From the crisis of state legitimacy to state building
The crisis of state legitimacy is a result of citizen’s not trusting the state’s ability to provide exclusionary and limited services legitimately. A state is considered legitimate when its citizens defer to it with reference to its right to rule. In other words, people adhere to a state system and “rules of the game” termed as institutions.
The social account of a state can be captured through the idea of a state, ie, what the state should look like, how it interacts with society and whether it’s possible to analyse the state without paying attention to political practices and authority.
Political scientists such as Max Weber and Gramsci and the more recent Skocpol and Migdal are seeking answers to why people obey the state and what particular kind of structures enable and facilitate conformist behaviour and obedience.
The compliance of citizens to the state means state policies and provision of services are couched in citizens’ beliefs and norms, the very ones that are formulating consent and obedience. The ideological construction of a state does not concretely allow us to examine political institutions, the structure and ideology of political organisations and the legitimation of illegitimate actions. The terms corruption and accountability, in fact, mask our understanding of the problems of governance.
The agenda for achieving political change and transformation should be rooted in state building. The central challenge for future political government and political leadership is to respond to this legitimacy crisis
Most scholars, national and international institutions, implicitly or explicitly make judgments about the state of Pakistan and its institutions in terms of Weberian bureaucracy and modern Western rational states. In contrast to the “modern states’ philosophy, problems of governance should instead be understood in the everyday state and blurred state and societal boundaries.
It may or may not be surprising for the outgoing political governments that since people obey the state by adhering to its authority and laws, their dissatisfaction with state institutions and the political system actually lays the foundation of weak legitimacy associated with governance issues.
The crisis of legitimacy means citizens’ loss of confidence in the political regime or political system and the loss of rightfulness of the institutions and the authority of the state to govern its subjects legitimately.
The dilemma of uneven development and under provision of social services in many parts of the country, aptly demonstrate whether the institutions providing services can be termed legitimate or not.
The state of dismal social services and problems of governance in fact require an understanding and alteration of political settlement defined by political scientists (Laws and Leftwich) as: “Informal and formal processes, agreements, and practices that help consolidate politics, rather violence, as a means for dealing with disagreements about interests, ideas and the distribution of power”.
The existing political milieu and political practices indicate a political system that operates in an extremely complex state society nexus where extensive kinship ties and other forms of networks aid and contribute to a fractious political settlement, which faces difficulties in establishing broad-based state legitimacy.
The difficulties to implement civil service reforms and broad-based policies in Pakistanis inextricably linked to a political settlement shaped by narrow political alliances and incentives reserved for narrow constituencies and set of groups — the outcome of which has severe implications for state institutions and economic development.
The future research agenda for research institutes and donors equally is to sufficiently analyse political settlements and the struggle for power between different elite factions in terms of how they can positively transform the economy and contribute to public service provision.
The agenda for achieving political change and transformation should be rooted in state building. The central challenge for future political government and political leadership is to respond to the legitimacy crisis by pursuing both or choosing between two political strategies.
The first one is to co-opt popular groups and parties and the other is to pursue the path of repression by denying membership to certain groups. The repressed groups are those who are not considered to be part of the settlement or alliance for crafting a stable and sustainable political government. The excluded groups can play a decisive role in making the political alliance unstable and such groups should not be ignored.
The first strategy would be an ideal form of political settlement in which distribution of economic rents and power across the society is inclusive and pluralistic, underpinned by strong and durable institutions.
In a multipolar political alliance, political leadership may seek the enlistment of religious groups, intellectuals and others. The broader the settlement, the more inclusive is the realisation of development.
The multipolar political alliance can only be sustained through the processes of negotiations, bargaining, and promising material returns to social groups in exchange for their cooperation.
The state building agenda can be implemented by crafting a specific type of state apparatus which can effectively deliver developmental programmes such as improving the quality of education and health services.
The real essence of the state building agenda can also be analysed in “islands of effectiveness” enabled by political leadership, insider groups, state bureaucracy, donors, think-tanks, and civil society groups.
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The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.