MA Political Science - European Politics & Policy Pathway (Standard Route) / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Governance and the State

Course unit fact file
Unit code POLI70891
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The nature of the modern state has undergone significant transformations in recent decades.  To properly understand state power and capacity in the twenty-first century, one has to move been beyond the traditional study of state institutions alone. It requires situating central state capacity within a much wider field of multi-level governance in which power is understood as both fluid and operating across a range of loci including international organisations, regional organizations, central, regional and local governments; and the network of actors that tie them altogether.   The traditional focus on government has, in this more complex setting, been replaced by the need to widen the analytical aperture to centre on the study of ‘governance’ in its various forms.

The key challenge for those studying this field is therefore to develop multi-level theories and approaches that make sense of these new arrangements and practices of governing. The module begins by exploring the conceptual terrain within the literature on governance. The module then goes on to look at a number of developments and controversies in contemporary governance from both applied and analytical perspectives including: globalization and the state; regulation; surveillance; de-politicisation; the democratic and legitimacy challenges associated to different forms of governance, including new forms of political participation.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this unit successful students will be able to:

  • Understand the theoretical and conceptual terrain and approaches to governance
  • explain and evaluate recent challenges and controversies in contemporary governance;
  • critically evaluate policy tools and strategies to tackle those challenges;
  • work independently, identifying appropriate sources and further readings;
  • develop arguments that synthesise theoretical and empirical material;
  • constructively engage in discussion with others and work collaboratively in small groups;
  • Précis and present key arguments and supporting evidence in both written and oral communication.

Teaching and learning methods

Weekly seminars (2 hours)

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 10%
Written assignment (inc essay) 75%
Oral assessment/presentation 15%

One essay of 3,000 words (75%), presentation (15%), participation (10%).

Recommended reading

  • Bell, S. and Hindmoor, A. (2009) Rethinking Governance (Cambridge University Press)
  • Cairney, P. (2012) Understanding Public Policy: Theories and Issues Palgrave: Macmillan
  • Chhotray, V. and Stoker, G. (2009) Governance Theory and Practice (Palgrave)
  • Hooghe, L & Marks, (2001) Multi-Level Governance and European Integration London: Rowman
  • Kooiman, J. (2003) Governing as Governance (Sage)
  • Glasberg, D. S., Willis, A. S., & Shannon, D. (2017). The State of State Theory: State Projects, Repression, and Multi-Sites of Power. Lexington Books.
  • Levi-Faur, D. (2014) The Oxford Handbook of Governance (Oxford University Press)
  • Lowndes, V. and M. Roberts (2013) Why Institutions Matter, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Perri 6, Goodwin, N. Peck, E. & Freeman, T. (2006), Managing Networks of Twenty-first Century Organisations (Palgrave).
  • Pierre J. and Peters, G. (2000) Governance Politics and the State (Macmillan)
  • R. A. W Rhodes, (1997) Understanding Governance (Open University Press)
  • Richards, D. and Smith, M.J. (2002), Governance and Public Policy in the UK (Oxford University Press).
  • Smith, M.J. (2009) Power and the State Palgrave: Macmillan

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 130

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Timothy Oliver Unit coordinator

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