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Transforming participation?: a comparative study of state and civil society agency within national development processes in Malawi and Ireland

Gaynor, Niamh (2008) Transforming participation?: a comparative study of state and civil society agency within national development processes in Malawi and Ireland. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

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Abstract

In the context of growing economic, social and political polarisation between and within countries both North and South, this study addresses the question as to whether new forms of participatory governance, in the form of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Programme (PRSP) process in Malawi, and Social Partnership in Ireland, have the potential to engage multiple development discourses, and if so, under what conditions. Developing a theoretical framework to uncover the structures and dynamics underpinning both processes over time, the study highlights the interaction of domestic and global political cultures within both processes. It is argued that state actors, focused on ‘spinning’ participation to attract foreign investment, while simultaneously contracting civil society ‘partners’ in managing the fallout of the state’s economic globalisation project, are not seeking to engage multiple development discourses. The potential for such transformative participation within both processes therefore rests with civil society actors responding to the mandates of their constituents. The study identifies a key enabler in this regard as being ‘communication without’ or public awareness raising, with this enhancing visibility and public debate on both the developmental outcomes of the respective processes and the agency and actions of actors therein. While both processes are characterised by many similarities, a key difference in the area of communication is identified. While in Ireland, where domestic legacies of a hierarchical, authoritarian political culture facilitate state and civil society actors in disciplining participants within the Irish process and stifling public debate, in Malawi, these national disciplining legacies have been challenged. The study demonstrates how, in Malawi, global influences, in particular as mediated through global informational networks, have played a significant part in stimulating critical public debate, thereby transforming cultural legacies. These influences have resulted in the dominant organisation within the Malawian process tapping into the diversity of Malawian civic life, thereby raising challenges to its own form of leadership, and potentially transforming participation within its national development process.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Africa; Malawi; Ireland; North and South; Participatory governance; Poverty Reduction Strategy Programme; PRSP; Civil Society; Participation; Partnership; Globalisation; Governance; Social Partnership.
Subjects: Social Sciences > Sociology
Item ID: 1330
Depositing User: IR eTheses
Date Deposited: 22 Apr 2009 11:14
URI:

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