(Sample Material) Gist of IIPA Journal: Critique of ‘Governance’ from the Grassroots Perspective P. Raghu Ram

(Sample Material) Gist of Important Articles from IIPA Journal

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.

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