Politics and political strategies in multi level systems

Duncan McTavish

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Existing work on multi-level governance (MLG) has concentrated on decentring of the state (e.g., Rhodes, R. A. W. (1994). The hollowing out of the state: The changing nature of the public service in Britain. Political Quarterly, 65(2), 138–141; Rhodes, R. A. W. (1997). Understanding governance: Policy networks, governance, reflexivity and accountability. London: Open University Press; Rhodes, R. A. W. (2008). Understanding governance: Ten years on. Organisation Studies, 28(8), 1243–1264); growth of non-state actors in governing (e.g., Crouch, 2004; Jessop, B. (2004). Multi level governance and multi-level metagovernance-changes in the European Union as integral moments in the transformation and re-orientation of contemporary statehood. In I. Bache & M. Flinders (Eds.), Multi level governance. Oxford: Oxford University Press); classifying different types of governance (e.g., type 1 and type 2 MLG – see Hooghe & Marks, 2003; Ongaro, E., Massey, A., Holzer, M., & Wayenberg, E. (Eds.). (2010). Governance and intergovernmental relations in the European Union and the United States: Theoretical perspectives. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar). The purpose of the chapter is to complement these approaches by focusing on politics and political strategies in multi-level systems.

The chapter draws on an extensive literature in governance and political accountability and on political dynamics, management and strategies within multi-level state systems. Although in international context, particular accentuation is placed on the UK case.

There are three broad findings. First, while the growth of MLG and in particular supra state activities and institutions have undermined conventional conceptions of political accountability, more nuanced interpretations are provided; as are cases of successful popular challenge to a seemingly inevitable application of neo-liberal new public management driven approaches to public service provision, as witnessed in examples of public service de-privatisation and re-municipalisation. Second, as seen in the United Kingdom, political strategies in a multi-state system are presented in terms of zero sum or alternatively win-win scenarios. In Scotland, for example, though there have been difficulties for state wide parties in managing multi-level politics in the devolved arena, yet in that arena win-win strategies have been played out; and in Northern Ireland with a contextual backdrop of conflict, there is also evidence of win-win political actions. Third, some general findings are presented which outline a range of centrifugal and centripetal forces found in some European countries and how these affect the choice of political strategy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMulti Level Governance: The Missing Linkages
EditorsJ. Diamond, J. Liddle
PublisherEmerald Publishing Limited
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)9781784418748
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • multi level governance
  • political strategies
  • political parties

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