Beyond Control Towers, Vending Machines, Networks and Platforms towards more dynamic, living metaphors for governance


  • Aaron Maniam University of Oxford



governance, public administration, public policy, metaphor, complexity, paradigms


Metaphors affect how humans perceive and interact with reality, not least in governments, so our metaphors for government and governance matter. In this article, early metaphors such as government as Leviathan, machine, control tower and vending machine are shown to be limited, as are their replacements, like government as network and government as platform. Instead, the article suggests conceptualising government and governance as a ‘moral ecology’, to do justice to the complex and evolving roles of public sectors and public officials amid global turbulence and increasingly challenging domestic circumstances.


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Author Biography

Aaron Maniam, University of Oxford

Aaron Maniam is fellow of practice and director of digital transformation education at the University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government, where he leads efforts to connect technology, public policy and public administration. He previously served in the Singapore government, including as founding head of the Centre for Strategic Futures, director of the Institute for Public Service Leadership, and in senior roles covering economic and technology policy.