Challenges, the Strategic State, and Agility in European Public Governance

Paul Joyce


This paper is concerned with leadership capacity at national level to mobilise society to take up chal­lenges. It uses empirical analysis to explain how, in a European context, this capacity covaries with the development of strategic state capabilities. The evidence is used to explore the conditions in which strategic state capabilities have a positive effect on the capacity of leadership to mobilise society. These conditions include factors related to the public: social capital, average subjective wellbeing (happi­ness), and political attitudes relating to government and democracy (having a voice that was listened to, public trust in the government, and the public’s satis­faction with the working of democracy).

It is suggested that strategically led governments with high levels of coordination in the civil service, with practices and abilities consistent with learning and agility, and with good engagement with, and good support from, the public and the organisations of civil society, tend to have national leadership elites that have a strong capacity for mobilization of society to take up challenges.

In the conclusions it is stated that the democratic cultures of Europe may require more ‘open govern­ment’ and more inclusiveness so that their embry­onic strategic states can better leverage information and resources of society, so that governments can offer more powerful societal leadership


strategic state; leadership; agility in public administration; European public governance; social capital.

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