Published 2006 in revised form in World Development 34 (11)1851-1863 . Part of THIS collection. Ask before quoting.
Batterbury, S.P.J. & JL Fernando. 2006. Rescaling governance and the impacts of political and environmental decentralization: an introduction . World Development 34 (11): 1851-1863. (published version differs quite a bit)
Simon PJ Batterbury
Melbourne, VIC 3010
Fax: +61 (0)3 9349 4218
tel +61 (0)3 8344 9319
Jude L Fernando
Department of International Development, Community and Environment (IDCE)
This article introduces a collection of papers that provide empirical studies of the impacts that result from changes to established modes of governance: in particular, changes to the scale at which state institutions operate. We critically assess the claims made for “good governance” reforms in the light of these studies. Altering the scale, and the style, of governance has inevitable consequences for power structures, institutions, livelihoods, and physical landscapes. We offer a framework for analyzing these consequences.
Good governance, decentralization, environmental governance, scale
Several of the papers in this special issue were first presented
at the Association of American Geographers annual meetings in
1. INTRODUCTION: TOWARDS “GOOD” GOVERNANCE
The papers in this special issue of World Development examine the effects of changing “governance” arrangements upon development outcomes, political change, and natural environments. The authors give special scrutiny to the effects of policies instituted by the state or by international development agencies, particularly those associated with efforts to decentralize political powers. The contributors share a common concern for demonstrating precisely how the restructuring of governance arrangements are manifested at different levels of society. These empirical studies provide evidence to assess development efforts that are endeavoring to deliver “efficiency”, opportunity, sustainability, and accountability to local people. They offer “grounded” analyses, analyzed primarily (but not exclusively) at the level of localities and places, of the outcomes that result from political decentralizations, increased local government autonomy, community management of natural resources, and privatized service delivery. In sum, through a range of case studies, authors provide strong geographical evidence to challenge some of the present orthodoxies of the “good governance” agenda in international development thinking and practice.
Andrew Wardell and Christian Lund
detail several “waves” of decentralization of control over forest resources
that have taken place in
In each of the studies the ways in which society and natural resources are managed has shifted significantly over time. This has happened in response to government reforms, a change in government or aid conditionalities, or a major decision to implement new models of resource management or service delivery. Our introductory paper serves to contextualize the collection by providing a brief history and overview of governance, as it relates to trends in development. Rather than viewing “good” governance as a straightforward and unproblematic response to the failures of past development policies, we are concerned with exploring how their representation of past failures and the remedies they offer frame and are framed by structures of political and economic power. Power resides in certain arenas, and we discuss, in turn, regimes and states, civil society, and processes of planned development. Natural resource issues are treated poorly or are absent in normative models of “good governance”, and so we address them more directly, also arguing that regimes of “eco-governmentality” can emerge (Goldman, 2004). Lastly, we offer a brief framework to assist with the task of interrogating the effects of further governance reforms, focusing on their geographical and scalar dimensions.
2. THE CHANGING REGIMES OF GOVERNANCE
a) Governance and ”good governance”
International development has been characterized by periodic thematic shifts in the ideas that give meaning and direction to the types of outcomes that donor agencies wish to support (Abrahamsen, 2000). Once institutionalized, these new ideas occupy a dominant position in development management and public administration, before being superseded by, or coalescing with, other concepts and applications (Escobar, 1995). “Good governance” is one such idea.
Governance refers to the “…formation and stewardship of the formal and informal rules that regulate the public realm, the arena in which state as well as economic and societal actors interact to make decisions” (Hyden et al., 2004, p.16). In short, it describes “rules in use” - how “operational rules shape specific outcomes” (Hyden et al., 2004, p4). The term “regime” is used to describe the multi-scaled political system.
The norms and expectations that constitute a given regime of governance are expected to be shaped by six overlapping principles that should be applied at all levels: global, national, inter-national, regional, and local. These principles permeate into governmental, non-governmental and corporate sector institutions. They are: Openness: Institutions must improve the public confidence in them by conducting their practices in an open manner and in language accessible and comprehensible for the larger public. Participation: institutions should adopt an inclusive approach when developing, implementing and evaluating policies. Accountability: institutions must provide clarity about their policies to the larger society and take responsibility for their impacts. Effectiveness: policies must be clear and timely and should correspond to clear objectives. Coherence: policies and practices should be coherent and easily understood, given the increasing diversity and complexity of demographic and institutional scales at which the institutions are expected to function. Civic peace: referring to the importance of mutual respect, human dignity, and rights among groups in society. (EC Commission, 2001; see also Hyden, 1998; Graham et al., 2003; UNDP, 1997). This list is ambitious and, perhaps, indicative of wishful thinking (like so many other lists). It can, and has been, extended and revised (UNDP, 2002). It does, however, offer a set of guidelines against which to assess particular policies resulting from both planned international development efforts, and from capitalist processes of exchange, reproduction and regulation. Together, these principles constitute the central features of “good governance”.
“Good governance” is an umbrella term for any package of public sector reforms designed to create lasting and positive changes in accordance with the principles outlined above. The explicit adoption of “good” governance as an international development goal dates back over a decade to the early 1990s (Doornbos, 2003). Donor agencies have been responsible for setting the terms of a normative, tractable governance agenda in developing countries, often as a precondition for the granting of financial aid. Greater use of the concept has coincided with the end of the Cold War, and the dissemination and consolidation of neoliberal economic and political models worldwide. Thus, its principles are often extended and linked to the liberalization of trade and support for economic growth, open elections, and a free media - all treated as legitimate governance issues. The decentralization of decision-making powers downward to local institutions is a very important feature of the approach since it improves accountability and voice in local government, and potentially among the grassroots too (World Bank, 1992), while environmental governance extends this to encompass the better stewardship of natural resources. In sum, governance in its good and bad varieties, is many things to all people.
Despite the conceptual ambiguities surrounding the notion of
“good governance” the agenda it promotes
cannot be dismissed lightly. The academic literature on the concept is
voluminous and insightful (Tendler, 1997; Ferguson
& Gupta, 2002; Doornbos, 2003), government and
agency-sponsored research on governance runs into millions of dollars, and it
is strongly represented in debates about development. The media is currently
(2005) focusing on the merits of externally imposed governance reforms in the
The impacts of “good governance” on society are diffused
well beyond the proximate targets of policy reform, so that “through metaphors
of individual and society, it [good governance] influences the way people
construct themselves, their conduct and their relations as free individuals”
(Shore & Wright, 1997, p10). The discourse of development and
democratization, through “good governance”, constitute resources that may be
politically invested by NGOs and other actors. For example, political reforms
following the end of the authoritarian regime in
b) Governance and the state
There are several features of the contemporary state in developing countries that make it amenable to requests to pursue governance reforms. McLellan & Ngoma (2004) list these as the poor experience of structural adjustment lending from the international financial institutions, the extraordinary powerful resurgence of neoliberalism in recent years, the collapse of communist regimes, and the rise of pro-democracy movements. Political and financial pressures have eroded the power of “holdouts” to neoliberal governance, like Cuba, several predatory regimes (Zaire/DRC, Sudan), and have led to the widespread adoption of a form of state governance more in accordance with neoliberal principles of democracy and minimal regulation of the economy (Samatar & Samatar, 2002).
This shift in governance is worth exploring further, in historical perspective. The origins of the notion of government date back to Classical antiquity and the Middle Ages in Europe, where we find a “multitude of treaties presented as advice to the prince, concerning his proper conduct, the exercise of power, the means of security, the acceptance and respect of the subjects, and the love of God and obedience to him, the application of divine law to the cities of men etc.” (Foucault, 1991, p.87). Some form of public authority has been crucial for a healthy civil society. Plato’s organic state, Aquinas’s republic, Aristotle’s polity, Luther’s sphere of obligation, and Machiavelli’s civic republic, all recognize that “everyday life was made possible by organized political power” (Ehrenberg, 1999, p.245).
From the middle of the sixteenth century to the end of
eighteenth century in
The formation of the nation state in most of the developing
countries in the colonial period is particularly important to understanding the
present packages of good governance
reforms, since in many respects the regimes prevailing in the former colonies
date many of their institutions to the imposition of modern (post C18th) ideals
upon them. Colonization, of course, occurred on terms advantageous to
The modern state – a term that conceals a multitude of
different regimes and forms of governance - reproduces some of these historic
functions. There are further important differences between liberal democratic
regimes, social democratic or welfare states, the few remaining socialist
states, and “competition states” that have emerged to “make economic activities
located within the territory of the state more competitive in global terms” (Eckersley, 2004, p.65). Many countries have repositioned
themselves to take advantage of rounds of economic globalization in the
post-Cold war political economy according to a “new” set of economic, political
and cultural imperatives. The modern state, therefore, maintains political
power in diverse ways in order to manage crises of accumulation and
legitimization – variously “governing” markets towards economic growth, as in
In order to receive economic and development benefits or to retain popular legitimacy with their citizens, most of the modern states of the developing world have accepted neoliberal reform packages, in the form of aid, trade opportunities, or governance measures. This process has led to significant changes in the ways that central ministries, local government, and regional authorities are managed and structured. In addition there is a much more marked partitioning of responsibilities between state, NGOs, corporations and citizens. Development is now carried out, and supported by, diverse institutions.
The conditions imposed on structural adjustment lending and
its contemporary variants have an underlying rationale – that a strong and
growing economy will make permanent
state-driven social policies far less vital, even if its regulatory functions
are retained (Peet, 2003). State social welfare and
utility expenditure constitutes an unproductive government expense, not a
productive investment, in this view. Unless such expenditure promises to
generate short-term profits, it is simply condemned as unproductive social
compensation. Common areas for the expansion of private corporations, under the
cover of “good governance” discourse include education, health care and utility
supply. While there are arguments to support privatization on fiscal grounds,
price signals to poorer consumers, and accountability of private companies
(often transnational) are major concerns. The provision of water supply in
Although it must be demonstrated in individual cases, the work of international NGOs perpetuates certain aspects of the “good governance” agenda, because they are part of the regime, cross scales, and have their own bureaucracies. This is important for our central aim of demonstrating how governance occurs on the ground: NGOs develop their own micro-modes of governance – they set their own rules for financial payments and loans, service provision, infrastructure repairs and maintenance, resource management, accounting, and so-on. Their activities vary in depth, and their local impacts can be profound and lasting (Bebbington, 2004). In some cases, as in Niger and the neighboring countries of the West African Sahel that are highly dependent on project aid, development project management styles and norms have enormous influence in the rural hinterlands, equal to those of government (Rossi, 2004).
The widespread frustrations with the failures of the state in development and democratization are important reasons for civil society to emerge as an important player in the discourse of “good governance”.
c) Governance, civil society and NGOs
Much of the credit for the current popularity and institutionalization of “good governance” is attributed to the activities of civil society or “third sector” organizations, that have been persistent in their attacks on deficient state policy, and diligent in creating parallel channels to achieve development outcomes. There has been, therefore, a push from civil society to institute some of the reforms desired by international donors. According to the World Bank, historically the third sector has been undermined by the state, “which in turn enabled state officials in many countries to serve their own interests without fear of being called into account” (World Bank, 1989, p60). Implied in this argument is that the nurturing of a strong third sector and well-governed states are parallel objectives – the former provide more “voice” and opportunities for participation. The institutional pluralism of civil society organizations helps to make many, though not all, of them accountable and transparent (Lewis & Wallace, 2000). For donors, then, supporting the development of pluralistic institutional structures can help constrain potential abuses of political power (Landell-Mills & Serageldin, 1991).
The vitality of third sector organizations and the numerous activities and struggles in which they are engaged –and their endorsement of many aspects of the “good governance” prescriptions – points to a strong “capacity” to influence the rules-in-use of contemporary regimes (Bebbington et al., this issue). This can occur through a variety of NGO partnerships with local government and the exploration of new economic opportunities for marginal and poor communities (Bebbington, 2000, 2004). Bebbington et al. (this issue) remind us of the “capacity” and agency of individuals and local organizations to challenge structures of power. This issue of World Development demonstrates the following examples of the exercise of capacity:
· As Bebbington et al. (this issue) discuss, “capacity resides in actors” and in post-reform Indonesia, there have been more opportunities for employing it, through “voicing” dissatisfaction with heavy-handed land-grabs, state control of forests, and government corruption, and slowly challenging the unitary model of village-level authorities that held sway for many decades
· In Nicaragua, where a socialist regime has given way to a neoliberal state, local government and civil society actors have won a battle to have a greater percentage of the national budget passed down to municipalities, and these local authorities themselves have occasionally been held accountable in cases of corruption and denial of access to forests (Ribot et al., this issue)
· In Malawi, the “variety and complexity” of local resource management strategies in fishing communities have continued despite the “idealized blueprints” of community-based resource management schemes (Blaikie, this issue).
It would be naïve, nonetheless, to consider that the third sector is necessarily endowed with greater potential to meet the expectations of “good governance” than the state or for-profit organizations. Instead, it should be viewed, alongside these other agents, as a political arena, consisting of a variety of norms and institutions. This is its strength. The contributors to this issue make this clear: Véron et al. (this issue), for example, show how “community” actors are complicit in the corruption of local government funding in West Bengal; some of these actors are political entrepreneurs whose presence is wholly linked to earlier governance reforms and decentralization efforts, while others have appropriated funds but allocated some of the money to go to pro-poor development. New “rules in use” have been created, with unforeseen local impacts. Although it focuses on local government, their study reinforces the point that relations between NGOs, and between NGOs and governments, political parties, grass roots organizations, donor agencies, corporations, and other informal sector organizations have become diverse and complex (Fernando & Heston, 2001).
As Ehrenberg notes, in the modern world economy, the promise of better governance is accompanied with “deepening of inequality and gigantic concentration of private power” (Ehrenberg, 1999, p.250). Yet the promise of better governance is constrained to the arena of politics, which itself continues to be undermined by manifest inequalities in the economic arena. The two arenas are not independent. Abrahamsen argues, therefore, that the commitments to cultural sensitivity in the governance agenda are only tolerated if they are “compatible with capitalism and modern state structures.” (2000, p.65). The fusion of neoliberal economics with political democracy ignores how political equality, opportunity and popular participation can actually be undermined by the effects of neoliberal economic policy itself: capitalism has a social cost, since economic growth creates both winners and losers (Fisher & Ponniah, 2003; Peet, 2003). Instead, the main emphasis of the governance agenda remains elsewhere, on political processes and associated concerns. Concern with economics is present in the form of endorsements to the free market and private capital among important development agencies and international financial institutions (IFIs), but this is not the same as a full acknowledgement of the negative impacts of economic processes and capital accumulation on inequalities of wealth and wellbeing (Wade, 2003).
3. GOOD GOVERNANCE AND PLANNED DEVELOPMENT
The articulation of “good governance” by development agencies (particularly the IFIs) overtly acknowledges the past failure of development policy. At the time that colonial states were moving to independence, too much faith was placed in a model of modernization and industrialization that mirrored that of Western nations. In Africa, “The post-colonial state was, in short, a perfect example of an alien system imposed from the top, and because the underlying cultural premises of Western state institutions were foreign to the continent, these institutions began to crumble the moment the colonial administrators left” (Landell-Mills, 1992). Development efforts entailed some radical changes in local traditions and cultures, through the drive to modernize and industrialize. Only since the 1990s have the dominant organizations in development policy become more sanguine about their ability to modify and overturn existing political, social and economic norms. New development paradigms are, arguably, more accommodating of local traditions, beliefs, and structures (Landell-Mills, 1992). By the 1990s the World Bank, for example, emphasized that its programs should “reflect national characteristics and be consistent with a country’s cultural values” (World Bank, 1992, p.12).
On the surface the World Bank’s endorsement of locally appropriate and culturally sensitive development appeals to the sensibilities of the political left and the right. Yet the quotation conceals an internal struggle within the Bank in the early 1990s about the degree to which interventionism in the political arena was desirable or possible (Doornbos, 2003: 7). The “governed market” approach to economic policy, with strong state intervention, has not found great favor (Wade, 2003). Today, most lending to poorer nations does not allow governments to pursue “highly sensitive and political” governance reforms entirely free of donor influence (Piron & Evans, 2004, p.35; Goldman, 2004).
Under the guise of “good governance”, some agencies working
An a priori determination of economic models and a relegation of constituents’ preferences to second-order importance” – as, arguably, still occurs in many of the larger donor aid packages - silences the “possibility that the majority in developing countries may favor economic and political solutions that contradict with good governance” (Abrahamsen, 2000, p52). Worse, patronage and rent-seeking practices of state actors may actually be reinforced as they make new alliances with a highly competitive capitalist class, those competing for state power. “Good governance” and its development application ostensibly includes respect for “indigenous identities, structures, values, institutions and heritage”, yet envisages a “transformation of tradition as a foundation and a resource for promoting a transitional integration that is self-reliant and self-sustaining” (Deng, 1998, p.151-2). This is controversial: as Deng points out, efforts to discipline local traditions and cultures according to the imperatives of a “good governance” discourse may not accord fully with more democratic models of social change.
4. ENVIRONMENTAL GOVERNANCE
Environmental governance has arisen as a discrete area of policy and research, particularly in the context of expanding the eclectic “theoretical and knowledge base of sustainability and environmental justice” (Agyeman, Bullard & Evans, 2003, p15). This field separate only in name from the political and economic preoccupations of the “good governance” model, and its incorporation into the academic mainstream of development studies is long overdue. The links between environmental quality/scarcity and social and political instability are recognized by a variety of formal organizations and social movements, and are often generated by concerns over the growing economic and ecological disparities that are accentuated by the rise of neoliberalism and corporate-led globalization (Peluso & Watts, 2001). Whether these concerns are “real” is a matter for empirical investigation, but the persistence of environmental justice campaigns by environmental movements, the genuine concerns of environmental scientists and health professionals, and the very serious concern given to them by powerful actors suggests that they are (Faber & McCarthy, 2003; Simon, 2000).
Most large aid projects are now accompanied by environment
assessments of their impacts. The “greening” of the World Bank’s project
funding since the 1980s, while wholly appropriate, is remarkable. A series of
green conditionalities now accompany major
infrastructure projects, further “disciplining” recipient nations and local
populations into accepting new laws, property rights, and environmental commitments
(Goldman, 2004). These commitments give rise to new regimes of governance, but
they arise initially through environmental, rather than political concerns.
Goldman’s analysis of the Bank-supported Nam Theun 2
hydroelectric scheme on the Mekong river in
These, and other studies reinforce the claims of political ecologists that there are no simplistic linkages between resource use, economic activity, the breakdown of civil order or security, and development outcomes (Peluso & Watts, 2001). “Struggles over resources lie at the centre of struggles over power” (Peet & Watts, 2004, p.xiv), and there is a clear link between local politics and social relations, and the “larger processes of material transformation and power relations” in the environmental domain (Peluso & Watts, 2001, p.5). Resource degradation results from, and strongly influences, politics and social change. It is vital to seek explanations at multiple scales, and across the human and nonhuman worlds; from the international economy down to the systems of rules governing local access to forests. Biophysical change, social relations and politics, and ideas and discourses (made real by policy) are linked. The processes acting upon places are scaled and nested within each other (or, in the language of actor-network theory, they are linked in non-hierarchical ways).
This type of political ecology research permits assessments
of the multiple impacts of governance
changes. Purely on the grounds of human rights and ethics, the relinquishing of
state control over all aspects of natural resource management “downwards” has
been perceived as positive in many developing countries (IIED, 2004). But there
are still major questions about the efficacy of merely decentralizing to levels
where new political schisms and the capture of rents by elites can occur –
decentralized institutions need to be well understood and well designed to
prevent this (Faguet, 2003). Furthermore, the
ecological, political, and discursive elements of the policy need to be
analyzed simultaneously, especially where local bodies gain new powers over
natural resources. Reconciling culturally
appropriate practices with universal standards of environmental governance is a
major challenge, rarely carried out successfully, and often involving episodes
of mutual incomprehension and distrust, as Filer describes in the many failed
environmental crusades in
5. GOVERNANCE, TIME, AND SCALE: INVESTIGATING THE LINKS
The essential analytical task laid out by the contributors to this collection, and others working in this field, point toward a multi faceted approach to the analysis of governance. Studies need to be historically grounded and set in the context of the circumstances surrounding their development and implementation. There is scope for more comparative work across space, and seeking “deeper” explanations by crossing scales. Lastly, the “rules in use” that individuals use to circumvent governance structures, and participate in them, require empirical investigation.
a) Governance needs to be analyzed in historical context
Important insights can be gained from analyzing changes in
regimes of governance over time. Several of the contributors go back to the
colonial period, showing how imposition of colonial norms of administration
changed and then gave way to independence, and the restructuring of national,
regional, and local institutions and identities. In this way, the current
attraction of “good” governance is placed in its historical context,
illuminating aspects of the approach that are path-dependent, or circumstances
in which historical factors structure the contemporary. For example, Wardell and
b) Framing the political economy of governance
There are multiple arenas where states, and the forces of capital, intersect, and it is important to show how these frame governance and policy. This may best be achieved through the tools of political economy (clearly, historical analysis is also important here).
The quality of governance has been under close scrutiny due to the colossal failures of development policies since independence of former colonies. In brief, the post-colonial states have suffered high energy prices, increasing balance of payment deficits, poor performance of state-owned enterprises, and a large debt burden. They were further affected by the poor performance of the majority of structural adjustment and stabilization policies. The consolidation of neoliberal economic reforms, particularly under structural adjustment programs and the resulting reduction of the fiscal capacities of states to manage these conflicts, further undermined the conventional patronage and rent seeking politics that provided the legitimacy of the state. The structural demands of the expansion of global capital and intractable economic crises opened the developing countries to even greater interventions by external actors to assume more control over the internal economies of these countries.
point here is not so much that these global changes structure the relationship
between the international political economy and the nation state (important as
these connections are), but following the arguments developed by the authors in
this issue, that they also influence everyday lives and human capabilities. In
c) Working between places and across scales
A central feature of the unfolding of capitalist development and planned development, is that the processes they embody range across scales, from global to local. While commodities and ideologies flow between places, nations, and global networks, so do ideas founded in the international development arena (Ferguson & Gupta, 2002). “Good” governance reforms were conceived by international institutions, building on a past history of planned development activity and a particular view of how recipient countries and their people might better deploy their aid flows. They have been applied to the activities of the nation state and its multi-scaled elements through reform processes, and they affect institutions and individuals at these multiple scales. Interrogating these shifts across scale, and across places, is essential to the study of “good governance”. Each of the papers in this issue shows how policy development “jumps” scale to have impacts outside the immediate context in which it was developed.
Two research tools are important to understanding these scale dimensions; comparative work between places, and tracing movements across scale of singular policies, ideas, or material practices. With regard to the first of these, systematic comparison of governance arrangements are being made across cases (Gaventa, 2001). Hyden et al. (2004) provide the first cross-national study of “good” governance prescriptions. The work is preliminary, but yields interesting findings, including the fact that social movements were perceived to be quite poor at influencing government policy in the sixteen developing countries surveyed. Levels of openness, transparency, and accountability also differed widely. Much more comparative work is needed on these issues, and this requires a combination of qualitative and quantitative investigation of criteria such as accountability, and public satisfaction with government institutions (UNDP, 2002). Ribot et al. examine the impact of decentralized institutions synchronically across six countries, using carefully defined criteria of accountability and the degree of centralized interference.
With regard to the second research tool, Bebbington calls
for studies of “transnational networks of intervention and how and why
capitalist development occurs and is governed in the way that it is” (2003,
301). This means probing further into the origins and deployment of some of the
development interventions visible in this issue, including political
decentralization – both in terms of their genesis in bureaucracies and
organizations, and how they vary in its application “in place” (and for
decentralization, its failure to provide downward accountability and less
interference from the central state). In a more positive vein, how have more
successful participatory governance structures emerged, as in
d) Interrogating rules in use
In most of the cases described in this issue, the informal
rules governing access to resources, or to services, at the local scale are
different from the legal prescriptions enshrined in law or management policy
(some linked to “good governance” outcomes, like community based resource
management projects). Interrogating “rules in use”, therefore, illustrates the
range of capabilities that local people have, and the ways in which they use
them to subvert or ignore formal institutions, and how they manage to
perpetuate the balancing act that is central to all rural and urban
livelihoods. Understanding these actions required a particular type of
political ethnography in which both the “structure” of governance, and the ways
in which it is subverted through individual and collective capacities, are
interrogated (Harriss, 2002; Olivier de Sardan, 1995).
Some formal rules that govern resource access provide opportunities for
decentralized institutions and local government to rent-seek, through
corruption and “turning a blind eye” to logging, pilfering of building
materials, abstraction of unmetered water, and
so-forth. Such activities are described in several of the papers. In
e) Framing the political ecology of governance
ecology has an intellectual and an analytical appeal because there is an
explicit recognition of the multi-scaled factors that influence places and
communities, and significant attention to local environments and human agency.
It does this in two ways: a) it incorporates analysis of the resources in
question, but “socializes” these resources by interrogating their power to
influence asset building, to create vulnerability to hazards and scarcity, and
even to destroy livelihood systems, and b) it can show how governance reforms
affect the activities of land users, who are proximately responsible for
changing the physical landscape. These material landscape impacts may be
assessed and quantified (Robbins, 1998). In
“Good governance” offers a clearly framed set of normative ideals for societies and government. The concept is “broad enough to comprise public management as well as political dimensions, while at the same time vague enough to allow a fair measure of discretion and flexibility in interpretation as to what ”good governance” would or would not condone” (Doornbos, 2003, p7). As a result, it has sufficient rhetorical power to translate into development policy, and indeed many of the architects of normative models of governance are actively involved in development administration. In reviewing the concept, we have highlighted some of the arenas in which “better” governance is believed to reside – particularly in local government - and it is in these same arenas that the potential for its failure are also located.
The processes of governance reform are highly influenced by
context. Contributors to this issue spell out the different outcomes of the
same policy across relatively similar geographical and cultural contexts.
Witness, for example, the different forms and severity of corruption present in
the different communities surveyed in West Bengal (Véron
et al., this issue), surrounding the
handling of government Employment Assurance Scheme payments. Or, while the performance
of recent water privatization reforms in
Thirdly, the meanings and interpretations of governance –
which determine its actual elaboration and deployment – are framed by the
historically contingent and constitutive interdependence between knowledge,
representation and relations of power. Hence our focus on the political economy
of the organizations and institutions in which the concept has evolved. Despite the efforts by the advocates of “good
governance” to distance it from the past failures of planned development, they
provide ideological legitimacy for neoliberal
economic reforms, and thereby marginalize “deeper” alternatives to these. Such
alternatives include the strategy of self-development pursued in
This is the type of question that must be asked of “good governance” prescriptions. We suspect that there are ulterior motives – or at least the suspension of belief – in the common elision that occurs between government and governance, the conceptual drift in development policy that has retained a focus on government bilateral support, while praising the efforts of non-governmental actors, third sector organizations, and the private sector. Good governance reforms offer the prospect of more efficient aid disbursement, and they accord with neoliberal values of economic advancement, rights, and democratic values. We have not suggested that the content of such reforms are “wrong” – in many cases they have met several of their guiding principles and had positive outcomes for the poor (although not in the case studies presented in this issue). The papers show, nonetheless, that the normative model often fails in practice, usually because powerful people capture status, resources, or more power from its application - or the central state does not relinquish enough control to local people eager to receive it. This is the fundamental challenge to decentralization reforms in particular. Rendering outcomes more transparent through monitoring and research makes their failures more readily identified, and their successes anchored more closely to the contexts in which they evolved.
Marx’s famous aphorism was that “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.” (Marx, 1976). The studies in this collection offer the necessary critiques and analyses of contemporary and historical trends in the application and deployment of “good governance” to identify its successes, failures, and “embeddedness” in social and political processes. In no small way, they also offer the prospect of change.
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 Regimes describe the rules that guide behavior and action in politics. A regime is
…distinct from both state and government. It is typically a more permanent form of political organization than a specific government but less permanent than a state. The state is an institutionalized structure of domination and coordination of both law and order and development activities (Hyden, 1998, p.38).
 See Bebbington (2003) for a discussion of the differences and overlaps between these different meanings given to development.
 Mandani’s claims have been hotly debated. In
 The creation of international trading blocs and regional organizations has not led to the same degree of formal governance as found in the European Community, although certain of these institutions do hold out the promise of greater integration in future.
 In some cases, it must be recognized that renegade or rebel groups and factions have assumed political power in their territories, and have developed their own governance strategies (Ferguson & Gupta, 2002, p.993). See also the Crisis States research project at the LSE. http://www.crisisstates.com.
 One interesting turn in the history of governance is that the struggles of civil society organizations to hold IFIs, governments and corporations accountable for their actions, has been countered by claims that they themselves should be placed under just as close scrutiny.
finds it “…more than a little ironic that theories of civil society have become
hegemonic in what is now the most unequal industrialized society on Earth.”
(2002). He refers to the
 The entrepreneur George Soros voiced concern that “…the untrammeled intensification of laissez-faire capitalism and the spread of market values into all areas of life is endangering our open and democratic society” (Soros, 1997, p.45).
(2003) suggests such alliances may in fact be positive for “internally
articulated” new growth economies, of the type found in
 Robert Wade’s forthcoming book on the status of environmental concern within the World Bank, tentatively entitled Paved with good intentions, will illustrate this latter point in depth.
 Some studies employing hybrid research techniques
make it possible to trace the effects of institutional formations on ecologies.
Paul Robbins’s work has quantified the effects of different management regimes,
including private land and open access, upon rangeland quality and biodiversity
 Their method is to define the key elements of the approaches advocated, and to administer an attitudinal survey about them to key thinkers in sixteen countries. Numbers of respondents were small, however.
 Its usage to frame local livelihood systems, and the scaled processes that impact upon them, is a further application of the approach. But work on local livelihoods a different range of research questions to those posed in this paper (see Bebbington & Batterbury, 2001, who develop the notion of “transnational livelihoods” that jump scales from their rural, developing-world origins, in the search for new networks and economic opportunities).