HomeBrussels: an ungoverned and ungovernable capital?

HomeBrussels: an ungoverned and ungovernable capital?

Brussels: an ungoverned and ungovernable capital?

Bruxelles : une capitale ingouvernée et ingouvernable ?

A contribution from the political science to the analysis of Brussels' modes of government and governance

Apports de la science politique à l'analyse des modes de gouvernement et de gouvernance bruxellois

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Published on Friday, July 01, 2016


Dans le cadre du septième congrès triennal de l’Association belge francophone de science politique, cette section thématique examinera les modes de gouvernement et de gouvernance de Bruxelles. Une attention particulière sera portée à l'une des trois dimensions du politique : l'action publique (policies). On se proposera ainsi d'examiner le fonctionnement concret des institutions ayant Bruxelles pour objet, le travail des acteurs faisant vivre ces institutions au quotidien, et la manière dont les publics destinataires de celles-ci en perçoivent les effets.



Recent political developments – the attacks perpetrated in Paris in January and November 2015, then in Brussels in March 2016 – have replaced Brussels at the center of media attention. Even if the phenomenon is part of a longer history, criticism of the Brussels government has grown in intensity in recent months, something that can be observed locally, nationally and internationally. For example, the American website Politico identified Belgium as a « failed state », and the dutch-speaking Belgian daily Heet Laatste Nieuws worried about the « urban chaos » of Brussels.

For many political scientists working on the history and transformations of the metropolitan area, such statements fall within the scope of fantasy and contempt. They also reflect a lack of local knowledge, including that of the political and institutional complexity of Brussels. In this particular context, old questions arise, yet with renewed intensity: what is it possible to answer to this kind of discourse, and what can political science specifically bring to shed light on the Brussels’ realities?

In the context of the 7th triennial Congress of the French-speaking Belgian Association of political science, this thematic section will examine the modes of government and governance of Brussels. Particular attention will be given to a major political issue, namely public policies. We thus propose to examine the public institutions whose principal target is Brussels and how they concretely operate. Likewise, we are interested in the work of actors keeping these institutions going on on a daily basis, and also in the manner in which the public recipients of these policies perceive their effects.

Professionals committed to policies on the territory of Brussels often describe the city as a laboratory of modes of government and governance. This thematic section will provide empirical, methodological and theoretical answers allowing to test the relevance of this definition.

Research presented in the context of the thematic section should address some of the following elements:

  • Components of public policies: elaboration, implementation and effects.
  • Organisations: cabinets, administrations, paragovernmental bodies, private organisations (companies, associations).
  • Institutions exercising jurisdiction over Brussels’ territory (primarily and/or their articulation): the Brussels-Capital Region, the nineteen municipalities of the Region, the French Community, the Flemish Community, the Common Community Commission (COCOM), the Federal State, the European Union.
  • Activity sectors: economy, employment, vocational training, education, culture, housing, mobility, social cohesion, etc.
  • Current issues: terrorist attacks, Plan Wathelet, refugee influx, tunnels…

However, all research objects and theoretical approaches are a priori welcome, as well as qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods.

Preference will be given to innovative works that, at the same time, lean on existing research focused on the Brussels’ agglomeration, its territory and its populations since the creation of the Brussels-Capital region in 1989.

Researchers wishing to submit a paper are invited to reflect on how their own work could enrich public debate on / in Brussels.

The reference discipline for this thematic section will be political science. Provided that they connect their presentation to the main orientations of this discipline (including attention to issues of power), researchers from related disciplines (sociology, anthropology, history…) are also invited to submit a draft communication.

The main language of discussion will be French. Papers may be given in French and English.

Papers proposals

Proposals can be submitted via the paper proposal form 

before November 1st 2016

to the three section chairs : Tande@mmg.mpg.de, msacco@ulb.ac.be, jp_nassaux@hotmail.com. Notifications of selection will be sent out on December 1st 2016 by the association ABSP.

The same proposal can be submitted to two sections. In this case, please notify the section chairs.


  • Université Catholique de Louvain, chaussée de Binche 151
    Mons, Belgium (7000)


  • Tuesday, November 01, 2016


  • Bruxelles, gouvernement, gouvernance, action publique


  • Alexandre Tandé
    courriel : Tande [at] mmg [dot] mpg [dot] de

Information source

  • Alexandre Tandé
    courriel : Tande [at] mmg [dot] mpg [dot] de


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Brussels: an ungoverned and ungovernable capital? », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Friday, July 01, 2016, https://doi.org/10.58079/vf9

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