Origins and significance of the concept of MLG

'Multi-level governance' is a recent concept, having first entered the lexicon of political science around fifteen years ago as comparativists became re-acquainted with European integration and discovered that authority was shifting not only from central states up to Europe, but also down to subnational authorities. The first efforts to understand this were descriptive, spawning concepts that have generated an extensive literature. Multi-level, polycentric, and multi-layered governance emphasize the dispersion of decision making from the local to the global level. In recent years these concepts have cross-pollinated subfields of political science including European studies and decentralizationfederalism and international organizationpublic policy (e.g. environmental policyhealth policy) and public-private governance, local governance and transnational governance.

The authors of a recent survey of the literature on the structure of government conclude that ‘We attribute many of the recent “cutting-edge” theoretical contributions in political science to studies of “multi-level governance”’ and they note that although students of federalism ‘considered the current subject matter of their field to be based on well-defined, well rooted and broadly accepted ideas, they were nevertheless open to a new flowering of federal theory as a result of fertilization by these new MLG theoretical developments’.[2] However, there is nothing entirely new under the sun. Though scarcely recognized at the time, this research revives a rich tradition in political science represented by Karl Deutsch (1966) on the effect of societal transactions on government structure, Robert Dahl (1973) on the virtues and vices of multilevel democracy, and Stein Rokkan(1983) on identity and territorial politics.