Category Archives: Governance
In his landmark study of the civic traditions of Italy, Robert Putnam showed how differences in the norms and patterns of behavior that drove societies in northern and southern Italy had profound influence on development outcomes, governance, innovation, and the prospects for democracy. As he explained,
Some regions of Italy, we discover, are blessed with vibrant networks and norms of civic engagement, while others are cursed with vertically structured politics, a social life of fragmentation and isolation, and a culture of distrust. These differences in civic life turn out to play a key role in explaining institutional success.
These patterns are deep-seated, and can be traced back as much as a millennium. Governments had come and gone. Economies had evolved tremendously. Lives had changed enormously, especially in the last few decades. But the basic underlying dynamic that drove how people interacted with each other, how officials behaved, and how government acted retained an important essence that had deep influence. Path dependence was hard to break. Why? (more…)
The below are excerpts from an article originally appearing in World Politics Review.
The conditions for revolt or revolution to spread throughout society are reasonably well established: First, the national government must be closed to broad participation or popular control. Second, the government must be weakened by some sort of crisis. This crisis may be a material one, such as a military or development failure, fiscal distress, sustained inflation or sharp spikes in food prices. Or the crisis may be ideological, as when a government seeks to impose an ideology that is widely opposed by its own elites, or when a government is seen as compromised by identification with foreign enemies. Or it may be a succession crisis that leads elites to shift allegiances and contend for power in a coming leadership change. Several of these items may combine to create a widespread sense of uncertainty and anxiety about the future.
In such periods of social anxiety, a great deal depends on which groups are willing to support the regime and which groups still perceive the leadership as legitimate. Governments that are perceived as just and effective generally retain the support of key elites and thus popular groups; they are therefore quite resistant in the face of . . . challenges. On the other hand, states that are widely considered ineffective or unjust by their population rapidly lose key supporters and can succumb with astounding quickness in the face of challenges — as in the Philippines in 1986, the Soviet Union in 1989 and Tunisia and Egypt in 2010-2011. (more…)
Fragile states have limited capacity to govern. They have few highly trained policymakers, few managers able to organize departments and ministries, and few officials able to implement decisions. They have very limited financial resources and little prospect (unless they have a lot of natural resources) of becoming self-sustaining anytime soon. Why then do we ask them to do so much?
far from any threshold of “good governance”; at their pace or average pace of progress it would take very (to infinitely) long to reach a threshold; even at very to extremely optimistic accelerations of the pace of progress . . . the time from fragile states to reach solid levels of governance is measured in decades, not years.
Yet, such countries are expected to do more or less everything much more developed countries do. They must deliver adequate public services to all their people, adopt and enforce an enormous number of laws and regulations, and meet international standards in a wide range of areas. If they receive substantial sums of foreign aid, they must deal with each donor on every project and meet all their specific requirements. Is any of this realistic? (more…)
When the new head of the World Bank, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, engages the wider public, he asks, “What Will It Take to End Poverty?” When the prime minister of the United Kingdom touts his accomplishments in the development field, he writes about “Combating Poverty at Its Roots.” And when NGOs fundraise, they stir your heart by telling you, “Sponsoring a child is the most powerful way you can fight poverty.”
But given great reductions in absolute poverty (from 55 to 22 percent of the developing world’s population over the past three decades) and great improvements in the lives of the poor, is this focus on poverty reduction detracting from more important issues? (more…)