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Disciplining Democracy: Development Discourse and Good Governance in Africa

By: Rita Abrahamsen

Zed Books

Paperback | Dec 2000 | #120268 | ISBN: 185649859X
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NHBS Price: £25.99 $32/€29 approx
Hardback | Dec 2000 | #120266 | ISBN: 1856498581
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NHBS Price: £50.00 $61/€56 approx

About this book

Not very long ago, many Western scholars argued that authoritarian forms of government were needed for rapid economic development and successive US administrations supported dictatorial regimes in every continent. Now the political mantra is democracy and the World Bank and Western donors require it almost as a condition of assistance. Rita Abrahamsen argues that the West's good governance agenda dates from the demise of the Soviet Union. More importantly, she shows how this agenda comprises only very superficial democratic institutional forms. The primary goal in developing countries remains the enforcement of structural adjustment. African governments, in particular, are in a cleft stick - supposedly responsible to their electorates at home, in fact beholden to external creditors and donors abroad. If their people demand a system of governance that can deliver an end to poverty, the West is likely to brand such demands as illegitimate. Drawing on the good governance discourse, Rita Abrahamsen presents development not as some universally valid set of goals or procedures, but as an historically contingent form of knowledge intimately connected to prevailing power structures.

Abrahamsen offers a very convincing argument. . .useful for its theoretical debate as well as its informed judgment. -- "Choice"


Part 1 Democratization and development discourse: conventional explanations; fictitious dichotomies; a merely technical adjustment; power/knowledge and the invention of development; conclusion. Part 2 New world order, new development discourse: the changing fate of "democracy" in development; the end of the Cold War; the failure of structural adjustment programmes; power, hegemony and the good governance discourse. Part 3 The seductiveness of good governance: alien state intervention, indigenous democratic capitalism; liberating civil society; empowerment through cost recovery; good governance as modernization theory; conclusion. Part 4 The democratization of poverty: democratic theory and contemporary debates; maintaining status quo; conclusion. Part 5 Whose democracy?: the economic roots of democratic demands; victory for the friends of adjustment; conclusion. Part 6 Economic liberalization and democratic erosion: no more "cruel choices"; two irreconcilable constituencies; "kill me now"; wither democracy; exclusionary democracies; conclusion. Part 7 The success of the good governance discourse.

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