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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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Public Policy or Popular Demand?

Why Californians Shifted from Trains to Autos (and Not Buses), 1910-1941

Gregory Thompson

This essay examines the transition from a rail-based intercity transportation system in California in 1910 to a road/private auto-based system thirty years later, with hypotheses that the transition could be explained by either corporate and state decisions for supplying infrastructure or by public demand. The essay examines trends of automobile ownership, road investment, bus organization and service provision, intercity passenger rail service provision, and intercity rail revenues, both within California and to and from California in each of the three decades. It concludes that public preference for private automobility explains most of the transition but that unserved demand remained for fast passenger train service between the state's large metropolitan areas. Failure to serve that demand derived from California's legacy of popular disdain for the private railroad industry.

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The road to nowhere?

Poverty and policy in the south of Laos

Holly High

Anthropological understandings of development have often discussed development projects in terms of an extension of the state. Using the example of a participatory poverty reduction project in Laos, this article outlines how development schemes also have the potential to define areas of exception from state services. This project was understood by project officers as an example of a successful “participatory” project. Lao recipients, however, interpreted it in terms of the non-provision of state services, and thus as further evidence of governmental corruption and deceit. These residents—far from resisting the notion of development, or the extension of the state—emphasized largesse and provisioning as the hallmarks of a successful project and a legitimate state. Their forms of “everyday resistance” to the project focused on narratives demanding more incorporation with the state.

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The Marketization of HIV/AIDS Governance

Public–Private Partnerships and Bureaucratic Culture in Pakistan

Ayaz Qureshi

The World Bank-financed 'Enhanced HIV and AIDS Control Program' tried to reorganize HIV/AIDS governance in Pakistan by pushing a neoliberal agenda, marketizing the provision of publicly funded HIV prevention services. NGOs and the private sector competed for contracts with the government to provide services to sex workers, drug users, transgendered people and homosexuals who were deemed 'high risk' groups for HIV. With this contractualization emerged a new bureaucratic field that emphasized 'flexible organization' and 'efficiency' in getting things done in place of the traditional bureaucratic proceduralism characteristic of the Pakistani civil service. This new corporate-style bureaucratic culture and the ambiguities of a hastily contracted (and 'efficiently' rolled out) Enhanced Program meant public funds ending up in the pockets of a few powerful actors. Instead of generating more efficiency, the marketization of services dispossessed the intended beneficiaries of the World Bank loan.

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Reproductive Governance in the New Europe

Competing Visions of Morality, Sovereignty and Supranational Policy

Joanna Mishtal

While the European Union currently lacks a mandate to govern reproductive health services and policies, reproductive governance is increasingly debated both at the EU and the nation-state levels. The EU has taken formal positions to promote access to comprehensive reproductive health services. In tension with the EU's position is the Vatican, which promotes the use of conscientious objection to decline the provision of certain health services. Currently, the use of conscientious objection is mostly unregulated, prompting debates about supranational regulation at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) meeting in Paris in 2010. This article uses the lens of the PACE meeting debate to consider the cultural, historical and political specificities and agendas that give shape to competing arguments about rights, health and state sovereignty. I argue that political rationalities directed towards reproduction locally and the supranational rights debates work synergistically to paralyse European reproductive health policymaking.

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The Other Secular Modern

An Empirical Critique of Asad

Steve Bruce

Talal Asad explains the marginalization of religion in liberal democracies by invoking the modern state's desire to control. This paper argues that, in the Anglophone world, self-conscious secularism played little or no part in the secularization of public life. The expansion of the secular sphere was primarily an unintended consequence of actions by religious impositionists. Far from leading the promotion of the secular, the state had to be pressed by the demands of religious minorities to reduce the powers of established religion. The state provision of secular social services was usually a reaction to the inability of competing religious organizations to continue their provision. As this review of church–state relations in the UK, USA, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand shows, the reduction in the social power of religion owed more to the failure of Christians to agree than to a deliberately secularizing state.

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Michael F. Wagner

Automobilism—the culture of individual mobility based on private transportation—is promoted by leisure, consumption, the construction of infrastructure, and the provision of service by auto clubs. It promises to carry the driver away on a voyage of discovery with narratives of adventurousness and dreams of the good life on the road. It was from the outset an international movement with national repercussions and variations on a theme. Basically, however, the rise of European automobile culture accompanied the rise of consumption for leisure, which in turn evolved into a consumption regime of mediation and consumption junctions based on individual mobility and tourism.

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This issue is dedicated to the outcomes of the research project “Poverty and Shame: Perspectives and Practices Concerning Anti-poverty Measures in a Global Context” and funded by the Research Council of Norway. Erika Gubrium and Sony Pellissery, partners on the project, present a series of articles with emergent findings from five cases of service provision interactions between antipoverty measure providers and recipients, namely in China, India, Norway, Uganda, and the United States. The project focused on professional practices at the level of everyday interaction and the impact of service delivery on those receiving antipoverty measures. The article authors are especially focused on two issues: first, if antipoverty measures cause deep feelings of shame or may be “shame proofed,” and second, if they mitigate or stimulate feelings of dignity.

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The GIPA Concept ‘Lost in Transition’

The Case of Expert Clients in Swaziland

Thandeka Dlamini-Simelane

Following the call by UNAIDS in 2006 to involve people living with HIV (PLHIV) in treatment programmes, expert clients were recruited to provide services within healthcare settings as volunteers alongside paid health workers. Swazi law requires employment contracts for anyone working in a full-time capacity for three months, complicating the status of expert clients. This article traces the genesis of the volunteer framework used to engage PLHIV in the provision of HIV care in Swaziland and describes how the quest for PLHIV to be involved coupled with donors’ promotion of the Greater Involvement of People Living with HIV/AIDS (GIPA) principle have together resulted in PLHIV serving as low-cost workers, disempowering the very people GIPA was meant to empower. I call for review of GIPA-based policies and a paradigm shift regarding a non-medically trained cadre of workers in an era of acute healthworker shortages in resource-limited countries hard hit by HIV.

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Nicoletta Bevilacqua

In its electoral programme, the new centre right government that

took office after the victory of 13 May 2001 had announced its

intention to stress the digitalisation of public administration, which

it considered to be a necessary requirement for ‘redesigning public

administration from the foundations and reinventing the state in

organisational and functional terms so as to seize the potential

offered by new technologies’. The programme identified a break

with the approach taken by centre left governments in the need to

place ‘the idea of service provision as well as the organisation itself’

at the heart of ‘e-government’ policy, as opposed to setting up a network

infrastructure such as RUPA (Rete unitaria della pubblica

amministrazione – Public Administration Unitary Network), which

had been acted on by the previous government and judged ineffective

‘due to the lack of an adequate plan of organisational reform’.