manifestations and forms of government, let’s focus on the concept of government as it has traditionally been known and understood as being referred to “all those formal and institutional processes which operate at the national level to maintain order and facilitate collective action.”

Reflected in this are the core functions of the government such as making of laws, (legislation) implementation of laws i.e. execution and interpretation of laws called as adjudication as we generally associate these functions to our respective governments called as central government and the state government. No doubt, similar government processes do operate at supranational and local levels thereby creating a kind of world government around us under the aegis of United Nations and local governments at the gross root level identified in our country as Panchyati Raj or Municipal government.

From the above discussion, what we can safely conclude that government indicates nothing more than the exercise of control within society through the making and enforcement of collective decisions. What it does not indicate is, how these decisions are being made and for whom these decisions are being made or for that matter, how these decisions are being implemented?

In order to look for the answers to these benign, yet crucial questions, we have to look beyond the traditional notion of the government and bring into focus that lesser known phenomenon of governance which has attracted the attention of world community atleast more prominently since 1990s so is its need to be defined succinctly.

What’s Governance? Again in its broader yet simpler terms, governance refers to the various ways through which social life is coordinated in a society. In this sense, the terms governance is definitely a broader term than government why because, government can just be only one of the actors to be involved in governance while other actors being many who are instrumental in coordinating the social life right from academia, voluntary sector, media and industry etc. In other words, as said earlier and reiterated here again that it is possible to have governance without government.


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