In the Shadow of Good Governance

An Ethnography of Civil Service Reform in Africa

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In the Shadow of Good Governance traces the implementation of the good governance agenda in Malawi from the loan documents signed by the representatives of the government and the Bretton Woods institutions to the individual experiences of civil servants who responded in unforeseen ways to the reform measures. Ethnographic evidence gathered in government offices, neighbourhoods and the private homes of civil servants living in Malawi’s urban and peri-urban areas undermines the common perception of a disconnect between state institutions and society in Africa. Instead, the book presents a comprehensive analysis of civil servants’ attempts to negotiate the effects of civil service reform and economic crisis at the turn of the 21st century.
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Biographical Note

Gerhard Anders (Ph.D. 2005) is a senior lecturer at the Institute of Social & Cultural Anthropology, University of Zurich. His research focuses on the anthropology of emergent regimes of global order in the fields of criminal justice and development. He has published on legal anthropology, international criminal justice, good governance and corruption including the co-edited volume (with M. Nuijten) Corruption and the Secret of Law (Ashgate, 2009).

Review Quotes

The anthropology of the postcolonial state takes a major step forward with Gerhard Anders' outstanding study. His ethnographic insights into the planning, implementation and manipulation of the civil service reform in Malawi give food for thought well beyond the specific case he writes about. No other study of the 1990s good governance agenda in Africa has accomplished Anders' nuanced account of the lived experience among civil servants caught up in the throes of change. This is a landmark study that challenges facile generalizations about corruption and the dysfunctional state in Africa.
Harri Englund, University of Cambridge

Table of contents

Contents
Acknowledgements vii
Glossary and abbreviations ix
Map of Malawi x
1 INTRODUCTION: UNPACKING GOOD GOVERNANCE 1
Civil servants as implementers and “target population” 1
The “dysfunctional” African state 3
Good governance as technology 5
Field sites 8
Studying up, follow the policy 9
Basic information about the civil service 11
Outline 14
2 HISTORICAL BACKGROUND 15
Banda’s rule and the “New Malawi” 16
The results of two decades of structural adjustment 19
The civil service – from localisation to good governance 24
3 CONSTRUCTING COUNTRY OWNERSHIP 28
Introduction 28
The emergence of a concept 30
Conditionality and country ownership 34
The normativity of numbers 40
The discovery of the “C word” 42
Conclusions 47
4 THE IMPLEMENTATION PROCESS 49
Deconstructing policy implementation 49
Retrenchment of employees made redundant 51
The introduction of new housing allowances 55
Increasing fragmentation of the civil service 60
Conclusions 68
5 ERODING SALARIES AND DOING BUSINESS 70
The African entrepreneurial spirit 70
The meaning of having a job in the civil service 73
“How to make ends meet” 83
Winners and losers of economic liberalisation 89
Conclusions 97
vi
6 “DISTANCE SAVES ME” 99
Introduction 99
Kubwerera kumudzi 101
Education and social stratification 110
The importance of associations 111
The nature of kinship duties 115
Conclusions 120
7 THE DEMOCRATISATION OF APPROPRIATION 122
Introduction 122
“Bad politics” 124
The office mores – a parallel social and moral order 130
A “primoridial public sphere”or a patchwork of moralities? 135
Conclusions 139
8 CONCLUSIONS: THE STATE IN SOCIETY 141
The paradoxical policies of the World Bank and the IMF 142
A note on theorising the postcolonial state 148
References 151
Index 163

Readership

All those interested in the critical anthropology of the postcolonial state and development discourse in Africa and beyond.

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