Elites, Production and Poverty: A Comparative Study
This research programme is a comparative study of the political economy of elites support and the implementation of pro-poor productive sector initiatives in five countries: Bangladesh, Ghana, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda.
The research program asks three main questions:
a) Where does real authority reside with respect to the implementation of selected pro-poor productive sector initiatives?
b) What factors explain state elite views on the desirability and feasibility of these initiatives and thereby elite support, resistance, subterfuge and/or exclusion in relation to them?
c) What are the major cross-country similarities and differences with respect to b) and how can they be explained?
There are various theoretical disagreements within the literature and questions about current thinking that we address in our work:
1. How important are societal groups? A central assumption is that interest groups outside the state are key in pushing issues of inclusion and poverty reduction onto the public agenda and in helping to hold the state accountable for subsequent policies, their implementation, and results. We think that this influence is generally overrated because non-state organisations are often weak and fragmented.
2. Are state elites solely driven by instrumental self-interest? A rational choice framework, which has at its core the assumption that political responses to poverty are dominated by ‘rational egoism’ conceived in rather narrow material terms is not empirically convincing. Thus changes may also be driven by ideology, professional pride, nationalism, etc.
3. Are neo-patrimonial relations central in explaining what state elites regard as desirable and feasible? The neo-patrimonial paradigm, which scholars of African politics have embraced does focus on the role of state elites but it cannot, on its own, explain the considerable variation in policies, institutional arrangements and outcomes within and across countries. The neo-patrimonial paradigm regards state elite politics as driven by a quest for personal power, rent seeking and other particularistic benefits.
We focus on strategies for economic growth and poverty alleviation as formulated in and implemented through the PRSPs. In each country we research these strategies in two productive sector initiatives in which the state has a prominent role.
We ask two basic questions about these initiatives:
a) Under what conditions do state elites significantly influence relevant sector policies and implementation arrangements?
b) When state elites do have influence, what types of policies, implementation arrangements and outcomes do they then find desirable and feasible?
Our research is grounded in a political economy approach, is deeply contextual and case study based. Policy and implementation outcomes, we claim, result from interactions over time between different state, non-state and donor actors whose beliefs, interests, incentives and constraints are shaped by the institutions within which they are embedded. These dynamics change over time. The research is pitched at a middle level of analysis – seeking to take account of some major institutional and structural changes as well as the ‘micro level’ interactions between specified individuals, units and organizations.
The collaborative research programme is funded by FFU and will run from January 2008 until December 2010.
DIIS researchers involved: Ole Therkildsen (Programme Coordinator), Lars Buur, Neil Webster, Lindsay Whitfield.
Other researchers involved: Anne Mette Kjær, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Aarhus, Denmark.
The following students and resaerchers are associated with the programme: France Bourguin, Post.Doc. Candidate; Tina Marie Jensen, PhD Candidate; Florain Langbehn, PhD Candidate.
Networks or partners involved: Emmanuel Akwetey, Executive Director, Institute for Democratic Governance, Ghana; Obede Suarte Baloi, Research Coordinator, Centre for Democracy and Development Studies, Mozambique; Zarina Rahman Khan, Professor, Department of Public Administration, Dhaka University, Bangladesh; Max Mmuya, Professor, Department of Political Science and Public Administration, University of Dar as Salaam, Tanzania; Fred Kakongoro Muhumuza, Lecturer, Department of Economics and Management, Makerere University, Uganda.