When Does Service Delivery Improve the Legitimacy of a Fragile or Conflict-Affected State?

Received wisdom holds that the provision of vital public services necessarily improves the legitimacy of a fragile or conflict-affected state. In practice, however, the relationship between a state's performance in delivering services and its degree of legitimacy is non-linear. Specifically, this relationship is conditioned by expectations of what the state should provide, subjective assessments of impartiality and distributive justice, the relational aspects of provision, how easy it is to attribute (credit or blame) performance to the state, and the characteristics of the service.

This questions the dominant institutional model, which reduces the role of services in (re)building state legitimacy to an instrumental one. A more rounded account of the significance of service delivery for state legitimacy would look beyond the material to the ideational and relational significance of services, and engage with the normative criteria by which citizens judge them.

This Governance article is by Claire Mcloughlin.

About DLP

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.

Find out more

News

New studies on leadership for transformational change in Africa

Thursday 31st May 2018

A new series of studies asks what factors support or hinder leadership for transformational change in Africa. They are published in collaboration with the UONGOZI Institute.

Read more

New article on politically informed work for climate change mitigation in China and India

Monday 21st May 2018

In Development Policy Review, Tom Harrison and Genia Kostka draw on their DLP research project to explore 'Bureaucratic manoeuvres and the local politics of climate change mitigation in China and India'.

Read more

Follow: @dlprog