The GOVERNANCE blog

Governance: An international journal of policy, administration and institutions

Book reviews: Building state capability, and the politics of evidence

In the current issue of Governance, Richard Allen reviews Building State Capability: Evidence, Analysis, Action by Matt Andrews, Lant Pritchett and Michael Woolcock. The authors propose an approach to governance reform in developing countries andrews coverthat emphasizes locally customized “best fit” solutions, combined with experimentation and a broad‐based dialogue among the development partners and other actors in the reform process. Read the review. Caroline Heider reviews The Politics of Evidence: From Evidence‐Based Policy to the Good Governance of Evidence by Justin Parkhurst. In this “post‐truth era,” the author demonstrates systems that can be built to ensure policies are better informed by evidence, while also pointing out why evidence cannot and should not be the sole driver in policymaking. Read the review.

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March 26, 2018 at 10:27 am

Miller and Whitford win Levine Prize

Each year, the International Political Science Association’s Research Committee on the Structure of Governance sponsors the Levine Prize. It is named in honour of Charles H. Levine, who was a distinguished member of the Research Committee and served on the editorial board of its official journal, Governance. The prize is awarded on the recommendation of a distinguished committee. This year’s committee was composed of Professors Tobias Bach (University of Oslo), Caspar van den Berg (Leiden University), and Ting Gong (City University of Hong Kong).

9781107008755The Award Committee has selected Above Politics: Bureaucratic Discretion and Credible Commitment by Gary J. Miller and Andrew B. Whitford as the 2017 recipient of the Levine Award. This interesting book turns much of the conventional wisdom about opportunistic and self-interested bureaucrats as the main problem of democratic governance upside down. Through a series of insightful vignettes and case studies, the authors powerfully argue that the moral hazard faced by politicians is a more serious problem than the proverbial runaway bureaucracy. They emphasize the benefits of a professionalized bureaucracy as a key element of checks and balances in the US system of separated powers and highlight the problematic effects of politicization on policy effectiveness. Written in an accessible style, the book will be useful as a reading for courses in different fields. Read the rest of this entry »

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July 12, 2017 at 11:30 am

Posted in Levine Book Prize

Book reviews: Do-it-yourself democracy, smarter states

 

In the current issue of GovernanceRobert Chaskin reviews Do-It-Yourself Democracy by Caroline W. Lee.  Lee’s analysis is “unsettling,” Chaskin says, showing how deliberative processes can be designed “in ways that legitimize cost cutting and retrenchment and that promote participant alignment with state or corporate requirements for austerity.  Read the review.  And Scott Fritzen reviews Smart Citizens, Smarter State by Beth Simone Noveck.  The book “makes an impassioned plea for ‘reinventing government’ in the twenty-first century.”  Fritzen says that Noveck’s analysis is “nuanced, grounded in historical analysis, practical experience in government, multiple disciplines and a close reading of democratic and institutional theory.”  Read the review.

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April 25, 2017 at 3:54 pm

What drives legitimacy in post-conflict societies?

Rebuilding institutional legitimacy is essential for stability in postconflict societies.  But what factors influence citizen perceptions of legitimacy?  Kylie Fisk and Adrian Cherney answer the question using data from a nationwide study of post-conflict governance in Nepal.  They find that the relationship between service delivery and legitimacy “is not as simple as previously assumed.”  Procedural justice is more strongly associated with perceptions of legitimacy than instrumental outcomes such as service delivery, distributive justice, and outcome favorability. Read the article.

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April 15, 2017 at 7:42 pm

Posted in Current issue

Explaining the ebb and flow of legislative power

The balance of power between executive and legislative branches in Latin American governments has varied significantly over time.  But this is not the result of changes in the formal division of powers between the two branches.  What explains the ebb and flow of legislative strength?  Sarah Shair-Rosenfield and Alissandra Stoyan argue that a key factor is “legislator professionalization,” which they define as a function of prior legislative and professional work experience.  Examining the track record of four Latin American countries, they find that legislaturesare more likely to curb executive power when legislators are strongly professionalized, controlling for constitutional provisions and several other factors.  Read the article.

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April 8, 2017 at 7:41 pm

Posted in Current issue

How US public service executives make decisions

Senior government executives often depend on groups of advisors to help them overcome the challenges of decisionmaking.  But this raises the risk of “groupthink.”  In a study of executives in the US federal government, Steven Kelman, Ronald Sanders, and Gayatri Pandit find that the dominant technique for avoiding technique is vigilant decisionmaking, which involves active solicitation of dissenting views and close scrutiny of alternatives.  But successful executives are also found to have a bias for action.  “What distinguishes outstanding executives,” the authors find, “is not vigiliance but decisiveness.”  Read the article.

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April 1, 2017 at 7:41 pm

Posted in Current issue

How politicians survive the media cyclone

Advances in information technology have produced a “media cyclone” — a “noisy, fragmented, pressure-filled media landscape.”  In the current issue of Governance, Alex Marland, J.P. Lewis and Tom Flanagan use recent Canadian history to explain how politicians respond.  Politicians turn to branding: “a corporate philosophy that seeks to unite every employee activity and communications touchpoint toward a common purpose.”  Branding requires tight centralization of control over communications.  It also blurs the lines between party government and public service.  Despite the dangers, branding “can be expected to last, regardless of which party or leader is in control.”  Read the article.

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March 25, 2017 at 7:39 pm

Posted in Current issue