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Governing Complex SystemsSocial Capital for the Anthropocene$
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Oran R. Young

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780262035934

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262035934.001.0001

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Environmental Governance as a Point of Departure

Environmental Governance as a Point of Departure

(p.25) 1 Environmental Governance as a Point of Departure
Governing Complex Systems

Oran R. Young

The MIT Press

Governance is a social function centered on steering societies away from collectively undesirable outcomes and toward collectively desirable outcomes. Governance systems (often referred to as regimes) are social institutions that arise to respond to needs for governance. Conventional thinking about governance assumes that governments will take the lead in addressing needs for governance. But the presence of a government is not sufficient to ensure that such needs are fulfilled; governance failure is a common phenomenon in most social settings. Even more important, the presence of a government in the conventional sense is not necessary to meet needs for governance in many settings. This opens up the topic of governance without government as an important subject for research. Many studies have shown that smallscale societies are able to devise regimes to meet needs for governance to avoid problems like the tragedy of the commons. Now, we need to analyze whether governance without government is feasible in largescale settings like international society. Cases such as the successful effort to devise a regime to phase out ozone depleting substances provide a basis for hope in this realm. But problems like avoiding climate change and minimizing the loss of biological diversity pose more serious challenges to the search for governance without government.

Keywords:   governance, governance failure, governance without government, government, regimes, social institutions

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