Pablo Yanguas

Political Analysis & Aid Effectiveness

The two faces of development studies

This year’s Development Studies Association meeting was the biggest that I have attended: a 2.5 day affair chock full of panels, events, and conversations which displayed a level of maturity that our community sorely needed. While there is still a lot to do when it comes to making panels more interactive and presentations more engaging, we appear to be on the right course. However, what I found most interesting about this year’s meeting was the attempt by the organizers to reconcile – or at least, represent – the two faces of our little academic community. DSA 2016 had two keynote lectures by well-regarded scholars, and the two of them could not have been more different. Continue reading

APSA2016: Building bridges between ESID and PoliSci

In two weeks I will be storming Philly’s city center as part of the ESID contingent attending the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association. We are finally taking our framework and findings across the pond to have a proper conversation with leading lights of American political science, and in particular comparative politics. Our panel session includes such heavyweights as Atul Kohli, Jennifer Widner, and my own PhD advisor Nicolas van de Walle (the links are for those poor souls who don’t know these scholars already). On our side we will have Kunal Sen, Sohela Nazneen, and Abdul-Gafaru Abdulai.

The topic for the day is “Beyond the ‘new’ new institutionalism: debating the politics of development”, which fits quite nicely under APSA’s theme for this year of “Great Transformations: Political Science and the Big Questions of Our Time”. ESID is definitely fond of big questions, and it does not get any bigger than that.

I have been asked to serve as a translator or pontifex of sorts for that panel, albeit briefly. Because of my fixation with blurred disciplinary boundaries and academic amnesia, I have the task of briefly articulating the potential bridges between ESID’s core framework of “adapted political settlements” and more mainstream debates within American polisci. Seeing as I have already thought about this a couple times already, it seemed like a natural fit.

Spoiler alert, I will focus on the following 3 linkages:

  • The politics of public goods
  • Regimes and their effects
  • Determinants of state capacity

Whoever wants to learn what I actually mean by that will have to join us in Philly on September 1st at 4pm.

DSA2016: The Politics of Public Sector Transformations

DSA2016 is upon us, and if you are around Oxford on 12 September you might want to drop by our afternoon panel (2-5:30pm) on The Politics of Public Sector Transformations, which includes 7 papers from senior and junior scholars on both big theory and detailed cases, all with the goal of answering the following question “What is the next frontier in the analysis of public sector transformations?”

Here is the list of papers, authors and short abstracts:

Continue reading

Social science with a purpose

Here’s some beautiful writing from Max Weber on how the validity of social science is rooted in the values and meaning that we attach to it.

The objective validity of all empirical knowledge rests exclusively upon the ordering of the given reality according to categories which are subjective in a specific sense, namely, in that they present the presuppositions of our knowledge and are based on the presupposition of the value of those truths which empirical knowledge alone is able to give us.
These value-ideas are for their part empirically discoverable and analyzable as elements of meaningful human conduct, but their validity can not be deduced from empirical data as such. The “objectivity” of the social sciences depends rather on the fact that the empirical data are always related to those value-ideas which alone make them worth knowing and the significance of the empirical data is derived from these value-ideas.

And while you puzzle over what makes empirical data “worth knowing” I leave you with Weber’s own celebration of a complex reality that social science can only order if it has a clear purpose.

Life with its irrational reality and its store of possible meanings is inexhaustible. The
concrete form in which value-relationship occurs remains perpetually in flux, ever subject to change in the dimly seen future of human culture. The light which emanates from those highest value-ideas always falls on an ever changing finite segment of the vast chaotic stream of events, which flows away through time.

Against paradigms


Albert O. Hirschman, “The Search for Paradigms as a Hindrance to Understanding”, World Politics 22, 3 (April 1970).

How Latin American women created the SDGs

I must confess that I have not paid much attention to the Sustainable Development Goals. Some of my colleagues, like David Hulme, did participate in the expert conversations leading to their adoption. And here at Manchester we have had countless conversations on whether they signal a real transformation or just another round of bulls**t. But I am fascinated by the process whereby the SDGs were conceived, advocated and negotiated, which is just another example of epistemic communities and policy entrepreneurs promoting change in international development. The fine people at Deliver3030 are compiling a series on SDG history which includes personal reflections by key participants in the negotiations. And I found this one piece by Paula Caballero particularly interesting. Continue reading

LISTEN: Public Sector Reform in Ghana

Here’s a recording of our event on Public Sector Reform: Prospects and Challenges in Ghana and Beyond, hosted by the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) on 4 April 2016.

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