Category Archives: Politics
The Limited Access Order (LAO) conceptual framework is an excellent way to understand why developing countries work the way they do, analyze their political and economic dynamics, and formulate policy ideas appropriate to their context. Its focus on power, violence, rents, and elite bargains provides far greater explanatory and predictive power than the standard template that uses developed countries as a model for how countries ought to work. As such, everyone in the development field working in a policymaking role should make use of it.
No one, including the state, has a monopoly on violence . . . An LAO reduces violence by forming a dominant coalition containing all individuals and groups with sufficient access to violence . . . The dominant coalition creates cooperation and order by limiting access to valuable resources – land, labor, and capital – or access [to] and control of valuable activities – such as contract enforcement, property right enforcement, trade, worship, and education – to elite groups . . . The creation and distribution of rents therefore secures elite loyalty to the system, which in turn protects rents, limits violence, and prevents disorder most of the time. (more…)
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…)
How useful is the concept of political settlement? Not very, according to a recent post by Mick Moore over on the Institute of Development Studies’ Governance and Development blog. Taking particular issue with the lack of consensus regarding definition, Mick questions the legitimacy of the concept, closing with a somewhat pessimistic evaluation of its added value.
To be sure, definitions of political settlement abound, and while many are simply variants revolving around a core theme, others are most certainly competing. To quickly caricature what I see as the biggest ‘battle’ in this war of definitions: political settlement as arrangement of political power vs. political settlement as outcome of a peace process. In these circumstances, confusion is inevitable.
But I disagree with Mick in his assessment of how far the concept of political settlement takes us. As documented by DFID’s Will Evans, recent years have seen the development of a sophisticated understanding of what political settlements are about, shifting from a narrow focus on ‘bargains’ and ‘pacts’ between elites to a broader consideration of the way in which organisational and political power is organised, maintained and exercised (who is included, what are the conditions that determine in/exclusion?). And, despite the multiplicity of definitions, Will identifies a number of ‘common points’, including: (more…)
Africa has had a number of good leaders and growth stories in the years since independence. But it is had very few countries whose success spanned multiple leaders and which included a substantial increase in the institutionalization of politics, such that the country came to not depend on any particular leader.
Like many struggling countries, Pakistan’s two most critical problems are feckless leaders and a feeble state. Can donors do anything to help get such countries’ political economy moving in the right direction?
I recently convened a working group of leading Pakistani development professionals and outside experts at the Global Economic Symposium (GES) to discuss just such this question.
Economists dominate the development field, but politics is more important to promoting it. This contradiction explains why the policies often recommended by international institutions (such as the World Bank) do not sufficiently take into account the local political, social, and institutional context.
The problem is echoed in other fields, with some blaming the inability of economists to understand institutions and politics a contributing factor to the 2008 financial crisis.
Economists were not always this ignorant. Thinkers such as Adam Smith and David Ricardo—known today as founders of the profession—considered themselves “political economists;” they never used the term “economics” by itself. The term didn’t stand by itself until the late 19th century when it was separated into a stand-alone discipline. (more…)