PUBLICATION Journal article

Understanding how governance emerges in social- ecological systems: Insights from archetype analysis

This paper is motivated by the question: how does governance emerge within social-ecological systems (SESs)? Addressing this question is critical for fostering sustainable transformations because it directs attention to the context specific and process intensive nature of governance as arising from the internal dynamics (i.e., interplay of feedbacks and interdependencies between the components) of SESs. This contrasts with the commonly held view of governance as an external intervention applied to a system. To systematically examine the recurrent patterns in how the internal dynamics promote/detract from the emergence of different types of governance, we applied archetype analysis to 60 selected cases of irrigation systems from Asia. Drawing inspiration from grid-group typology of cultural theory, we developed four specific archetypes: egalitarian, individualist, hierarchical, and fatalist. To build these archetypes, we applied a robustness framework and several other theories/perspectives to identify the different social-ecological and infrastructural attributes of irrigation SESs, and their interdependencies and feedback structures. We then used these attributes, identified through our theoretical review, to deductively code our selected cases and classify them into the different archetypes. The results show the different configurations of attributes that co-occur in each archetype, and how together these attributes and their inter-relationships lead to specific types of governance. Our archetype analysis also provides several interesting examples of fine-tuning between different SES attributes and how this fine-tuning is being threatened by various social and environmental changes. Through a systematic exploration of recurrent patterns using archetype analysis, our work builds on past efforts to apply ideas from complexity theory—specifically emergence—to unpack the complexities of SESs and offer practical guidance for fostering sustainability.

Aggarwal, R.M. and J.M. Anderies. 2023. Understanding how governance emerges in social- ecological systems: Insights from archetype analysis. Ecology and Society 28(2):2.