The state has been a central concept in political science, although public authority has been exercise by diverse hands. The concept is now challenged by the widespread use of ‘governance’, which signals that public authority is exercised by a variety of organisations, and accomplished through negotiation rather than coercion, raising questions about the relationship between conceptual maps and observable practice. Have these bodies not previously been part of governing, or has their place in governing not been recognised in the conceptual formulations ?

This calls for empirical and conceptual research. We need empirical research on how public authority is constituted, how the exercise of authority relates to ‘the government’, and the empirical indicators of concepts like ‘the state’ or ‘metagovernance’. We can then address the empirical question of the extent to which ‘governance’ can be seen as a radical change in the mode of governing ?

We also need conceptual work on how we theorise governing, how the exercise of authority relates to that condensation of political leadership and bureaucratic practice called ‘the government’, and what (beyond this) is meant by ‘the state’ ? Is it an actor, or an arena in which contending actors (and agendas) compete for place and legitimacy ? Should we avoid talking about ‘the state’ as a thing, and talk instead about the stateness of things ? And in this case, what are the empirical determinants of ‘stateness’ ?

Those interested, contact Hal Colebatch at An abstract of 1500 characters (about 250 words) is needed by 7 October,