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Governance challenges in « la Démocratie en miettes »

Summary and quotes from the book « La Démocratie en miettes » written by Pierre Calame

Written by: Claire Launay, Thomas Mouriès

Writing date: 2007

Documents of reference

Dossier : 9 thèses pour repenser la gouvernance, Résumés et extraits du livre « La Démocratie en miettes » de Pierre Calame, Ed. Charles Léopold Mayer, Descartes, Paris, 2003.

All along the book « la Démocratie en miettes », we can find a definition of governance, term that appears to be as well a concept than a analytical framework allowing to change our mind. Nevertheless, Pierre Calame does not reduce governance to one single definition.

According to the author, fitting governance in history and a long term process is the first stake. From this point, some principles allow us to both understand better and implement a governance adapted to 21st century challenges.

This discussion offers a crop of short quotes, where the notion use is particularly emphasized. More than a description or a conceptual analysis, these quotes reflect the dimensions of the « governance revolution », as Pierre Calame said.

(Numbers between brackets refer to page numbers)

1. What is a good governance?

a. Governance can not be reduced to « good governance »

The use I make of the word « governance » is wider than what suggests the World Bank. It of course includes, like in the principles of good governance, elementary standards of democracy : access to information, accountability of decision makers to the citizens so that citizens can influence decisions that affect them every day. But I also shares the European Union vision that pays attention to the principles perception and the concrete practices because the legal and institutional framework is indivisible with perceptions of actors beforehand and with real practice of the institutions afterwards. On the other hand, I reject a purely managerial perspective of the society like I reject the illusion of good governance recipes that would guarantee all over the planet a good management of public affairs and beyond the coherency and the fulfillment of societies from a model indivisible with the prevailing « economism ». (15)

b. Governance as a regulation system

(…) if we describe governance as a regulation set that allows a society to live sustainably in peace and to guarantee its durability, there is only one governance in the 21st century: the global governance. (129)

Finally, governance is the art of high-sea sailing, in accordance with its etymological meaning, i.e. the management of time, uncertainty, resources and cooperation that are the base of governance. (127)

As a society regulation system, governance aims necessarily at acquiring and linking information that allow to produce a permanent diagnosis of the system health, to size up internal and external exchanges and to take corrective measures when needed. Framework, quality and public availability of information are a decisive stake for governance. (307)

c. Governance as a process

The increasing number of examples lead us (…) to speak about the transition from a procedures democracy fixing places and forms of decisions to a process democracy, where we can identify main steps of elaboration, implementation and evaluation of a collective project. This is what I call governance cycle. (304)


(…) we have to speak about a (governance) cycle, i.e. a process occurring in the time. The new approach for governance is concerned with process organization along the time during which public policies are managed, implemented and corrected whereas the classical philosophy emphasizes decision, in the precise moment when authority decides on a policy, giving essentially importance to the legality of the procedure, for example at different level of validation of a bill. (302)

Why not to think that in a near future political parties could be fighting not for solutions but for how to collectively organize the development process of solutions? (312-313)

d. Governance leads to a change in the way of looking

(…) governance is not a new fact nor a new way of creating and managing public action, it is more about a new way of looking at pre-existing reality.(17)

Governance delimitation should be done based on the expression of the collective objectives, on the ethical standards that must lead the action, on the cooperation rules between governance levels and the principle of less constraint(…). Thus, a new vision where governance is characterized by objectives, ethical principles and concrete work plan takes place of a traditional governance vision led by distribution of competences, sectored institutions and rules. (141-142)

2. What are the basis of governance?

a. Governance is rooted in reality and practices

Fruit of the history, culture and well established traditions, translated into codes, institutions and rules guaranteeing stability and durability of societies, governance is by nature and vocation a low process system. In this system, these are not organizations and rights that change the slowest but representations, ways of thinking and social bodies that embody them. (18)

We better understand reality of the governance with daily practices than with a book of political science. (22)

Governance being an art more than a science (idea that I will remind later), its knowledge is based on a « clinical » approach : progress is not initiated by experiences in laboratory but by comparison of « cases ». (30)

Governance is an art of fulfillment making sense only when based on the daily life. (65)

A legitimate governance cannot be reduced to institutions and rules but includes a complex group of social practices. (108)

b. Ethic is in the heart of governance

I have noticed in the introduction that ethic and governance are associated like two faces of the same coin. First, because goals should always prevail over means and secondly, because there is no peaceful governance nor a democratic governance without ethical base. (131)

In the current situation of the humanity, governance is at the last step global and as global governance can only have a contractual base and that contractual base is made of ethical principles, adoption of collective ethical principles is currently essential. Ethic is conditioning the emergence of a social community and political community at the global scale. (135)

3. How governance is implemented?

a. Governance as an « art »

From the very beginning, we said that governance is an art more than mechanical implementation of universal principles and we underlined that this art consists in having as much unity and diversity as possible in the same time. We can see here the implementation of this. Looking for a permanent solution satisfying main collective principles is typically an exercise of art. The craftsman disposes of a range of experiences, principles and skills but he has to combine them differently depending on specific constraints and configurations. In the case of governance, comparing experiences and specific situations allows us to define the main collective principles and it gives illustration of the implementation of these principles under specific conditions, through the observation of failures or successes. Then, it is the responsibility of the craftsman to create its own masterpiece from the range of clinical cases. Situations that have been used for the experiences exchange constitute a stock of potential solutions and sources of inspiration. These are not infallible recipes or models to be followed. In a perspective of active subsidiarity, we insist on the process of elaborating solutions to avoid automatic duplication of models. (…) Presentation of a policy implemented in a specific place does not make sense if we do not add a description of the process that leads to this solution. (195)

The other feature of art is the interest for satisfying solutions more than optimal solution.(…) If it is possible to intend to find optimal solutions in technical systems or when we reduce actors to one single dimension (for example when we reduce human beings to their economic rationality), it is not when we assume that looking for a negotiated solution is a arduous process. The objective is not to find a optimal solution but to obtain a suitable and relevant solution. Once again, this is the craftsman approach.(196-197)

b. Governance conciliates unity and diversity

(…) governance is the art of finding the translation of collective principles for each specific situation.(23)

Whatever the topic : management of the biosphere or economic frameworking or whole society organization, the art of governance consists in reaching the maximum of cohesion with the biggest freedom of initiative and the biggest unity with the biggest diversity. All local innovations that are mode adapted or that increase the social resources or that enlarge the range of solution in respect of some collective principles are a progress for all of us. (173)

c. Governance articulates different level from local to global

Key of the tomorrow governance is not anymore the principle of competences distribution between various level but at the contrary the principle of cooperation between each level. This principle of cooperation is based on a experience fact : all societies are facing same issues but each of them has to bring specific answers. From this results the principle of active subsidiarity (…). (124)

d. Governance calls for the re-foundation of the society

A essential dimension of the governance cycle is (…) the implementation of conditions that allows citizens to be confident with these questions. (311)

Usually, it matters less to know if a decision respects the law than to be sure that our point of view was heard, listened and considered. For this reason, traditional democratic mechanisms that are compatible with the tyranny of the majority are not sufficient to guarantee legitimacy of the governance. (162)

(…) community is a social and political construction coming from the history and which is always fragile if we do not pay enough attention to strengthen its basis. A community establishes itself. It cannot be re-invented every day and it cannot be fed only with one collective history made of myths and founding events of the past. It needs institutional acts that found or re-found the community, especially when it concerns big regions of the world or the global community.

One of the governance dimensions beyond term of elections is the creation of processes that allow the community to recreate itself further and further. (147)


Dossier : 9 thèses pour repenser la gouvernance, Résumés et extraits du livre « La Démocratie en miettes » de Pierre Calame. Ed. Charles Léopold Mayer, Descartes. Paris. 2003.

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