DSA2016: Politics in Development
- Indrajit Roy (Wolfson College, University of Oxford) email
- Sarah-Jane Cooper-Knock (University of Edinburgh) email
What does politics mean for those who simultaneously confront persistent deprivations and increasing inequalities but are also promised a share in political participation? The proposed panel explores this question.
Over 1.6 billion people in the world live in poverty. Millions more remain, or are becoming, vulnerable. Although more people than ever before have access to some sort of representative government, growing concentrations of wealth mar the contemporary world. Under such circumstances, what does politics mean for the world's poor and those vulnerable to poverty, people who simultaneously confront persistent deprivations and increasing inequalities but are also promised a share in political participation? Do poor and vulnerable people absorb the universalistic ideas associated with such promises of political participation? Or, do their precarious lives overwhelm them so much so that they cannot act beyond particularistic concerns? Do the poor comply with the structures and relations of oppression? Or do they offer spirited resistance to the perpetrators of oppression? Are poor people's politics one of cooption into the state, or is it one of evasion? Such binaries have typically framed discussions on the political practices of impoverished people who face oppression in their daily lives.
The proposed panel will invite papers which discuss these questions. Papers that emphasise one or the other side of the binary will be welcomed although papers that are willing to eschew binaries will be encouraged. Contributions that analyse poor people's politics in 'democracies', 'autocracies' and everything that lies in between will all be welcome.
The three-session panel will welcome scholars who take seriously people's actually existing political practices, including the thought, imagination and ideas that underpin these.
Between democratisation, development and dignity: tracing the working of informal politics in Bihar over the course of an election
This paper looks at the democratisation of informal politics and how integration of poor citizens into the networks of informal politics leads them to not only more access to state resources but also creates a collective sense of dignity for the group as a whole.
Periodic experience with elections has increased the extent of democratic participation of poor citizens in a country like India. Elections are often seen as the time when voters use the leverage of their vote to get better access to state resources. This happens through both formal and informal networks of brokers, fixers and mediators. These negotiations that happen within the context of state-society relations, between the state as a benefactor and poorer groups of citizens as the beneficiary constitutes what is known as clientelistic exchange politics or politics of patronage.
Drawing from extensive field work over the recently concluded assembly election in Bihar in 2015, this paper traces the functioning of informal politics through the tri-variate discourse of democratisation, development and dignity. I argue that the co-optation of hitherto poorest citizens into the formal state apparatus has increased their leverage in the realm of informal politics and has thus introduced new players as mediators, brokers and even sub-brokers in informal politics. While this has democratized the functioning of informal politics in the state, it has also lent substantial changes to their access to development(resources) and their idea of dignity. In a state like Bihar, where caste identities regulate and often dominate the structure of both formal and informal politics, such kind of bottom-up democratization of informal politics offers a fresh perspective to understand the process of democratization better and way its after effects on development and dignity, two popular discourses prevalent in the politics of South Asia.
JZ: politics as usual?
This paper explores Jacob Zuma's rise and rule within the ANC to explore statehood and citizenship in South Africa.
This paper explores Jacob Zuma's rise and rule within the ANC. I ask what the political crises that he has faced and avoided can tell us about statehood and citizenship in South Africa. Turning to the future, I explore the political imaginaries and identities of South Africa's poorest citizens, asking what impact their politics will have upon Zuma's prospects, and the prospects of the ANC more broadly.
Informal democratization: patronage networks and access to public services in Indonesia and India
Comparing the ways in which brokers provide access to public services in India and Indonesia, this paper argues that a comparative study of patronage networks can serve to understand the evolving capacity of citizens to hold their politicians to account.
Poorer citizens across particularly the global south often depend on patronage networks to gain access to public services. These networks consist of various kinds of brokers who manipulate the provision of state benefits in exchange for electoral support. The character of these informal networks not only shapes the outcome of elections but also shapes the capacity of citizens to extract benefits from the state.
Benefitting from a rare opportunity to conduct extensive fieldwork on local politics in both countries, this paper compares the nature of such patronage networks in India and Indonesia. To gain access to public services, citizens in both countries rely on a range of different brokers - not only party representatives, but also state representatives, notables and community brokers. The relative prevalence of such brokers differs: in comparison to India's largely party-centred patronage networks, state representatives are more prominent in Indonesia. This paper provides a framework to compare patronage networks in different countries, focussing on the character of the relationship of brokers with politicians and their responsiveness to citizen demands. The main argument of the paper is that such a comparative study of patronage networks can serve to understand the evolving capacity of citizens to hold their politicians to account. The evolution of patronage networks is a little-noticed yet important dimension of democratization processes. When citizens can choose between competing patronage networks consisting of more responsive brokers, politicians and bureaucrats face much stronger pressures to perform.
Between contestation and acceptance of the social order: the politics of poor Dalits in rural South India
This paper explores the micro-politics of poor Dalits in Rural South India. It shows how contestation of the social order co-exists with semi-feudal labour relations that perpetuates the (contested) social order.
This paper explores the micro-politics of poor Dalits (or former untouchable castes) in a faction-ridden and extremely violent rural setting in Andhra Pradesh (India). It shows how Dalits make use of the democratic discourse to contest the inequities of the caste system, to demand the respect of their dignity and to fight untouchability. This contestation of the social order shapes labour relations between Dalits agricultural labourers and upper caste landowner. At the same time, however, changing climate conditions and large scale migration to urban areas of male youths result in increasing vulnerability of those Dalits who remain in the villages. This too shapes labour relations, as Dalits are forced to accept their role as servants of the upper castes. This is partly explained by their material dependency from upper caste landowners who control access to credit and, through it, preserve and reinforce the factional nature of political contestation in the area. Furthermore, the control of upper caste factional leaders over political parties and access to public services and safety nets divide the Dalits into two clear-cut factions, thus preventing collective action to emerge. Hence, contestation of the social order stemming from rising educational standards and the penetration of democratic values co-exists with semi-feudal labour relations that perpetuates the (contested) social order.
Falling clientelism or regime-change effect? Benefit incidence of India's employment guarantee programme: a panel data analysis from West Bengal, India
This paper discuses 'clientelism' as the politics of poor and also politics around poor. In reference to NREGS, we show how poor can ensure the benefit with an explicit political support to the ruling party and how ruling party ensures its re-election by distributing the benefit clientilistically.
Our primary objective in this paper is to see, whether explicit political affiliation with the Village Council level ruling-party, helps the households to obtain additional benefits under National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) of India over time. On the one hand, recent cross-section studies showed how NREGS politically captured, and the ruling-party distributed the fund in a clientelistic manner, and, on the other hand, studies have also claimed that no political meddling took place and that jobs were provisioned only on demand. Weaving in this debate with the larger debate of political clientelism and public good provision, this paper examines the altering marginal benefit over time, of a household in terms of accessing NREGS jobs when it offers political support to the ruling party. Using a three-wave (2009, 2010, and 2012) household-level longitudinal data from West Bengal, we find that, during the period covered by our survey, the right populist party- Trinomool Cngress (TMC) ruled Gram Panchayats (GP) promoted more political clientelism through distributing NREGS work than did the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPIM) or Left GPs. But we also find that political clientelism in the context of NREGS is gradually fading out over time. However, whether this result is a gradual depoliticisation of NREGS in general or one very much specific to the West Bengal political scenario is a question that is discussed carefully in the local context.