2.5 Public action and development policy
Public action can steer development through deliberate action by targeting of projects and programmes.
Public action can enable development within the framework of immanent development.
Public action can contest development by challenging specific projects or programmes or even the dynamic and rules of immanent development.
The above classification of public action is for analytical purposes only. In reality, of course, public action, whether steering, enabling or contesting, is very much an interrelated process with numerous overlaps. A member of the TU871 course team pointed out another useful purpose of this classification – it gives us a rough idea of the arena where public action takes place, i.e. state (steering), market (enabling) and civil society (contesting). The emphasis must, however, be on the adjective ‘rough’. Civil society is certainly not so homogenous, and I am sure that you can think of many examples where steering by non-state organisations, rather than contesting, takes place (e.g. when NGOs take part in development projects). Most civil society organisations coalesce around social commonalities anyway, such as sports clubs or recreation clubs, and these usually neither contest nor steer development. Also there are a handful of states who contest, in a general sense, any immanent (capitalist) development. Cuba, for example, still clings to a socialist model. One might also include in this category, as I write in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 attack on the US, certain ‘rogue’ states who allegedly promote terrorist opposition to US hegemony.
The three types of public action in our classification do alert us immediately, however, to the fact that diverse agents relate to action in sometimes similar, and sometimes in quite different, ways. This suggests that there is no universal model of development action. Yet when we hear talk of development action, the same ideas or concepts seem to recur the world over – participation, accountability, economic development, and so on – suggesting that, at least within each of the three types, there are some universal shared characteristics.