Defining Polycentricity

Understanding the difficulties investigating polycentric governance

Sixty years after its introduction in 1961, rigorous empirical studies of the causes or effects of polycentric governance remain few and far between. This discussion details several reasons why this complex concept and its wide-ranging implications have proven to be so hard to nail down with precision and suggests ways toward more rigorous investigations.

Difficulties discussed include defining and measuring the inter-connected dimensions of polycentric governance as concept and process, the ubiquity of substantial levels of complexity in all real-world systems of governance, the pervasive endogeneity of cause and effect in dynamic feedback systems, and mastering the “Goldilocks Effect” found at the sweet spot of system sustainability.

This concludes by reviewing several promising strands of research on the frontiers of governance science.

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Supplemental materials on “Frontier of Governance Science”

Resources and bibliography

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