Pablo Yanguas

Political Analysis / Anti-Corruption / Adaptive Development

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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.

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?

The Internet’s Own Boy

A great film about an outstanding young activist who fought for internet freedom and academic open access.

Documentary film: The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (2014) by Brian Knappenberger. Via Internet Archive. Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International.

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