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2022 | Book

Local Self-Governance and Varieties of Statehood

Tensions and Cooperation


About this book

The debate on governance originates in the OECD world. At the latest since the postcolonial debate, we know that we need to “test” our assumptions under radically different conditions. This book offers an extended perspective of local self-governance by examining cases from South Asia, Africa, and Latin America, together with a study of militias in the USA. The chapters present a wide variety of local actors who pursue different notions of order legitimized by local traditions based on hierarchy or deeply rooted communalism, Islamic theology, or grassroots democracy. Some local actors claim a state-like authority and challenge the territorial state. In such cases, there is no longer “a shadow hierarchy” but opposition to the state. Different violent actors fight for supremacy, and the state is just one actor among others. The empirical studies presented in this book show how different kinds of local self-governance are combined with varieties of statehood, and thus contribute to an understanding of the notion of governance in a fundamental sense that goes beyond the special case of the OECD world.

Table of Contents

Local Self-governance and Varieties of Statehood: Reflections on Tensions and Cooperation
The debate on governance refers to cases from the OECD world, with a focus on cooperation between the state, other public institutions, and different private actors. An extended perspective beyond the OECD world discloses the limitations of this debate. Local actors are much more diverse than usually assumed, and they follow their specific notions of order, which may contradict or compete with the basic principles of consolidated constitutional statehood. This challenges the given canon of governance modes of coordination between the actors. Thus, we need to consider cases of demarcation with a certain autonomy of different orders or open conflict between notions of order. Some local actors even claim to be a state on their own. The widened analytical perspective challenges the mainstream governance debate and paves the way for a more nuanced and extended analysis of governance and statehood. With an extension of the classical governance approach, we are able to show that it is not only viable for the complexity of modern states in the Global North, but can also be productively applied to countries of the Global South, each with their own complexity.
Dieter Neubert, Hans-Joachim Lauth, Christoph Mohamad-Klotzbach
US Domestic Militias’ Intersections with Government and Authority: How a Sociology of Individualism Informs Their Praxis
US domestic militias see themselves as an extension of the government even as they maintain a suspicious and sometimes overtly hostile stance toward that very government. Fundamentally, these mostly white, mostly men believe personal responsibility and individual effort to be central ingredients not only to the American Dream but also to their individual identities. They argue that it is every “real” American’s responsibility to self-govern and maintain the integrity of their own communities. Militias’ relative proximity to local versus state versus federal governmental structures and actors influences their perceptions of trust in each of those levels of government. That basic relationship can be modified by the major party affiliation and gender of a political figure under consideration and by whether the militia unit in question is more defensive or reactive in nature. Understanding the interplay of these variables enhances our understanding of which government officials or policies are likely to spark a hostile reaction.
Amy Cooter
Paradoxes of Local Self-governance: Legitimation Strategies of Rural Councillors Under National and Global Influences in Africa
Since the 1980s, local self-organization and local self-governance are seen as the core elements for autonomously organized rural transformation. Against this background, it is surprising that both elements hardly have been analysed together. Neither have local councillors as formally, the key actors of local democracy, gained particular research interest. We will tackle this research gap drawing on the institutional arrangement in rural Ghana and examine the multiple entanglements of self-governance and self-organization through the prism of rural councillors. Their interfaces with state, external, and self-organized local actors unearth the mutual instrumentalization and legitimation of local self-organization, the state, and outside entities. We can hardly delineate the individual agency of these actors. On the one hand, the councillors have a relatively weak political influence over the local administration. On the other hand, their formal political roles and social relations offer them the chance to act as brokers for external development actors. The councillors’ brokerage remains vital for both self-help groups and the local administration, despite occurring in the twilight of local autonomy and state control.
Matthew Sabbi, Alexander Stroh, Dieter Neubert
Enacting the Housing Crises Through Self-organization? The Cissie Gool Occupation of Reclaim the City and Its Ambivalent Relationship to the Capetonian Municipality (South Africa)
The social movement Reclaim the City (RTC) emerged in 2017 due to gentrification, which challenges the right to housing in Cape Town. Citizens cannot afford the rising cost of living, and once again the most vulnerable groups of society, black and coloured people, are affected by evictions. RTC has called for affordable housing and has occupied houses to provide a home for evictees. In the space of the occupation, RTC activists organize daily life and their protest activities.
Against the backdrop of gentrification processes, this chapter draws attention to the self-organization of RTC, with regard to everyday life in the occupied houses, security, and political activism. The RTC occupation is an attempt to solve the housing crisis that the municipality is not able to address adequately. As a result, the relationship with the municipality is ambiguous, complementary, and full of contradictions. Thus, the article rejects simplistic and structuralist arguments in respect of the relationship between social movements and the state as opponents, and unpacks how research on governance and self-organization enriches social movement theory.
Antje Daniel
What Is “Local” and What Is “Self” in Local Self-Help Organisations, and Can they Work Effectively?: Experiences from the Grassroots Level in Bolivia
This paper looks at a specific and widespread form of self-organisation, namely local self-help organisations (SHOs). The term SHO points to self-organisation and self-administration. The term further implies proximity to local needs, potentials, and cultural contexts. Local organisations often play a special role in overarching government policies and programmes, and international development cooperation programmes. This means that these organisations are not only local but also in contact with “distant” institutional environments as they receive external resources and are expected to fulfil certain functions and criteria. Practical experiences in cooperation with SHO are mixed. Some must be categorised as “bad performers” with regard to effective achievement of their defined goals and purposes. Nevertheless, there are also “good performers”. Between generalised optimism and scepticism concerning local SHOs, this paper takes an open stance and attempts a more differentiated analysis of the factors that build or obstruct the potentials of local self-organisation. The analytical frame used for this is based on Richard Scott’s open-system approach which gives equal emphasis to the resources, technologies, members, and goals of SHO. Finally, the relation between local and universal factors of self-organisation, and the necessities and limits of self-administration are discussed from the perspective of knowledge resources.
Gabriele Beckmann
Pathalgadi Movement, Self-Governance, and the Question of ‘Weak Statehood’
As a movement for ‘self-governance’ by adivasis living in areas classified as Khutkatti in the state of Jharkhand, Pathalgadi invoked traditional symbols and idioms to assert traditional/customary rights over land through the iteration of constitutional provisions. Across the state of Jharkhand and other contiguous states like Chhattisgarh, villagers installed stone slabs on the highway to mark the boundaries of their village. These boundaries were ‘guarded’ by villagers in the same way that a sovereign nation-state would monitor and control entry into its territorial space. The pathals were inscribed with constitutional provisions—the Fifth Schedule which recognised administrative autonomy of adivasis in the scheduled areas—and the Panchayat Extension into Scheduled Areas Act 1996, which required the consent of the gram sabha for acquisition of tribal land. The ‘self-governance’ claims by adivasis in the constitutional idiom, emulating ‘state-like’ features of sovereign states, put in place competitive logics of the state in these regions. State and state effects were simultaneously asserted in contexts where ‘weak statehood’ exists not because the state was absent but was present in ways which the adivasis did not recognise.
Anupama Roy, Ujjwal Kumar Singh
Samaj as a Form of Self-Organisation among Village Communities in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh
Bangladesh has a strong tradition of self-help during natural disasters, a remarkable amount of social movement activism, and a large number of non-governmental organisations supporting people in micro-credit schemes. In this article, we shed light on the hitherto neglected field of self-organisation initiatives among the indigenous population in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) region of Bangladesh. We critically evaluate organisational types initiated and formed by community members themselves and analyse one particular form, the samaj organisation among the Tanchangya. Based on an analysis of samaj’s defining characteristics and features, and its significance for self-regulation in indigenous communities, we compare our findings with writings on samajes of Bengali Muslims and Hindus. In our case, the local Buddhist temple and social events are major arenas where the duties and responsibilities associated with samaj membership become apparent. Rather than constituting the ‘traditional’ counterpart to ‘modern’ institutions, samaj continues to represent a specific and informal mode of community-formation which continues to take over important social, ritual, and political functions within the contemporary society shaped by nationalist state-formation. We conclude by arguing that samaj among the Tanchangya is constituted by reciprocative and redistributive practices which strengthen a collective sense of belonging.
Bablu Chakma, Eva Gerharz
Jihadi Governance in Northern Mali: Socio-Political Orders in Contest
From a remote region at the periphery of Mali, which was marginal in political, social and economic terms until the new millennium, the region has turned into a hotspot of globalization attracting regional and global groups alike. These groups brought with them various models of socio-political organization, contesting or fighting one another. This figuration we call heterarchy. Currently, two of these models, the Islamist and the ethnic model, dominate the region politically, socially and militarily. We explain their dominance by the legitimacy they enjoy as compared to other models. Both of them are able to protect the populace against violence in the areas they control. We call this form of legitimacy the ‘basic legitimacy of protection against violence’, and both of them deliver the core elements, which we subsume under the notion of ‘globalized statehood’.
The current dominance of the two models may not last very long, though. In light of the political dynamic in the region, and the pragmatic utilization of ideological orientations, the political constellation can change quickly. It is not difficult to predict that all efforts by the Malian government and its Western allies to regain full control of the northern regions are likely to fail.
Dida Badi, Georg Klute
Cyrenaica Contemporary: Politics, Identity, and Justice in Times of Transition
The region of Cyrenaica covers the entire eastern part of Libya, and alongside Tripolitania in the west and Fezzan in the south forms one of the three major regions of the country. Since 2011, Cyrenaica has witnessed the often violent competition between a number of different political models and practices (state-like, tribal, Islamic, jihadist, federalist, and separatist). In addition, controversial discourses about history, identity, and the role of Cyrenaica within Libya have emerged, and a quest for reliable and legitimate forms of conflict resolution is currently taking place. Against the background of the ongoing civil war in Libya, Cyrenaica has been characterized as the adversary camp of the internationally recognized government in Tripolitania. Our contribution aims to provide a conceptual and empirical perspective that goes beyond such categorizations. It will explore three interconnected thematic fields: (1) Politics in Cyrenaica: State Politics, Non-state Politics, and Political Economy; (2) The Making of Identity in Cyrenaica; and (3) Politics, Practices, and Understandings of Justice.
Thomas Hüsken, Amal S. Obeidi
Local Self-Governance and Varieties of Statehood: Some Remarks from an Ancient Historian
This short paper comments on the eight preceding chapters. The author, as a scholar of ancient Greece and Rome, has a different perspective from the other contributors on questions of governance and statehood. Ancient governance processes, lacking modern technical possibilities in translocal communication, were spatially more restricted than today, and society had in general much lower expectations with regard to state performance. Nevertheless, the parallels between the Global South and Antiquity are striking and, in some respects, greater than between the Global South and contemporary Western societies. The following are the main points: the concept of weak, or better, restrained statehood; the fragile state monopoly on the use of violence; and civil society as a common model for the analysis of non-Western societies.
Rene Pfeilschifter
Local Self-Governance and Varieties of Statehood
Dieter Neubert
Hans-Joachim Lauth
Christoph Mohamad-Klotzbach
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