Researching the politics of development
The politics of natural resource extraction in Zambia
Working paper 80
Marja Hinfelaar and Jessica Achberger
Moving beyond the mantra that ‘politics matters’, a range of conceptual approaches have recently emerged within international development thinking that seek to capture the specific ways in which politics shapes development. This paper critically assesses whether these approaches, including work on ‘limited access orders’ and ‘political settlements’, can underpin research into how developmental forms of state capacity and elite commitment emerge and can be sustained. It suggests that these new approaches offer powerful insights into certain elements of this puzzle, particularly through a focus on the relational basis of elite behaviour and institutional performance. However, these approaches are also subject to serious limitations, and insights from broader and (in particular) more critical forms of political theory are also required in order to investigate how the politics of development is shaped by ideas as well as incentives, popular as well as elite forms of agency, transnational as well as national factors, and in dynamic as well as more structural ways. The paper proposes an initial conceptual framework that can be operationalised and tested within a programme of primary research to be established by the Effective States and Inclusive Development Research Centre.