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? Continue reading
The ability to nurture and manage a wide variety of large-scale organizations is essential to any country’s ability to promote economic development. In fact, in some ways economic development is simply a product of a society’s growing capacity to create strong organizations that serve an ever-enlarging number of purposes.
Only with a sizable number of medium- and large-sized companies can economies generate broad-based, employment-generating growth. Only with well-managed government institutions—which often contain tens of thousands if not more people—can states provide a wide range of public services to millions of people and across large territories. And only big (or, at least, extremely well managed) NGOs are likely to have the breadth of coverage to make a difference in the lives of a significant proportion of a population.
Yet while energizing economies, increasing employment, improving governance, and enhancing civil society are all prioritized by development actors, little thought is put into what would enable societies to better grow and manage organizations despite their obvious importance to all of these objectives. Continue reading
By Paul Harvey, Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium
Almost whenever you read anything about fragile states, the introduction notes that, ‘no low-income fragile or conflict-affected country has yet to achieve a single United Nations Millennium Development Goal’. This is a quote from the overview from the 2011 World Development Report on conflict, security and development. It seems to be an elaboration of a quote from the main body of the report that is subtly but importantly different. ‘No low-income, fragile state has achieved a single MDG, and few are expected to meet targets by 2015.’ Continue reading
By Jack A. Goldstone, George Mason University
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. Continue reading