The good governance agenda: a case of policy paradox in development?

du Toit, Lorinne (2011). The good governance agenda: a case of policy paradox in development? PhD Thesis, School of Political Science & Internat'l Studies, The University of Queensland.

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Author du Toit, Lorinne
Thesis Title The good governance agenda: a case of policy paradox in development?
School, Centre or Institute School of Political Science & Internat'l Studies
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2011-10-01
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Total pages 235
Total colour pages 5
Total black and white pages 230
Language eng
Subjects 160607 International Relations
160599 Policy and Administration not elsewhere classified
Abstract/Summary This study explores the operation of technologies of governance in policy work, within and across borders. The good governance agenda in international development offers a germane case in which to investigate what happens in contemporary policy action. Mixing aspirations for larger freedom with detailed technical packages of control, what is the policy work actually delivering? The idea of good governance appeared to offer new solutions to many theoretical, practical and ethical issues, at a point after the Cold War, when the international arena was in need of a new story. As such, the notion has drawn interest and resources from across political, academic and civil society divides since 1989, generating an, apparently broad-based, international consensus that good governance and sustainable development are interrelated. However, many policy models still in use in the development arena, and particularly those underlying the good governance discourse, assume a linear model of action and history, and a technology-led theory of authority and change. This framing still permeates many public scripts that circulate in and across international gatherings, outlining failures of the past, visions for the future and current action plans for reform. It screens out contrary empirical evidence, treating policy instruments as value neutral, deterministic or both. In effect, these public transcripts gloss over controversies about how to implement better governance in diverse local contexts. What then are these technological packages doing? I used a multi-level, multi-site research strategy based on situational analysis to probe policy action in the international development ‘arena’. Mozambique, Australia and Sweden feature as sites of inquiry into how the theory/methods packages ascribed to good governance have been, and are being, translated into policy work. I applied an interactive approach to my analysis, viewing policy as a process of social tinkering and technologies of governance as fluid co-actors in the assemblage of talk and action categorised as ‘policy work’. I argue that regulatory tools, such as policy framings, cannot be assumed to work as expected. Individual or group interaction with such artefacts may give rise to moments of creativity that breed unexpected consequences, such as reverse effects or new ideas. Such changes disrupt social relations, often interrupting the exercise of authority and unleashing conflict. My findings highlight the negotiated and political quality of boundaries among defined actors, actions and representations. At the international level, the good governance agenda has been both strongly prescriptive, especially about how to do policy within borders, and descriptive, claiming superior normative performance in states and organisations categorised as donors. This has had repercussions for OECD donors as well as international development agencies. Firstly and unsurprisingly, ‘good’, is open to flexible interpretation. Then ‘governance’, developing as a fuzzy concept, questions where decision-making is located and who is involved. Thirdly, by positioning ‘good governance’ as a pre-condition for development, standards have emerged for benchmarking, not only development partners but also OECD donors. Questions arise in many arenas as to the competence of the latter states, with, I argue, mutual accountability emerging as a new agenda. At locality level in Mozambique, such technologies of governance as membership categorisation, strategic pre-positioning and intertextuality, are also visible in the process of establishing or re-instating traditional leaders for local development plans. I found that the perspective developed in this study on policy work underlines the position that power is by no means a free ‘good’ to be exercised in a linear fashion by strategically sited authorities. Many people, positioned differentially within areas of policy activity, interact with the array of technologies used to solve and create development problems. The idea of creative moments recognizes that people energize tools, which relay particular logics and past meanings, but also stresses that tool use is not context-free and can occasionally inspire users to new ideas and, perhaps, more ethically reflective ways of learning and doing. Good governance is better understood as a changing state of art rather than a fixed art of state.
Keyword policy work
situational analysis
Additional Notes 14, 82, 83, 85, 110

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Created: Wed, 23 May 2012, 22:00:03 EST by Ms Lorinne Du Toit on behalf of Library - Information Access Service