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Societal Change, States and Governance: Insights from History and other Societies

Sebastian Morris ()

No WP2001-10-02, IIMA Working Papers from Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, Research and Publication Department

Abstract: The nature of governance has differed widely across societies, and what is more interesting, within any particular society depending upon the stage of development. Governance is better defined in functional rather than in value terms. Functional governance aids and abetts industrialisation. Industrialisation is the one change that all societies have to necessarily strive for. Without it no development is possible In contemporary societies which are also democratic and trying hard to industrialise, that insight needs to be tempered with the limitations of the state that is a coalition of many classes. More importantly just because functional governance was not the good governance of today, in many countries and societies in the past, does not mean, that it today cannot be both good and functional. The point though is that unless it is functional it can never be good. Functionality of governance is best assured when the policies followed by the state in its drive to industrialise the economy are correct. Therefore the main lesson from history is that the first thing to do (for both functional governance and for the industrial transformation) is to bring about the initial conditions necessary for the industrialisation of the economy. The key bottleneck here is tenurial relations in land which stand in the way of output increases from the poor farmer. The egalitarian income distribution that land reform brings, ensures that nearly all the poor are particpants in the market. All other conditions necessary for the unambigous transformation already obtain today in India. We also describe the process of change and the sense in which the economic is primary to societal change. That does not mean that there is no scope for individual or collective action. It only means that there are particular ways in which individuals and small groups including reformers can bring about change. It is important to recognise the specific ways in which small groups including elements with government can bring about change. In any discussion of corruption and governance the case of China which despite being highly corrupt society grows can hardly be avoided. Corruption there is the means by which a bourgeois society is being born in China today. Because much of the rents are invested there is no dysfunctionality to this corruption. It would though soon become dysfunctional, since, once the party elite have all become capitalists, the gain to them and to society as a whole is greater in a non-corrupt society. That is already happening, and corruption can be expected to decline soon.

Date: 2001-10-02
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