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Sina Odugbemi's blog

Quote of the week: Dilma Rousseff

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“When you are a woman in authority, they say you are hard, dry and insensitive, while a man in the same position is strong, firm and charming. One day, after tiring of hearing how tough I was, I said [sarcastically] that yes, that’s right, I am a hard woman surrounded by sweet men; all of them so sweet.” 
 
-
Dilma Rousseff - 36th President of Brazil from 2011 to August 2016.

Quoted in Financial Times  print edition December 10, 2016 "Spectrum | Women of 2016."  

Governance in the Age of Digital Media and ‘Public Sector Branding’

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In the years that I have been working with international development professionals (especially the governance specialists),  I have been baffled by the refusal of many of them  to see the central importance of communication systems as well as communication approaches and techniques to the glories, and the pathologies, of governance systems around the world. So, I have tried to contribute in a small way to the evidence base on the subject by joining others to produce publications like Public Sentinel: News Media and Governance Reform (edited by Pippa Norris), Accountability through Public Opinion: From Inertia to Public Action (edited by Sina Odugbemi and Taeku Lee) and Making Politics Work for the Development: Harnessing Transparency and Citizen Engagement (an effort led by my esteemed colleague, Stuti Khemani). My convictions on the subject arose from having worked in the media and interacted with leaders of governments across West Africa and thereafter working for the government of the UK and seeing how much the media matters to leaders, especially how strong government communication capacity is now at the bladed edge of state effectiveness.

The good news is that political scientists are increasingly taking the phenomenon seriously and studying it. For instance, in the January 2017 edition of Governance: An International Journal of Policy, Administration, and Institutions there is an excellent article titled: “Governance in the Age of Digital Media and Branding “by Alex Marland, J.P. Lewis, and Tom Flanagan, all from three different Canadian universities. I really enjoyed the piece because it is on all fours with my experience inside government. Through a thorough analysis of the Canadian example, especially the years that the Conservatives ruled Canada (2006-2015), the authors are able to make their general point. It is as follows:

The proliferation of Internet connectivity, smartphones, and digital media is revolutionary for society and governance. Political events and information can increasingly be viewed live from almost anywhere. Issues management personnel are branching out from worrying about tomorrow’s headlines to dealing with the last five minutes’ tweets and Instagram posts, and the forward march of technological change suggests that we are on the cusp of real-time media and image management. Continual communications control is the new reality of governance. (p. 125) {Emphasis mine}.

Quote of the week: Fareed Zakaria

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"The world has been transformed by the globalization of goods, services, and information, all of which have produced their share of pain and rejection. But we are now witnessing the globalization of people, and public reaction to that is stronger, more visceral, and more emotional."  

- Fareed Zakaria - host of CNN's international affairs program Fareed Zakaria GPS.

Quoted in Foreign Affairs print edition November/December 2016 "Populism on the March."

Four crises of liberal democracy by Alasdair Roberts

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Angst produced by the current bout of ‘democratic malaise” – that feeling that things are falling apart for the modern world – is often both confused and intense. The new book that I am going to discuss furnishes us with a way of thinking about what might be wrong with liberal democracy in any specific national context that is as elegant and as thought-provoking as anything that I have encountered recently. The formulation is the very opposite of the often bewildered and bewildering musings of perturbed pundits.

The author, Alasdair Roberts, is Professor of Public Affairs at the Truman School of Public Affairs, University of Missouri. He is a Fellow of the US National Academy of Public Administration and co-editor of the journal of Governance (the journal is my favorite on governance matters looked at from a global perspective). In February 2015, Roberts delivered the S.T. Lee Lecture in Political Science and Government at All Souls College, University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. The book I will be discussing is based on the lecture.

The book is actually titled Four Crises of American Democracy. I have chosen my focus …liberal democracy simpliciter… for two reasons. First, the short book is, in parts, self-consciously global, containing as it does examples from around the world. In fact, the first of the six chapters is almost entirely global in focus. Second, I am not interested in discussing the minutiae of American politics. I always try to find generalizable lessons from the books that I decide, from time to time, to review. As you read what follows I urge you to think about your own context. Does the analysis ring true to you? All of it? Some of it? None?

So, what are the four crises of liberal democracy?

Quote of the week: Julia Buxton

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"In any society that enjoys free speech, the tenor of political rhetoric and exchange is a key indicator of the health of its underlying norms. Increasingly throughout the liberal world, the language of misogyny, racism, homophobia, antisemitism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia has become unexceptional, if not mainstream. The significance of this turn in public discourse is not merely that high-profile individuals can deploy such speech from public offices, but that it can so readily be shrugged off, with outrage dismissed as outmoded “political correctness.” What we are witnessing, however, is not a push-back of the bounds of civility but norm regress: an unraveling of the slow, incremental shift in public attitudes that has over many decades made human rights a lived expectation and made bigotry and hatred in all its forms an anathema."

- Julia Buxton - Acting Dean and Professor of Comparative Politics in the School of Public Policy, at the Central European University, Budapest, Hungary.

Buxton, J. (2017), What scholars must do in a time of norm regress. Governance. doi:10.1111/gove.12270

Photo credit: Central European University.

 

Quote of the week: Simon Schama

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“The world is separating into two irreconcilable halves: those who want to live only alongside those who look, pray and speak like them, and those millions in the great ethnically jumbled cities who want to share the neighborhood.”

- Simon Schama - University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University.
Quoted in Financial Times print edition February 4, 2017 "The American dream collides with nativist nightmares" by Simon Schama. 

Photo credit: By Financial Times (Flickr  Uploaded by January) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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When rival fundamentalisms contend within the community

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“A true believer is someone who will kill you for your own good.”
– Anonymous

One of the reasons the world feels so out of joint at the moment is that millions of people appear to have forgotten the lessons from the unspeakable horrors of human history…the wars, the pogroms, the paroxysms of rage. As a result, they have forgotten one of the major achievements of liberal constitutionalism. The idea is a simple one but infinitely difficult to make habitual. When we the people choose to live together in a liberal constitutional democracy anywhere in the world what we have is a thin agreement not a thick one.  The liberal constitution embodies a framework consensus…nothing more. We agree on the basic rules for living together in the same political community and how governments will be both constituted and replaced, their powers are enumerated and so on.

In other words, to live together in a liberal constitutional democracy we don’t have to worship the same Deity. We don’t have to agree on how life ought to be lived in detail. We don’t have to belong to the same ethnic group or tribe or nation. Again, our agreement is a basic one, not deluxe, not super-sized. We agree to let each individual human being of full age and competent understanding to make her own way in the world, work out how best to live her life, what Deity to worship or not, whether to circumcise her son or not…and so on.  This simple idea is a powerful one. It is: live and let live. And it has produced decades of peace in many political communities, and it has provided room for a superabundance of human flourishing and development.

Quote of the week: Satya Nadella

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“I think it is the coming together of liberal arts and sciences that are going to keep the human creativity and ingenuity [alive] in an age where machines are intelligent.”

- Satya Nadella - Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Microsoft.

Quoted in Financial Times print edition January 30, 2017 "The Monday Interview"" by Madhumita Murgia. 

Photo credit:
By OFFICIAL LEWEB PHOTOS [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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Quote of the week: Daniel Hannan

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"The populists always fail in their own terms. Let me be more specific, the protectionists always fail. They always end up delivering the sharpest fall in living standards to the people who are their biggest supporters."

- Daniel Hannan - British politician, writer and journalist.
 
Quoted in Financial Times print edition January 28, 2017 "Lunch with the FT."

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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