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Submitted by Heather on

Thanks, all, for an interesting thread. I really appreciate the point (made explicit by Jishnu but hinted at by others) that, without some underlying guiding theory or normative view of where we are trying to get (and with the input of which actors at which junctures), one could look at an underperforming gov (or donor) programme and reasonably conclude either "it's really bad, shut it down" or "it's really bad, give it more money." It seems that one of the fundamental limits with the experimental approach ‘we’ have been taking in development is that there is no plan for what to do – in terms of interpretation or action – with anything except solidly ‘good’ results that something we are already doing works. A common third response to an underperforming gov programme is “it’s really bad, maybe we measured wrong or didn’t let it run long enough to let it perform well.”

As one jumping off point, it seems potentially odd that, as we talk increasingly about needing more political economy, we don’t seem to be talking more about political philosophy and normative views of what a state owes its citizens (and others within its borders) and, in turn, what citizens owe to states. (I think David Booth and the APPP work started to take us there with his conversation of development as a collective action problem and I am not sure it has stimulated adequate discussion or reflection.)

Furthermore, somehow added to any normative conversation about states and citizens, we need to layer on normative views of how external donors should behave, given what states *should* provide for their citizens but fail to do so for a variety of reasons. That is, where does giving cash directly “fit?” I don’t feel like I have heard much of this as all, even within conversations about aid ownership (Paris, Accra).

Finally, I’d be interested in a hearing you expand on the idea of the ‘great giving up’ and placing within the historical arc of development practice. If structural adjustment was a forced pruning back of the state, followed by some excitement about bringing states and institutions back in and focusing on their capacity… where are we now? Did we never really get out of the previous distrust-the-state stage or have we already cycled back to it?