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Power and Ownership: A critical analysis of the Bretton Woods Institutions' Country Owned Poverty Reduction Strategies
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering.
2008 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Magister), 20 points / 30 hpStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Previously, studies in the intersection of power and development have predominantly concentrated on power as domination; how powerful actors can force recipient countries into embracing specific policies due to economical asymmetries. Yet, with the introduction of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP) approach to development employed by the Bretton Woods Institutions (BWI), conditions on certain policies have decreased and it is said that the approach allows for country ownership as development strategies are written by the countries themselves. As a critical response, the conception of power is broadened here through the separate employment of governmentality theory and neo-Gramscian International Relations theory. They share among them a theoretical premise which allows for an understanding of power that extends beyond domination to the realm of discursive practices which, it is argued, allows for influence despite the notions of ownership and without power as domination.

The object of this thesis is to suggest how the discourses of the PRSP regime can influence subjects whom they addressed. The two theories have different assumptions here. More specifically, the neo-Gramscian theory argue that discursive practice may render ideological issues as common sense why they can come to be embraced by subjects, whereas the governmentality theory assume that discourses can, perhaps without conscious recognition, reshape the very identities of subjects. The theories differences are retained and bracketed when a discourse analysis of the PRSP regime is conducted which concludes that the BWIs require that suitable skills are embraced by subjects appropriate for a good governed market economy. These skills are located to basic capacities in calculating, accounting and social capital accumulation. Thereafter a practical example of discursive practice in a capacity building mission is reviewed to explicate how these skills are actualized through training modules enabling influence towards preferred standards of the BWIs without power as domination. The two theories are brought in for a discussion on how these discursive practices may be understood according to their respective premises, but also to discuss the usefulness of these theories for studies of this kind.

It is argued, among other conclusions, that the neo-Gramscian understanding of power as operating on the conscious level can fruitfully be coupled with the proposition of governmentality that powers also work on an unconscious level for understanding practises of capacity building. As concerning the weaknesses of the theories it is put forth that the neo- Gramscian theory suffers from an assumption of class identity presented as a “brute fact” before the realm of the political, whereas the governmentality theory suffers from an exclusive focus on discourse and leaves behind how different actor constellations may seek to appropriate discourses. To remedy these weaknesses, the thesis concludes with an argument that a combination of these theories can provide a lucrative foundation for further studies.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Institutionen för ekonomisk och industriell utveckling , 2008. , 75 p.
Keyword [en]
Poverty Reduction Strategies, capacity building, discourse analysis, Foucault, governmentality, neo-Gramscian theory, hegemony, common sense
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-11380ISRN: LIU-IEI-FIL-A--08/00273--SEOAI: diva2:17783
Available from: 2008-04-23 Created: 2008-04-23

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