Policy Sciences

, Volume 52, Issue 3, pp 419–450 | Cite as

Governance as multiplicity: the Assemblage Thinking perspective

  • Helen BriassoulisEmail author
Research Article


Governance, the process of steering for collective action, is being theorized and empirically explored on a variety of subjects, private and collective issues and spatial levels. Depending on epistemological and theoretical preferences, studies adopt a hierarchical/centralized or a relational/decentralized conception of governance although they increasingly recognize that ‘hybrid governance,’ a mix of multiple models and modes, prevails in practice. Theoretical and empirical studies alike discuss sparingly, if at all, ontological issues, i.e., the nature of the ‘what’ is governed, despite their prominence for meaningful empirical analysis. A ‘system’ ontology is mostly presumed that usually produces static, context-insensitive accounts of dynamic governance phenomena and one-size-fits-all and ‘best practices’ recommendations. Since the 2000s, Assemblage Thinking (AT), a current of poststructuralist thinking, is being utilized on the grounds that the assemblage ontology better supports, conceptually and methodologically, the situated study of governance. This paper offers an overview of the application of AT in governance studies and an introductory exploration into the capacity of AT to frame a compleat approach for the applied study of governance conceived not as unitary process but as multiplicity. After summarizing the discourse on governance, the paper highlights the main features of AT and critically reviews selected assemblage-based governance studies. Then, it discusses the conceptual affinities between governance and assemblage, reconceptualizes governance, outlines the contours of an assemblage-based methodology and proposes an AT-based approach to governance. A discussion of the value of AT for applied governance studies and future research challenges conclude the paper.


Assemblage Ontology Multiplicity Deleuze DeLanda Governance 



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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of the AegeanMytilini, LesvosGreece

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