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24th July 2018
The ‘relational turn’ has become increasingly influential within efforts to theorise social justice and the types of progressive public action required to challenge injustice. This has included moves to re-understand justice, the state, egalitarianism, and poverty, and to promote alternative approaches within public policy debates in both the global north and south. Part of a broader shift within the social sciences, relational approaches have the potential to be highly significant, moving beyond resourcist or institutionalist accounts to investigate the social relations that may underpin particular resource distributions or institutional configurations, and which amount to forms of social injustice in themselves. Influential contributions of this type have been made concerning, for instance, social justice and egalitarianism (Young 1990; Fraser 1995, 2009; Anderson 1999; Schemmel 2012; Wolff 2015), the state (Jessop 2007; Cottam 2011; Cooke and Muir 2012), and poverty and underdevelopment (Hickey and du Toit 2007; Mosse 2010; Elwood, Lawson, and Sheppard 2017). This and other work suggests the possibility of an exciting shared agenda bridging a number of related fields. Continue Reading →
Read the working paper on this research here.
17th July 2018
Ghana’s status as a new oil producer raises questions about the developmental effects of resources, and the role of political institutions in these processes. The conundrum this paper addresses is the rather limited impact of oil exploitation in Ghana, despite the country’s strong democratic record and internationally acclaimed oil governance legislation. The reasons for this lie in the nature of elite-based political coalitions, and we root our analysis of Ghana’s hydrocarbons in the political settlements literature, which moves us beyond the ‘good governance’ approaches so often linked to ‘resource curse’ thinking. We also move beyond the instrumentalism of political settlements theory to examine the role political ideas play in shaping resource governance. We argue that inter-coalitional rivalry has generally undermined the benefits of Ghana’s oil, but that a crude interests-based interpretation is insufficient to explain differences between these coalitions.
Workers at Kigogole oil field, drilling site of Tullow Oil.
Read more research on the politics of oil in Ghana and Ugandan here.
4 July 2018
Dr David Jackman’s innovative research on the organisation of violence in Bangladesh has been published in Development and Change. Dr Jackman conducted his ethnographic research from a large marketplace in the centre of Dhaka, pictured below, examining the rise and fall of an infamous local gangster.
The article argues that political order in many societies requires a balance of interests between diverse ‘violence specialists’. In urban Bangladesh, gangsters, often called mastan, have been identified as powerful actors, closely linked to politicians and the state. However, Dr Jackman finds that, since the early 2000s, Dhaka has seen radical change in the way that violence is organised that has been largely undocumented to date – these gangsters are in significant decline. Most infamous gangsters have lost power. Many have been killed in ‘crossfire’ with RAB (Rapid Action Batallion) or the police, are in prison or in hiding, and some have managed to change professions.
What is interesting, however, is that these roles have not ceased, but rather the way in which they are organised has changed. Local-level violence specialists are now more closely integrated into the state. Many of the roles associated with the former gangs continue, but are now under the direct control of lower-level factions associated with the ruling political party. This is a transition that has brought a greater degree of stability to the urban context. However, there is also the question of whether, despite a decline in physical violence, the potential for violence that such party political actors embody can in some sense be more threatening and potent than the brute violence of the previous gangsters.
Much remains to be understood about why this transition has occurred. One plausible explanation is that the high levels of public crime and violence associated with the gangsters outweighed the advantages to political parties of having them on side, resulting in the state developing the capability to directly confront these figures. This enabled lower-level factions of the ruling party to consolidate control of the resources that these gangsters once held.
This insightful research points to the need for understanding not only why such changes occur, but also how such changes relate to broader processes of political and economic development. Examining this transition highlights the importance of interrogating the structure and character of ‘ruling coalitions’ and the way in which they can change in complex ways. This is particularly interesting to explore in the context of the recent move in Bangladesh away from competitive clientelism towards the continued dominance of the Awami League.
Read this article open access here.
2 July 2018
ESID researchers Abdul Gafaru Abdulai and Badru Bukenya presented a fascinating paper on the political economy of spatial inequalities in Ghana and Uganda at this year’s DSA Conference. Here they share their DSA highlights: