This post was written by Amal Barre.
UGoveRN members Dr. Igor Tempels Pessoa and Dr. Sara Özogul organized and hosted us for the 2023 UGoveRN Study Day in the city of Enschede. We gathered outside Enschede Central Station to kick-off the day’s activities before embarking on a walking tour of the city to explore how Enschede’s city branding strategy of a smart city is materialized in the built environment. We enjoyed a lunch break at one of the local cafes before making our way to the University of Twente for our afternoon program.
History of Public Administration and Governance
Dr. Ringo Ossewaarde, of the Faculty of Behavioral, Management and Social Science at the University of Twente presented on the history of governance from a public administration lens. Exploring the development of governance requires understanding its historical ties with public administration. This exploration starts by examining the management of food storage systems, the initial framework of public administration, and traces its evolution to the impact of Wood Wilson’s 1887 essay, “The Study of Administration.” Wilson sought to establish a distinction between the political state and public (administrative) state – ideas that were tested by FDR during the 1930s. These ideas shaped the development and administration of the social and economic programs of the New Deal as the U.S. recovered from the Great Depression.
The Oil Crisis of the 1970s led to the collapse of the welfare state, with governments around the world responding to the economic crisis through austerity measures, given rise to neoliberal forms of governance (Starke et al., 2013). Ringo Ossewaarde reminded us of how the Dutch government almost went bankrupt in 1980/81, a level of economic precarity that many governments affected by the Oil Crisis navigated. He emphasized that the notion of governance is rooted in neoliberalism and born out of the reform of the welfare state. Within the framework of neoliberalism, governance is about increasing executive power and exercising executive power in new ways (Ossewaarde, presentation, September 17, 2023). Governance under neoliberalism also invites new actors and stakeholders through state entrepreneurialism mechanisms. With the emergence of the New Public Management (NPM) in the 1980s, concerned with preventing a financial crisis, we witness the transformation of the civil servant into a sales person and the embedding of neoliberalism in public administration. This is illustrated for instance, by the role of oil and gas companies as leading actors in sustainability policy-making.
Technology and Governance
With increasing availability of technology and the evolving nature of the application of new technological developments across the world, Digital Governance began to gain prominence in the 1990s. Ringo Ossewaarde summarized the implications of evolving technological landscape on public governance and administration, characterizing the rise of algorithmic governance as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Having conceptualized the idea of Kafkaesque Algorithmic Governance to explore the impact of AI in governance, he highlighting the 2018 Dutch childcare benefit scandal as a vivid example to underscore the troubling consequences of algorithmic governance (Ossewaarde, 2023). Ringo Ossewaarde discussed how governance is increasingly concerned with the anticipatory applications of automation and digital architecture, and seeks to predict, nudge, and constrain human behavior (Ossewaarde, presentation, September 17, 2023).
The group discussed the implications of technology in governance, drawing on smart city debates and our walk through the city of Enschede. UGoveRN member and Assistant Professor at the University of Twente, Igor Tempels Pessoa, wrapped the afternoon presentation with a brief discussion of current research centered on government facilitated citizen initiatives. Our group engaged in a discussion of the potential use cases of emerging AI powered technologies like ChatGPT by citizens in ways that could inform more inclusive urban governance processes and outcomes. As someone interested in the using GIS technology to connect communities to local issues and the role of planning institutions in shaping the built environment, the discussion left me with a lot to reflect on. As researchers interested in governance, the rapid pace of technological advancement in the age of AI compels us to make deeper connections across disciplines as we continue to explore our role in supporting accountable and transparent governance that centers people and protects the environment.
Ossewaarde, R. (2023). Kafkaësk algoritmisch bestuur: Het toeslagenschandaal en de rol van irrationaliteit in de gemechaniseerde fraudejacht. Tijdschrift over Cultuur & Criminaliteit, 13(1):69-76. DOI: 10.5553/TCC/221195072023013001005.
Starke, P., Kaasch, A., van Hooren, F. (2013). The Oil Shocks of 1973 and 1979: Keynesianism and Beyond. In: The Welfare State as Crisis Manager: Explaining the Diversity of Policy Responses to Economic Crisis. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137314840_4.
Woodrow, W. (1887). The Study of Public Administration. Political Science Quarterly, 2:197-222.