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Remaking the Public Good

Laura Bear and Nayanika Mathur

In this introductory article, we call for a new anthropology of bureaucracy focused on 'the public good'. We aim to recapture this concept from its classic setting within the discipline of economics. We argue that such a move is particularly important now because new public goods – of transparency, fiscal discipline and decentralization – are being pressed into the service of states and transnational organizations: it has therefore become critical to focus on their techniques, effects and affects through fine-grained ethnography that challenges the economization of the political. We demonstrate our approach through some ethnographic findings from different parts of India. These show how fiscal austerity leads to new limited social contracts and precarious intimacies with the post-liberalization Indian state. This relationship between new public goods and forms of precarious citizenship is then further illuminated by the six articles that follow in this special issue.

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Susan Wright and Davydd J. Greenwood

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God's Delivery State

Taxes, Tithes, and a Rightful Return in Urban Ghana

Anna-Riikka Kauppinen

national football team. In this respect, the concept of the public good extends beyond distinct state ‘deliverables’, such as roads and clean water, into “those desirable ideals that are considered universally beneficial for everyone” ( Bear and Mathur 2015

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Susan Wright and Davydd J. Greenwood


After analysing the organisational pathologies and societal ills created by the neoliberalisation of universities, the article engages in an organisational critique of the pseudo-business model currently in use. It poses as a solution the re-creation of universities as trusts, with a model of beneficiary ownership, a matrix form of organisation and renewed relations with society. For inspiration it looks to beneficiary-run organisations on the model of the John Lewis Partnership or the Mondragón University. The article explains why such beneficial matrix organisations are superior to current universities and how they offer an opportunity to recreate universities for the public good.

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Susan Wright and Penny Welch

teaching and learning by engaging critically with neo-liberal contexts but how to recreate universities for the public good ( Greenwood and Wright 2017 ). With Berghahn, we have also launched a book series, ‘Critical Perspectives in Higher Education’, which

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Corporate Social Responsibility

The Great Shell Game

Ellen Hertz

excoriate ‘bureaucracy’, the state, and the ‘command economies’ of socialism—all designed to protect and promote the public good—and to celebrate the virtues of deregulation and free competition under capitalism. In so doing, they conveniently sidestep the

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Putting Together the Anthropology of Tax and the Anthropology of Ethics

Soumhya Venkatesan

of ideas about what ‘society’ is, what constitutes ‘the public good’, and where and to whom one's responsibility lies. Even if people agree that some taxation is unavoidable, there exist different views on whether the current tax regime is good or

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Walking on the edge: Educational praxis in higher education

Lill Langelotz, Kathleen Mahon, and Giulia Messina Dahlberg

lost is attention to universities’ civic responsibilities and education for thepublic good’ ( Giroux 2010 ). This arguably involves supporting people to participate meaningfully in society (see Altbach et al. 2009 ; Giroux 2010 ) and contributing to

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Catherine N. Butcher

education – Berea College in Kentucky and Deep Springs College in California. In 2011 the Washington Monthly , which celebrates schools on the basis of their contribution to the public good, ranked Berea as the top U.S. liberal arts college. A similar

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Ethnographic Engagement with Bureaucratic Violence

Erin R. Eldridge and Amanda J. Reinke

theorize bureaucracies and bureaucratic structures as violent within the communities they seek to serve. References Bear , Laura , and Nayanika Mathur . 2015 . “ Introduction: Remaking the Public Good—A New Anthropology of Bureaucracy. ” Cambridge