Research Paper 25 - From Political Economy to Political Analysis

This paper argues that existing political economy approaches lack the analytical tools needed to grasp the inner politics of development. Political economy has come to be seen narrowly as the economics of politics – the way incentives shape behaviour. Much recent political economy work therefore misses what is distinctively political about politics – power, interests, agency, ideas, the subtleties of building and sustaining coalitions, and the role of contingency. This paper aims to give policy makers and practitioners more precise conceptual tools to help them interpret the inner, ‘micro’, politics of the contexts in which they work. It argues in particular for more focus on recognising and working with the different forms of power, on understanding how and where interests develop, and on the role of ideas.

This manuscript was written over the course of 2012. It was Adrian Leftwich’s last substantial piece of work before undergoing gruelling treatment for lung cancer and a short, but typically courageous, battle that ended on 2 April 2013.

This manuscript is the culmination of our discussions, reading, thinking and, ultimately, our unease with how politics was conceived and analysed within development. We challenged ourselves to try to put down on paper what was wrong with it, how we might improve on it, and how we might persuade others to inject fresh thinking into their work in this area too. I think we succeeded in some of this, but not all. And certainly we bit off more than we could chew.

The text is not a manifesto or blueprint, the one and only way to think about politics and development. Rather, it is an invitation to think differently.

 

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The Developmental Leadership Program (DLP) is an international research initiative that explores how leadership, power and political processes drive or block successful development.

DLP focuses on the crucial role of home-grown leaderships and coalitions in forging legitimate political settlements and institutions that promote developmental outcomes, such as sustainable growth, political stability and inclusive social development.

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News

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Thursday 30th March 2017

Putting the concept of Thinking and Working Politically into practice was at the heart of a workshop on 15-16 March attended by more than 200 delegates from the field of international development. Delegates from the government, civil service and local organisations of the host country, Indonesia, were joined by academics, including DLP researchers, and staff from donor organisations and NGOs.

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DLP shares research at FCO Africa Study Day

Monday 27th March 2017

DLP findings on the Democratic Republic of Congo were among the topics discussed with with UK diplomats and civil servants at the FCO's Africa Study Day, held at Sandhurst on 21 March. This year's Foreign and Commonwealth Office event was organised by University of Birmingham's International Development Department, home to DLP.

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