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Anatomy of a disaster

The neo-liberal state in Mumbai's 2005 flood

Judith Whitehead

This article discusses the networked forms of governance that have arisen as part of roll-out neo-liberal policies in Mumbai, India, focusing on the flood of 26 July 2005 and its aftermath. The municipal government's inaction during and after the flood is attributed to the decentralization of governance, as well as to cutbacks to public health and basic services in recent years. The rise of competitive urbanism as a part of roll-out neo-liberalism is analyzed as producing gaps in disaster management planning and implementation. The article concludes with a call for a refinanced state and a centralization of municipal bodies under a unified municipal council, seen as necessary to provide the professionalized services required during large-scale emergencies such as floods.

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Sisphyean Struggles

Encounters and Interactions within Two US Public Housing Programs

Erika Gubrium, Sabina Dhakal, Laura Sylvester and Aline Gubrium

We operationalize the concepts of rights, discretion, and negotiation in service provision at two public housing sites, exploring their connections to the generation of shame or dignity building for residents. Using data from in-depth interviews with housing residents and caseworkers, we found that resident rights were limited by a decentralized system that actively prevented them from taking control of their lives. Residents frequently experienced caseworker discretion as personally intrusive, yet there was some, if limited, space for negotiation between caseworkers offering personalized care and residents evaluated as worthy of such focus. These interactions offered the potential for enhanced recognition and dignity.

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Papering Over the Gaps

Documents, Infrastructure and Political Experimentation in Highland Peru

Annabel Pinker

This article tracks the political effects of documents produced in relation to a public infrastructure project in the Peruvian Andes. By contrast with the recent focus on bureaucratic documents as aesthetic artefacts and instances of institutional form, I attend to the political processes enacted through project papers, exploring how their relational, material, affective and referential dimensions opened up spaces of political experimentation. In particular, I suggest that the power of documents to mediate the regulatory ambiguities incurred by Peru's ongoing decentralization lies partly in their capacity to espouse normative formality whilst always hinting at the possibility of its undoing.

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Creating the State Locally through Welfare Provision

Two Mayors, Two Welfare Regimes in Rural Hungary

Gyöngyi Schwarcz and Alexandra Szőke

This article examines the ways in which decentralized welfare provision is utilized by local state officials, particularly mayors, to (re)create local belonging along notions of deservingness. Comparing the organization of three forms of benefits in two villages, we demonstrate that local practices of welfare embody different state images that are created and negotiated both through the regulatory power of local state actors and through their various interactions and embeddedness in local social relations. Our empirical material highlights that the specificities of positions held by elected local officials and their accorded responsibilities, in addition to the position of their locality in the broader socio-spatial landscape of the country, are of great importance. All these largely influence the ways in which state images are formed and materialize in redistributive practice.

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Buddhism, the Asokan Persona, and the Galactic Polity

Rethinking Sri Lanka's Constitutional Present

Roshan de Silva Wijeyeratne

Sri Lanka's civil war between the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamil communities has now raged for nearly half a century. The Sri Lankan cum Sinhalese Buddhist state has since independence resisted all significant attempts by the Tamil political leadership at power sharing. Most constitutional lawyers and progressive Sri Lankan opinion (Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher, etc.) hold that short of a separate state, administrative power should be devolved in the form of a federal state, so as to give autonomy to the northeast of Sri Lanka, while the forces of Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism have sought to justify the centralized state by recourse to the history of Buddhism and the Sinhalese on the island. Such arguments have drawn on the ontological potential of the cosmic order of Sinhalese Buddhism, which is fundamentally hierarchical in intent. Here I argue that the diffused nature of this cosmic order provides the ontological grounding for a decentralized state structure that can accommodate ethnic difference in a non-hierarchical relation. Thus, the legacy of Sinhalese Buddhism can be rescued from the forces of Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism.

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Jennifer A. Yoder

On 21 December 2007, the German-Polish border became a "Schengen" border. Passport controls and other limitations to the movement of people and goods were abolished, removing one more obstacle to European and, perhaps, German-Polish integration. Several years earlier, Poland introduced territorial and administrative changes that moved it closer institutionally to western European states. Forty-nine subnational administrative units were replaced by sixteen self-governing voivodships. This article explores the implications of this new institutional context for German-Polish border relations. It finds that, despite the expansion of the opportunity structure for greater German-Polish cross-border cooperation, interaction still tends to be among elites. The development of linkages at the societal level lags behind for several reasons, including lingering institutional impediments and cultural differences, but also the failings of political leadership.

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Wolfgang Schroeder and Rainer Weinert

The approach of the new millennium appears to signal the demise

of traditional models of social organization. The political core of

this process of change—the restructuring of the welfare state—and

the related crisis of the industrywide collective bargaining agreement

have been subjects of much debate. For some years now in

specialist literature, this debate has been conducted between the

proponents of a neo-liberal (minimally regulated) welfare state and

the supporters of a social democratic model (highly regulated). The

alternatives are variously expressed as “exit vs. voice,” “comparative

austerity vs. progressive competitiveness,” or “deregulation vs.

cooperative re-regulation.”

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Negotiating Uncertainty

Neo-liberal Statecraft in Contemporary Peru

Annabel Pinker and Penny Harvey

In this article, we deploy the concept of 'affect' to explore processes of state formation in contemporary Peru. Drawing on ethnography concerning a controversial engineering project in the Sacred Valley, we show how the state emerges as an affective force in the ambivalent spaces opened up by the slippages between the stable certainties promised by regulatory frameworks and the doubts generated by the ambiguities they pose. Tracing the tensions, gestures, and tiny shifts in perspective that punctuate an encounter between engineers and local politicians, we complicate the notion that a pre-existing state induces affects in political subjects. Instead, we show how the state emerges as a virtual force—neither quite present nor absent—in an uncertain, highly political field of negotiation.

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Social security and care after socialism

Reconfigurations of public and private

Rosie Read and Tatjana Thelen

State frameworks for welfare and social security have been subject to processes of privatization, decentralization, and neoliberal reform in many parts of the world. This article explores how these developments might be theorized using anthropological understandings of social security in combination with feminist perspectives on care. In its application to post-1989 socioeconomic transformation in the former socialist region, this perspective overcomes the conceptual inadequacies of the "state withdrawal" model. It also illuminates the nuanced ways in which public and private (as spaces, subjectivities, institutions, moralities, and practices) re-emerge and change in the socialist era as well as today, continually shaping the trajectories and outcomes of reforms to care and social security.

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Law and Politics in Interwar France

Pierre Laroque's Search for a Democratic Corporatism

Eric Jabbari

Pierre Laroque, the architect of French social security, emerged during the 1930s as an advocate for the corporatist management of industrial relations. Laroque's corporatist views were an outgrowth of his educational background and his experiences as a young civil servant. A member of the Conseil d'État, he came under the influence of the main doctrines of French public law. During the first half of the twentieth century, legal thinkers such as Léon Duguit and Maurice Hauriou elaborated theoretical justifications for the growing interventionism of the state. As a student of the law, Pierre Laroque became concerned with maintaining the balance between the necessity of state intervention and the preservation of individual and collective rights, thus explaining his interest in administrative decentralization. By the mid-1930s, after being assigned to the Conseil National Économique, he became interested in industrial conflict and applied a similar approach to the issue of collective bargaining. Impressed by the social achievements of Fascist Italy, Laroque advocated the corporatist management of industrial relations, an objective that he promoted in a succession of political and intellectual forums associated with the nonconformist movement. A new collective bargaining mechanism would bring together the state, business, and labor in order to mediate and resolve industrial disputes. Unlike the Fascists, however, this form of corporatism did not break with democratic or republican principles; rather, it was a decentralized administrative structure that compensated for the weaknesses of the collective bargaining process while providing a new forum for the cultivation of social solidarity.