i. Bringing the state back in
Recent debates on the relative roles of state and market in development have not essentially arisen out of a critique of the post-war conception of the ‘developmental state’, i.e. that which ‘takes on the function of leading and guiding development’ (Doriye, 1992, p. 98). The critique has primarily focused on whether the state or the market in general is the more effective means of achieving (economic) development. Maureen Mackintosh, in a book chapter called ‘Questioning the state’ (Mackintosh, 1992b), provides a very useful perspective on the arguments. She argues that post 1945, the state was regarded as the key agent of development, viz. the developmental state. Economic crises and political change during the 1970s and 1980s resulted in criticism of the role of the state on two main grounds: that the state was (i) unresponsive but invasive, and (ii) inefficient and restrictive.
As a result of this critique, and because of economic crisis and the decline in state revenue, in the South there have been policies to cut state spending, to privatise state and para-statal entities, and to promote the market by deregulation, decentralisation (using private management), cost recovery and targeting the remaining public spending towards the poor. (These measures are, of course, not only familiar in the South.) There has also been a drive on the part of both left and right critics of the state to devolve some of the functions previously held by the state not just to private companies but to the ‘third sector’: voluntary or charitable organisations, trusts, NGOs and so on. On the right, this move is in recognition of the need to have some organised and responsive provision of services; on the left, the argument is based on the empowerment of disadvantaged sectors of society. However, many questions are raised about the capacity of such organisations to respond to needs as well as whether such organisations are becoming centrally located in service provision rather than carrying out the more political task of advocacy.
Through the 1990s and into the 2000s efforts have been made to ‘bring the state back in’ to development discussions – but in rather distinct and particular ways. For example, recent donor interests and interventions have tended to focus on the efficiency of the state as an administrative body (Crewe and Harrison, 1998, pp. 5, 54) and have considered how to improve the effective operation of state institutions. Yet the role of the state remains constrained by global policies and pressures, including, most notably, the emphasis on expanding the private sector, market liberalisation and the reduction of government involvement in economic management. The state has been ‘brought back in’ as one development partner among others – notably the private sector and NGOs – albeit with a particular remit to create an ‘enabling environment’ within which these other actors can operate.
This changing view of the state sees it less as a monolith and more as a multi-layered view of the networks and institutions which constitute the state. Related to this there has been increasing interest in exploring the ‘local’ or ‘everyday’ state – how individuals and groups experience and understand the state. The concern with de-centralisation is also related to this changing view of the state. De-centralisation is based on the idea that the state is made more efficient through the delegation of planning responsibilities to regional or other more local levels of the administration. The introduction of such measures is couched in terms of equity and efficiency, and presented as participatory and thus more able to direct resources towards target groups.