Governance is perhaps one of the most elusive notions of contemporary political discourse. It fundamentally challenges the way we think about politics and, especially, about democracy. This paper attempts to develop a novel approach to the relation between governance and democracy by considering the shift from government to governance as a mutation of the symbolic order governing modern society. Drawing on the work of the French political theorist Claude Lefort, the paper argues that the shift from government to governance is not primarily a shift in actors, norms or processes, but that it especially entails a transformation of the very symbolic underpinnings of democratic politics. The result is a new type of symbolic order which on crucial points radically differs from how democratic societies symbolically represented themselves. Focusing especially on forms of global governance, the paper shows how this mutation affects the democratic nature of current society.