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 DSA2016: The Politics of Public Sector Transformations

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 How Latin American women created the SDGs

A civilizational justification for basic income

Freakonomics has an excellent piece – and podcast – on basic income, the idea of giving every citizen a minimum amount of money every month/year to ensure that they can meet all their needs. Defenders usually claim automation and low wages are forcing people into poverty, whereas opponents claim that industries would suffer for lack of labor supply. But here is a really cool social dividend as expressed by economist Evelyn Forget:

If you look at the 18th and at the 19th century, some of the great scientific breakthroughs and some of the great cultural breakthroughs were made by people who did not work. These were gentlemen of leisure, right? These were people who had enough family money to support themselves. They certainly didn’t have to dirty their hands doing the kinds of work we take for granted. I don’t think these individuals felt useless; I don’t think their contribution was negligible. I think it was very important to the development of the world.

I find this to be a strangely powerful idea that should resonate with science and history geeks everywhere. Most key contributions to the history of human civilization have come out of leisure and financial safety: from democracy in Athens to the Darwin’s theory of evolution. Could this be the ultimate, civilizational justification for universal basic income?

Can political settlements theory tell donors how to make ethical choices?

New paper! “The role and responsibility of foreign aid in recipient political settlements“.

Political settlements analysis has highlighted the role of powerful political and economic actors in shaping institutional outcomes across countries. Its focus on national elites, however, risks biasing this type of theorising towards local factors, when in fact many policy domains in developing countries have become transnationalised: much like private finance or transnational activism, foreign aid can play a significant role in shaping political settlements, for instance those underlying public finance management or basic service delivery. This paper has four aims. First, it revises the basic concept of political settlement with a combination of field theory and contentious politics that emphasises contestation between incumbents and challengers and the mechanisms through which they are affected by transnational forces. Second, based on this conceptual framework, it outlines six ideal types of aid influence over a developing-country political settlement, illustrating donor tendencies to support continuity or change. Third, it investigates the ethical implications of donor influence over political settlements, identifying the types of intervention favoured by consequentialist and non-consequentialist calculations. Finally, the paper presents the kernel for a practical ethic of assistance, which asks whether current debates in the aid community have fully come to terms with the responsibility that derives from agency in the contentious politics of inclusive development.

Download it here.