Governance without Government? Re-Introducing the State As Key Actor of Sustainability Transitions

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 14:45
Location: Hörsaal BIG 2 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Harald HEINRICHS, Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany
The guiding vision of sustainable development has its roots in the age of neoliberalization and globalization at the end of the 1980ties and the beginning of the 1990ties. At this time, the diagnosis of“end of history” (F. Fukuyama) has been widely shared, celebrating the apparent victory of liberal democracy and capitalist market economy. The breakdown of the Soviet Republic, the political transformation in Eastern Europe, the introduction of (state) capitalism in China accompanied by the dynamic development of economic globalization and transnational civil society led to a devaluation of the societal role of the (nation) state institutions in theory and practice. The approach of “governance”, focusing strongly on network governance and societal self organization beyond political steering became prevalent, especially in conceptual and practical approaches of sustainability and transition governance. In recent years, however, the importance of state institutions for copying with societal crisis and driving societal transformation has been proven, for example, in the aftermath of the global financial crises as well as in the German energy transition. Based on these observations it shall be argued here, that more attention needs to be directed towards the state as key actor of sustainability transitions. Taking Germany as a case study we will present a conceptual framework for the analysis as well as empirical results on the status-quo of the institutionalization of sustainability in national, regional and local state institutions. We will conclude by discussing the (renewed) role of the state in sustainability transition and we propose  institutional, procedural and instrumental approaches for an effective transformational “sustainability state”.