Rethinking Perspectives of Power in Collaborative Governance


  • Joseph Hafer The University of Memphis
  • Bing Ran Penn State Harrisburg
  • Md Sharif Hossain The University of Memphis



Power, Collaboration, Collaborative Governance, Content Analysis


Power is an important concept in understanding collaborative governance, however, the existing research is largely dominated by the functional and critical perspectives of power. Aided by a conceptual content analysis of power used in collaborative governance literature in the top public administration journals, we viewed power as a family resemblance concept that should be conceptualized through four perspectives: functional, critical, social construction, and pragmatic. We provide elaboration of each of these four perspectives and propose counterarguments to assumptions that have arisen due to the reliance on a functional or critical perspective of power. We conclude that viewing power as a family resemblance concept with at least four perspectives offers collaborative governance researchers the ability to adopt the best perspective that is the most useful for their analysis and most helpful for public administrators to understand power in their collaborative efforts.

Author Biographies

Joseph Hafer, The University of Memphis

Joseph Hafer is an assistant professor in the Department of Public and Nonprofit Administration at the University of Memphis. His research focuses broadly on interorganizational collaboration and governance in state and local contexts, public value and valuation, and theories of self-consistency.

Bing Ran, Penn State Harrisburg

Bing Ran is an associate professor at the School of Public Affairs, Penn State Harrisburg. His research area focuses on governance and socio-technical systems.

Md Sharif Hossain, The University of Memphis

Md Sharif Hossain is a graduate research assistant in the Department of Public and Nonprofit Administration at the University of Memphis. His research interest focuses on governance, public value, and intersection of bureaucracy and social justice.  






Research Articles