Not available in 2018/19
EU473      Half Unit
Informal Governance

This information is for the 2018/19 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Mareike Kleine COW 1.01


This course is available on the MSc in EU Politics, MSc in EU Politics (LSE and Sciences Po) and MSc in Global Politics. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This is a capped course (15 students). Students are required to obtain permission from the teaching department to take this course.


Students should have some background knowledge about the European Union's institutions.

Course content

Informality might be the rule rather than the exception in politics. Behind the scenes and alongside official procedures seems to be where many important decisions are being made. In other words, it codified rules are often incomplete, if not entirely misleading, proxies for the game that states and bureaucrats really play. However, many scholars ignore actual decision-making practices, even or especially if these do not quite conform to the formal rules. As a result, we know little about why decision makers sometimes stick to formal rules and at other times seek a way around them. Where and why do these practices of informal governance exist? Why are they more prevalent in some institutional settings and issue areas than in others? Is informal governance a good or a bad thing? This course is about informal governance: the concept, its empirical manifestation, explanations and normative implications. After a review of a burgeoning literature in international relations, comparative politics, and EU studies, we take a closer look at the political system of the EU and other international organizations to examine if and why governments and bureaucrats sometimes follow, and at other times depart from the formal rules. The final weeks discuss how the concept of informal governance sheds new light on debates about transparency and the democratic deficit in European and global governance.


20 hours of seminars in the LT. 2 hours of seminars in the ST.

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce one draft and one final research design by week 8 of the LT.

Indicative reading

Helmke, Gretchen, and Steven Levitsky. "Informal Institutions and Comparative Politics: A Research Agenda." Perspectives on Politics 2, no. 04 (2004): 725-40; Kleine, Mareike. Informal Governance in the European Union. How Governments Make International Organizations Work.  Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2013; Stone, Randall W. Controlling Institutions. International Organizations and the Global Economy.  Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011; Marcoux, Christopher, and Johannes Urpelainen. "Non-Compliance by Design: Moribund Hard Law in International Institutions." The Review of international organizations 8, no. 2 (2013): 163-91; Cross, James P. "The Seen and the Unseen in Legislative Politics: Explaining Censorship in the Council of Ministers of the European Union." Journal of European Public Policy 21, no. 2 (2013): 268-85.


Research project (90%) in the ST.
Class participation (10%) in the LT.

Successful participation includes active engagement in class and the production of 8 one-page memos on the weekly assigned readings.

Key facts

Department: European Institute

Total students 2017/18: Unavailable

Average class size 2017/18: Unavailable

Controlled access 2017/18: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication