Duncan Green’s review of Working with the Grain on his widely read From Poverty to Power blog (CLICK HERE TO ACCESS THE REVIEW) usefully points towards the two very different goals I aimed to achieve in the book.
One goal was to write, anchored in my lived experience, an accessible tour d’horizon of the current, cutting edge of development thinking and practice — and how it got that way. A second goal was to provide an analytically robust conceptual framework as a foundation for moving that thinking forward — bringing together a variety of theoretical contributions which rarely are considered in an integrated way. As anyone who has labored through the work of Mushtaq Khan, Douglass North, Elinor Ostrom and Oliver Williamson knows, this involves a lot of seemingly arcane terminology – but the payoff can be high.
I have tried to use the analytical concepts to help push the analytical foundation of development practice beyond the tired polarities of Bill Easterly’s best practice, technocrat ‘tyrant experts’ and his bold ‘searchers’, plunging, gloriously free, into the unknown. Rather, as the FP2P review highlights, I use the book’s conceptual platform to identify four distinctive country-types – each characterized by distinctive incentives and constraints to development policymaking and implementation. The aim is to give content to the idea of “good fit”, by exploring in depth how both reform priorities and effective approaches to implementation vary radically and systematically across the country-types — thereby directing attention away from off-the-shelf blueprints and hopefully laying out a practical, analytically grounded set of options that can help us engage constructively with the governance ambiguities of our early 21st century world.