Researching the politics of development
1st Samuel Finer "Development of Government" conference
12 October 2015
By Pablo Yanguas.
On 3 November, ESID will co-host the first Samuel Finer “Development of Government” conference at the University of Manchester. This one-day event, running from 9am to 8:30pm, serves two purposes. First, we want to celebrate the work of the late Samuel “Sammy” Finer (1915-1993), who was professor at Manchester’s Department of Government, and one of the key contributors to the comparative study of government, the public sector, and civil-military relations in the second half of the 20th century. Second, we want to ask whether the split seen since Finer’s days between the study of government in industrialised and developing countries, and a removal of both from the broader fields of history and political science, can be reversed through a single intellectual agenda about the development of government.
Over the coming weeks we will continue blogging about Finer’s life and work, as well as about some of the debates we are going to tackle. For now, you can sign up here to attend the conference, get a copy of the full agenda, which comprises the following sessions:
‘The lasting significance of Samuel Finer’s work’, by Colin Talbot.
PANEL 1: MEASURING GOVERNMENT
As the international community debates the goals and indicators in the post-2015 MDGs, there is an increasing realisation that the quality of government (and more precisely, state capacity) is a fundamental element of long-run development and a desirable development goal in itself. However, the measurement of government quality has posed enormous challenges, as most indicators seem to capture accountability dimensions of governance rather than the quality of government functioning.
In this panel, we bring together the research of the Effective States and Inclusive Development (ESID) Research Centre as well as of the Quality of Government Institute (QOGI) at the University of Gothenburg, which address the challenges of measuring government and propose innovative new measures to measure several dimensions of governance quality that are not addressed in existing indicators.
Panellists: Bo Rothstein, Antonio Savoia, Kunal Sen.
PANEL 2: TOO MUCH? THE SIZE AND ROLE OF THE STATE IN DEVELOPED COUNTRIES
The ‘size of government’ question has been a central point of political debates in ‘western’ countries for decades. Usually couched mainly in economic terms (re taxation and public spending), it also includes debates about regulation and public organisations (and privatisation). This session will explore these issues in historical ‘big picture’ terms, how we measure government relative to what, and the interpenetration of government and the private sector in the form of ‘corporate welfare’.
Panellists: Diane Coyle, Kevin Farnsworth, Colin Talbot.
PANEL 3: TOO LITTLE? THE CHALLENGES OF PUBLIC SECTOR REFORM IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
Public sector reform (PSR) constitutes an inescapable, yet seemingly ineffective, component of many development interventions around the world, from host governments seeking to modernise their budgeting and auditing systems to aid donors supporting the reform of service delivery ministries. The consensus around the need for PSR, however, is not reflected in any kind of agreement as to how to achieve it or best support it. For every damning report exposing a lack of results, the development industry comes up with a new buzzword or mantra to get things right once and for all.
This panel shines a critical light on the thinking and practice behind public sector reform in developing countries as it currently stands: its ahistorical and often apolitical assumptions, its overreliance on research that can hardly be transformed into practice, or its orientation towards quick fixes instead of long-term transformations.
Panellists: Richard Batley, Nick Manning, Pablo Yanguas.
PLENARY DEBATE: HOW CAN WE ADVANCE THE UNDERSTANDING OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF GOVERNMENT MOST EFFECTIVELY?
Just as the conference begins with a retrospective look at the work of Samuel Finer, it comes to a close with a prospective interrogation of how to take the development of government forward as an intellectual, academic and policy agenda. Do we need better measurements and indicators? New methodologies for identifying and attributing success and failure? A closer working relationship between researchers and practitioners? A new public narrative about the role of the state? Or perhaps a greater dose of patience for everyone involved?
Panellists: Richard Batley, Peter Evans, Anuradha Joshi, Nick Manning, Colin Talbot.
FINAL SESSION: FIRST SAMUEL FINER OPEN LECTURE ON GOVERNMENT
‘How good can government be?’, by Will Hutton. Sign up for this event here.