(Sample Material) Gist of Important Articles from IIPA
Topic: Critique of ‘Governance’ from the Grassroots
Perspective P. Raghu Ram
Good governance; as a condition of development is recognised
as a universally valid project like Modernisation was in the development theory
of the 1960s. This follows from the conviction that failures in development
efforts have largely been the result of poor governance i.e. political factors
that are uncontrollable and which induce inefficiency. In one stroke, it was
argued that the nation-states have undergone the processes of both
Universatisation and indigenisation in the non-European societies. Cultural
specificities in different regions demand different ways of conceptualising
development can be seen from the resistance of tribals to Narmada valley
projects, where alternative development strategies are being conceptualized. N.G.
Jayal argues that the recent discourse of development aid-with the project of
governance at its core-constitutes an attempt to elaborate the versions of
Orientalism, in the sense that the redress takes the form of charity. It is not
rooted in the rights-claims of the citizens, but rather in the neo-colonial
sense of philanthropy. The governance agenda in a way mirrors the popular
western images of the third world as a way of doing good to these societies.
The project of governance endorses the role of governments in
creating and enforcing the rules to enable the markets to work efficiently and
government is required to create ‘conducive investment climate’ through
corrective measures such as creation of essential infrastructure, provision of
education and health which are crucial for the quality of private investments.
In order to provide these goods, the State needs to raise revenues and deliver
services and it is these factors that necessitate transparency, clarity about
rules and the adequate information.
Governance perspective often suffers from a lack of
legitimacy and accountability, without being conformed to the idea of the
consent of the governed. The neo-liberal project of governance insists
simultaneously on the minimalist State and on the capable and ‘good’ government,
which is seen as necessary instrument to achieve better economic performance. It
implies that while scaling down the size and scope of the State is required, an
expansion in State capacity is necessary to give effect to the reform process.
This in turn requires a measure of State autonomy from powerful interest groups
in the society.
Scholars argued that the governance agenda of World Bank is
strongly influenced by models in classical political theory, with a Weberian
emphasis on rules, institutions and efficient bureaucracy, characterised by
neutrality and impersonal features, devoid of any normative concerns.
Construction of governance agenda drew its influence from values of liberal
theory such as tolerance, pluralism” conception of good and conception of free
self or agency. However, this construction reproduces some important ambiguities
and tensions that exist in the liberal theory. Anthony Padens argue that the
concept of governance is suspiciously teleological and grounded in a
specifically European notion of political good.
The governance model demands a lean State with an expanded
State capacity though without an expanded government. This process in turn
depends on a measure of autonomy from dominant interests in the society. There
is a paradox her between a reduced state in terms of its size and scope of
intervention and greater State capacity. Governance thus carries with it the
suspicion of providing the shell of democracy with out its substance. Secondly,
greater role for voluntary sector i.e., NGOs is advocated because they are
presumed to have the state-substitutive capacities and such conception no doubt
serves the ideological and practical purposes of multilateral agencies.
The account of State in the governance debates posits
governance and politics as mutually exclusive. The form and definition of good
governance has to be politically articulated by the citizens of a particular
polity. However, the account of the state in governance debates precludes this
possibility. It becomes thus necessary to interrogate the project of governance
of the aid-giving agencies both politically and normatively because this project
seeks to universalise a particular set of regime choices, by ruling out the
possibility that the governance has to be a product of democratic politics. The
question is whether governance can be effectively imposed from outside.
Secondly, the demands for equitable and efficient governance should exclusively
be generated from the citizens themselves. The definition of good governance
should be the product of consensus based on political engagement and negotiation
among the citizens. Effectuating governance requires certain amount or political
negotiation, which is not possible outside the domain of democratic politics. In
the absence of such view, emphasis on governance will only provide a simplistic
analysis of ‘a dysfunction elite system’.
If the political process is segregated from the development
discourse, as is the case with the project of governance, a restrictive
definition-of democracy in terms of formal procedures follows from this
perspective. The logic of democracy should be to undermine various types of
inequalities and to push the policy in the direction of redistribution because
the task of governance isn’t a mere technical exercise. Good forms of governing
may be inherently valuable, but they should be negotiated by political
communalities. Maintenance and consolidation of democracy in developing
countries should be achieved by indigenous initiatives alone but not by external
pressures from the credit-giving agencies.