Challenges to the state system in an era of globalisation

  • The state is being changed irrevocably


By Dr Rajkumar Singh


Globalisation and its all-pervasive adverse effects on society have resulted in a growing discontent and disenchantment among the people and thereby their isolation from power centres. The new middle class that emerged in the era of neo-liberal policies of the government has adopted an exclusive and parochial approach that affected negatively the living conditions of the other classes and groups. It generated trends of anomie in society. On the other hand, the exclusion can be seen from the emergence of identity politics based on caste, especially among the lower strata of the society who are demanding wider power-sharing in the political system. The adoption of neo-liberal economic policies produced two new social groups– the losers and the winners. While the poor and the socially marginalised sections constituted the disadvantaged sections, the consumerist middle class constituted the advantaged sections. In course of time, the losers were attracted to the caste-based parties, which had in fact no concrete policies or programmes for their genuine empowerment, and the gainers were mobilised towards a Hindu nationalist party like the BJP. People’s expectations from the state were belied in the 1990s, when the market reforms shrunk the role of the state and hopes failed to materialise.

Political power and globalisation: In a democracy the contest for power is never free from uncertainty and anxiety, and those who make politics their career became accustomed to its turbulence and some even take a peculiar pleasure in it. These have played havoc with national politics. Pressures and counter pressures are mounted through political parties and their leaders and big bosses. Because of the multiplicity of parties, the politicians, propelled by expediency and opportunism, spend their time, energy, and resources in forming often transient alliances, to capture power. Each constituent element has its own agenda; hence the alliances are usually ephemeral. At present the relations between the government and opposition have become increasingly acrimonious. Even where there is broad agreement over, let us say, foreign policy or economic policy, each side maintains an adversarial relationship with the other, fearing that there will be a loss of face if not a loss of support from constituents, if it appears conciliatory. The habitually confrontationist conduct of both government and opposition is complicated by the fact that neither the one nor the other speaks with a single voice. This may be a good thing where it serves to defuse tension but it is not conducive to deliberations on policy. Despite the advent of the information age and the commencement of global interaction, the world perspective of the majority of the legislators is woefully limited; and their comprehension of international issues with national and local ramifications is virtually non-existent.

Shifting from government to good governance: Contextually, there has been a welcome shift from traditional concepts of government and politics to good governance and its attributes. Governance refers to the quality of government and the manner in which power is exercised by governments in managing a country’s social and economic resources. Governance means, ‘The process of decision making and the process by which decisions are implemented or not implemented. It also focuses on the formal and informal actors involved in decision-making and implementing the decisions made and the formal and informal structures that have been set in place to arrive at and implement the decisions.’ There are so many actors in governance and the government is one of them. In urban areas, the other major actors constitute political parties, voluntary organisations, research institutes, religious leaders, finance institutes, the military, media, lobbyists, international donors and multinational corporations. In rural areas, actors may include influential landlords, associations of peasant farmers, cooperatives and NGOs. These actors urban and rural, other than government and the military, are grouped together as part of the civil society. All these may play a role in decision-making or in influencing the decision-making process. The prerequisites for quality governance are that the system should be good and suited to the need, aspirations, background and ethos of the concerned people.

Governments continue to play a central role in the lives of its citizens, governance came to be equated with government. Development and reform also constituted the functions of governments. Now, when one talks of governance, one refers to participatory governance which works towards the development of individuals as well as the society and nation

Themes of good governance: The term ‘Good Governance’ was highlighted by the World Bank in one of its documents in 1989 in the context of Third World countries. It is not only confined to political governance but would include all types of governance, such as international, national, state or provincial, or local. Further, in 1992 the World Bank’s document on governance and development said, ‘Good governance is central to creating and sustaining an environment which fosters strong and equitable development and it is an essential complement to sound economic policies.’ It identified three aspects of governance: the form of political regime, the process by which authority is exercised in the management of the country’s economic and social resources: and the capacity of governments to design, formulate and implement policies and in general, to discharge government functions. But besides the World Bank indicators of good governance encompassing democracy, transparency and accountability, it may be said that the whole idea of good governance is that of a participative democratic system in which those who are called upon to govern on behalf of the people are motivated with a will to giving their best, serving and doing good to the people and in particular, solving the problems of the poor and the underprivileged and making their lives more liveable, satisfying and enjoyable. However, in general, good governance is a dynamic and value-laden concept. The values it gives importance into are eight in number. The modern concept of good governance is that it is participatory, consensus-oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive and follows the rule of law.

Today the democratic structures of governance, which is the largest in a democracy has failed on counts of good governance. Although people have got the right to participate in governance directly as well as indirectly, but the peculiar situation is that this characteristic of good governance is partially realised.

India has embarked on the path of reorienting and restructuring its governance system. A whole new set of policies and programmes has been put in place. The canvas of reforms covers both the centre and states. It encompasses reforms in the economic, social, administrative and political spheres. At present the innumerable issues regarding political economy and political sociology are surfacing that highlight the relationship that exists between development paradigms and actual development, governance and government, common people and the state. But there is no denying the fact that governments continue to play a central role in the lives of its citizens, governance came to be equated with government. Development and reform also constituted the functions of governments. Now, when one talks of governance, one refers to participatory governance which works towards the development of individuals as well as the society and nation.


The writer is head of the Political Science Department, BNMU, Sira, Bihar, India. He can be reached at [email protected]