Logics of Action: How state institutions may undergird or undermine participatory development
Participatory development has strong normative appeal. In areas with entrenched poverty and poor public service provision, participatory initiatives are predicted to empower otherwise silent members of a demos, improve public services, and engage community members as both stakeholders and customers in a way that ensures the sustainability of policy work. These expectations, widely held in the development commu-nity, rest on a number of assumptions regarding citizens behavior: that they will engage in such initiatives, that they will work to further the long-term interests of the community as a whole, and that they are will-ing to play the role of principals in accountability relations. Recent meta-analyses of participatory initiatives point to state institutions as a key determinant of their success or failure, though knowledge on which attributes of state institutions matter, and why, remains underdeveloped. Drawing on extensive interview and fieldwork data on a small-scale rural electrification project in sub-Saharan Africa, this paper seeks to identify more specifically how weak, or absent, state institutions shape the priors that citizens bring into development projects. We identify three specific logics – collective action logic, taxpayer logic and custom-er logic – integral to project success but which were not firmly entrenched in the community. The paper aims to lay the groundwork for both more theoretically founded research on participatory governance as well as more realistic efforts to involve poor citizens in community development.
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