Principal-agent theory has established a firm foothold in political science. But there is a limitation with the way the theory is applied,
Mor Sobol argues in the current issue of
Governance. Scholars typically assume that problems arise because the agent is an opportunistic and disloyal actor. But principals can be just as problematic as their agents, Sobol says. The result may be "pathological delegation": a pattern of behavior by the principal that makes it harder for the agent to do their job properly. Sobol uses the case of the European Neighborhood Policy to examine the undesirable effects of pathological delegation.