We address the changing relationship of the state vis-à-vis regional partnerships on issues of state policy performance, partnership legitimacy, and the role and position of the state. Theoretical expectations regarding these issues differ greatly according to whether a state-centric or a society-centric perspective is adopted. A general case study of Dutch area-based rural policy (1988 – 2008) reveals that changes predominantly lean towards the state-centric perspective. These changes include an increased usage of regional partnerships as state instruments, an improved democratic anchorage of regional partnerships, and a continuation of the state’s privileged position. An embedded case study shows that individual partnerships can continue to develop in other directions and can institutionalise into largely self-organising partnerships. We conclude by showing that regional partnerships can serve as state instruments, provided that a certain degree of self-organisation is possible. Overregulation of regional partnerships could eventually undermine their overall performance.
- rural governance
- public governance