Development Discourse and the "Conduct of Conduct:" Promoting Good Governance in Tanzania

By Samuel W. Singler
2017, Vol. 9 No. 02 | pg. 2/2 |

Finally, attempts to democratise both the formulation and implementation of development policy are evident in processes of public consultation, decentralisation of resource management and, importantly, promoting the role of civil society organisations (CSOs), particularly in areas such as educational reform, gender policy and human rights (Tripp, 2013: 181). Expanding administrative and regulatory capacity, relying on market forces, and promoting local ownership and involvement reflect a liberal governmentality aiming to conduct the conduct of free subjects in order to produce particular kinds of subjectivities (Foucault, 1982). However, these subjectivities have not, in fact, been entirely conducive to democratic deliberation or socioeconomic development.

Strengthening the administrative capacities of states has often simultaneously worked to entrench established systems of patronage and corruption, as “donors misunderstand power relationships in neopatrimonial societies and underestimate the strength of entrenched interests” (Brown, 2005: 187). Such misunderstandings have resulted in unintended consequences of initiatives meant to foster a more efficient and accountable political process such as allocating more funds via general budget support (GBS) and the abolition of the development levy; in both cases, the central governmental apparatus was indeed strengthened, but due to the patrimonial nature of local politics, and the high levels of rural dependence on the central government, these initiatives also resulted in corruption and inefficient allocation of funds (Tripp, 2014: 188-192). The combination of administrative capacity with market reforms has also undermined rural livelihoods as agricultural development projects such as Kilimo Kwanza, “Agriculture First,” have focused on attracting foreign agribusiness and biofuel investments to the detriment of local populations (Death, 2014: 81).

Such tensions between the neoliberal economic rationality and democratising aspirations of good governance have been characterised as promoting “exclusionary democracies [which] cannot incorporate the majority of the population and their demands in any meaningful way” (Abrahamsen, 2000: 113 – original emphasis). Furthermore, the promotion of civil society to produce particular forms of liberal subjectivity has not always resulted in the empowerment of local groups or a significant departure from the hegemonic neoliberal development model despite nominal “participation” in e.g. Consultative Group (CG) meetings (Mercer, 2003: 756-758). Rather, well-resourced international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) tend to dominate the field due to high industry performance standards, whereby “[o]nly those who can adhere to these stringent standards of civility are considered legitimate members of ‘civil’ society” (Gould & Ojanen, 2003: 116).

To conceptualise development aid as a form of external domination, thinly veiled by empty rhetoric of “partnership” and promoting “good governance,” relies on a mischaracterisation of the complex power hierarchies shaping the development programmes described above. A definite distinction between external disciplinarians and internal victims breaks down in a context where international actors are increasingly involved in internal administrative processes and local actors are becoming embedded in transnational economic and ideological networks (Harrison, 2001: 660).

Furthermore, it obscures the role of local agency in producing the variable outcomes of development programmes. The operationalisation of liberal governmentality, via technologies of agency attempting to promote self-governance, has produced new subjectivities which have enjoyed variable success in influencing the processes of policy formulation and implementation (Abrahamsen, 2004: 1461). State agencies such as the Ministry of Finance, patrimonial state elites, transnational corporations and NGOs, as well as local CSOs have all been able to assert their agency, although with highly variable success; indeed, the outcomes of good governance reform have hardly been straightforwardly democratising or redistributional. Neither are these outcomes strictly repressive, however. While clientelism and corruption have often become entrenched as a result of good governance reform, so too has civil society become increasingly involved in the policy-making process, even if that involvement remains highly selective and better able to address gender and human rights concerns rather than issues related to transparency and accountability (Tripp, 2013: 181; Kelsall, 2002: 614-615).

The promotion of “good governance” in Tanzania, then, cannot be described clearly in terms of “success” or “failure.” The governmentality approach is able to overcome the shortcomings of both assessing the effect of this developmental paradigm according to its own criteria of success, as well as misrepresenting it as a mere rhetorical shift operating to veil underlying continuity in relations of domination. Conceptualising the good governance agenda as a grid of intelligibility, and the interventions it works to legitimise as reflecting a liberal governmentality, the Foucauldian framework illuminates the multiple subjectivities constituted by and involved in the promotion of good governance reform in Tanzania. These subjectivities, operating within complex hierarchies of power and nullifying any clear distinction between internal and external, are able to achieve variable degrees of influence in the formulation and implementation of development policies, the outcomes of which have been neither straightforwardly liberalising nor outright repressive. In order to explain the mixed outcomes of good governance reform in Tanzania, therefore, an understanding of the ways in which liberal power is manifested in the production of knowledge and the conduct of conduct is imperative.


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