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Discuss: State of the World 2013 > Chapter 25. Effective Crisis Governance.

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message 1: by Ted (new)

Ted | 348 comments Mod
Chapter 25. Effective Crisis Governance.

For comments about chapter 25.

message 2: by Ted (last edited Nov 24, 2013 03:52PM) (new)

Ted | 348 comments Mod
Brian Martin, professor of social sciences, University of Wollongong, Australia.

Tom Prugh says, in the introduction of the third part of the book, that in this chapter the author “argues that governance should be flexible, not stiff. That requires participation, high skill levels, robust debate, and mutual respect.”.

Well, when the opening sentence of the chapter was “When a crisis develops, what sort of governance – what sort of system for running society – is most resilient?”, I was immediately confused. This question, and the mention of resilience (view spoiler) is unfortunately not necessarily what’s required to address the slow motion crises which the previous chapter emphasized in its concluding remarks.

Thus thrown for a loop, I sort of sleep-walked through the first two sections of the chapter, trying to figure out what I was supposed to be getting out of the essay. (Those sections are Lessons from Civil Resistance and Flexible Governance. The first recounts instances, going back almost thirty years, in which “repressive leaders have succumbed to people power”: the Philippines in 1986, Eastern Europe in 1989, Egypt in 2011. Well, methinks, all fine and good, but what does this have to do with sustainability or even resilience or even governance in a crisis? (There were some interesting observations about armed versus non-violent resistance, referenced from Why Civil Resistance Works.) The second section is aptly summarized in Prugh’s remarks quoted above.

Transforming Governance

Okay, I finally resolved to try meeting the author half way (without wondering how his thesis applied to anything). In this section, Martin looks at methods of moving toward the four elements of Flexible Governance, which he restates slightly as Significant Participation , Resources for Struggle , Openness, Tolerance, and Inclusion and Learning Skills for Struggle and Developing Strategic Acumen.

The references to “Struggle” in these titles is indicative of the voice that Martin speaks in here. It is only slightly veiled radicalism, which is not a problem with me. When he uses the phrase “help build resilience”, one almost slips into reading it as “help build resistance”.

One interesting quote from the last element (referenced to Participatory Institutions in Democratic Brazil) reads
Especially relevant … are initiatives to provide experience in governance, such as the participatory budgeting pioneered in cities in Brazil. In a typical process of participatory budgeting, multiple citizen assemblies discuss priorities, and then a participatory budget council, with representatives from the assemblies, deliberates on priorities, negotiating between the assemblies and the city administration.

Okay, this is a real participatory democracy, at least in theory, in its intention. And it reminds me (like a lot of other good things remind me) of Noam Chomsky’s view of anarchism, as expressed here (view spoiler)

The last two sections of the chapter, In a Crisis and Moving Toward Flexible Governance, don’t add much. The latter is simply a summary, and the former, though it does bring in the issue of “slow-moving” crises, and mentions climate change as the “most prominent” of these, doesn’t really say anything significant or useful. Seems like it was just tacked on.

message 3: by Ted (new)

Ted | 348 comments Mod
I’ve very little idea of how to fit this chapter in with anything. It describes what government “should be” to be effective in a crisis. But how to bring about this kind of government? And when? Before, during, or after crises? It’s very theoretical.


1. Two types of crisis.

Catastrophic: Resilience governance. These things obviously have to be in place beforehand to be of any use, and have to be quite well established, not simply some “ideas” in the collective thinking of a small group. They need to very widely embraced already. Thus the most likely venue for good outcome is local government, and the smaller the better.

Slow Motion: This is the sort of crisis that can be prepared for, through an attempt to use the “methods of moving toward the four elements of Flexible Governance” that are discussed in the Transforming Governance section. It may well be that making some sort of accommodation with the existing local government would be an effective path to travel. This presupposes that the current local government is willing to accommodate some loss of “power” to the people advocating this transformative vision, which is perhaps not likely in the typical situation.

2. How is governance currently implemented in the area of interest? Is it imposed from far above? Is it militarily enforced? Is it democratically elected? How much of its power can this governance legally give away to citizens? Must it abide by a structure of directions which says what its functions are, which part of the structure is responsible for each of those functions, how citizens may be given involvement in this responsibility (or even whether they can be), etc. etc.

I simply don’t have the time or energy to try to work through all this myself. I do think that one section of the chapter might be pretty important for people (groups) who are attempting to bring about more responsive government, more local government, and a more resilient government for times of crisis, regardless of the type of crises. It’s just not clear to me how possible (or likely) any of this is.

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