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Local GovtReading GroupState Reform

Reading Power and Patronage in an Approach to Local Government in South Africa

By March 7, 2018April 21st, 2020No Comments


People interested in joining this reading group should please complete this form. 

Or go to the WiSER site

Hosts: The reading group is jointly hosted by PARI, CUBES and WISER.

Participants: The reading group will be open to interested researchers, post-graduate students or practitioners in the state.

Facilitators: Facilitators for each session will be chosen based on familiarity with the set texts.

Focus areas: Corruption, patronage politics, clientelism, political machines, neo-patrimonialism, rent-seeking, economic development, democracy, violence, and their interrelation in the modern state.

Regularity: Fortnightly, on Wednesday afternoon, 2pm to 5pm.

Venue: WISER, 6th Floor, Richard Ward Building, East Campus, WITS


South African political debate, today, very often in some way refers to ‘corruption’. The concept is pervasive in news and public opinion. It is often said to be the ANC’s most fundamental challenge, reflected in its most prominent factional battles. In the broader party system, corruption is a touchstone of opposition. In organised society, it has become an active concern of a diverse range of interest groups; a common complaint in multiple forms of popular contention. Policy debates and processes, around for instance national government’s regulatory centres such as the National Treasury, the Department of Public Service and Administration, and the Department of Local Government and Traditional Affairs, are today commonly crafted around the corruption issue. Presidents are said to rise and fall, whole epochs are observed to end and begin, because of corruption.

The reading group engages with the historical and sociological realities that underlie this discursive effusion. It is interested, though, less with corruption, than with the rationales and relations that underpin social arrangements that are often understood to be corrupt. It considers rent-seeking, patronage, clientelism, neopatrimonialism, political machines, and similar phenomena. It engages with commonly related dynamics, to do with democracy, economic development, political authoritarianism and violence. It approaches these through both idiographic and nomothetic literatures. The reading group has been designed by people primarily interested in working at the scale of local government, a focus which is thread through the reading schedule, but it draws on global work, which is also sometimes cast at a global scale.

Indeed, ‘corrupt’ dynamics can only be fully understood at a global scale, in world-historical terms, with a critical mind. The term ‘corruption’, and consequently much analysis of patronage, political machines, kleptocracies, and so on, are not meaningful except in relation to some set of norms and standards. In the contemporary world, these latter have been profoundly set by the West, substantially in course of its imperial encounter with the rest of the world. Particularly, the modern state and bureaucracy, while only derivatively Western inventions, have been extended in ways that are Eurocentric and racialised, gendered and classed. The reading begins with Europe’s own narrative, moving into the less definite ground of the United States, through into currents of modernisationism, neo-Weberianism, comparative sociology and political science, public choice, and beyond. Some care, however, has been taken to thread through significant, but rarely appreciated, critical departures, so we’ll read about the role of anti-corruption in rolling back the advances of black reconstruction in America, the domestic anti-corruption war in Nigeria, continuing into Marxisant, post-colonial, and other approaches, including sessions where participants can bring their own work on local government and other areas in South Africa, and suggest their own readings.

Reading Schedule:

Session 1: The European narrative and modern bureaucratisation

Jacobsen, S.G. 2015. ‘Prussian Emulations of a Chinese Meritocratic Ideal? Early Modern Europe Debating How China Selected Civil Servants’, Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 38 (3), pp. 425-41

Bluntschli, J.C. 1852. ‘The Conception and Idea of the State’, ‘The human idea of the State’, ‘The Modern Idea of the State’, ‘Constitutional Monarchy (excerpt: 397-400)’, and ‘The Modern Principle of Division of Powers’ In: The Theory of the State, 3rd Edition. D.G. Ritchie, P.E. Matheson and R. Lodge (trans) 1895. Oxford: Clarendon Press

Weber, M. 1922. ‘Bureaucracy’ and ‘Patriarchalism and Patrimonialism’ In: Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology. G. Roth and C. Wittich (trans). 1968. London: University of California Press

Date: 7th March

Session 2: The American tradition: the rise of the spoils system and the urban machines

Fish, C.R. 1905. ‘Genesis of the spoils system’ and ‘Establishment of the spoils system under Jackson’ In: The Civil Service and the Patronage. New York: Longmans, Green, and Co.

Merriner, J.L. 2004. Grafters and Goo Goos: Corruption and Reform in Chicago, 1833-2004. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press

Merton, R.K. 1968. ‘Some functions of the political machine’ In: Social Theory and Social Structure. New York: The Free Press

Date: 14th March

Session 3: The American tradition: theories of urban politics

Dahl, R. 1961. ‘The Nature of the Problem’ and ‘From Oligarchy to Pluralism’ In: Who Governs? Democracy and Power in an American City. New Haven: Yale University Press

Stone, C. 1989. ‘Urban Regimes: A Research Perspective’, ‘The Era of Negotiated Settlements’, ‘Protests and Coalitional Stress’, ‘Challenge and Response’, ‘Atlanta’s Urban Regime’, ‘Equity and Effectiveness’ and ‘Rethinking Community Power’ In: Regime Politics: Governing Atlanta, 1946-1988. Lawrence, KA: University Press of Kansas

Date: 28th March

Session 4: The American tradition: spoils, reform and Du Bois’ history of the counter-revolution of property in the South

Wilson, W. 1898. ‘Earliest Forms of Government’ and ‘Nature and Forms of Government’ In: The State: Elements of Historical and Practical Politics. Boston: D.C. Heath and Co.

Wilson, W. 1887. ‘The Study of Administration’, Political Science Quarterly, 2 (2), pp. 197-222

Skowronek, S. 1982. ‘The early American state’, ‘Patching civil administration’ and ‘Reconstituting civil administration’ In: Building a New American State: The Expansion of National Administrative Capacities, 1877-1920. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press

Du Bois, W.E.B. 1934. ‘Looking Forward’, ‘The Price of Disaster’ and ‘Counter-Revolution of Property’ In: Black Reconstruction: An Essay toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860-1880. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company

Date: 11th April

Session 5: Contemporary South Africa I

Focusing on work on South African local government, participants and others can submit their own work for discussion, with the remainder of the around 120-page marker covered by suggestions as to published work.

Date: 25th April

Session 6: Modernisation and dissent

Huntington, S.P. 1968. ‘Political Order and Political Decay’ In: Political Order in Changing Societies. New Haven: Yale University press

Fanon, F. 1963. ‘The Trials and Tribulations of National Consciousness’ In: R. Philcox (trans) 2004. The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Press

Ekeh, P. 1975. ‘Colonialism and the Two Publics in Africa: A Theoretical Statement’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 17 (1), pp. 91-112

Von Holdt, K. 2010. ‘Nationalism, bureaucracy and the developmental state: the South African case’, South African Review of Sociology, 41 (1), pp. 4-27

Wallerstein, I. 2004. ‘The Rise of the States-System: Sovereign Nation-States, Colonies, and the Interstate System’ In: World-Systems Analysis: An Introduction. Durham: Duke University Press

Date: 16th May

Session 7: Marxisant analyses of clientelism and urban growth machines

Flynn, P. 1974. ‘Class, clientelism, and coercion: Some mechanisms of internal dependency and control’, Journal of Commonwealth and Comparative Politics, 12 (2), pp. 133-56

Mouzelis, N. 1986. ‘Modes of Transition to Post-Oligarchic Politics’ and ‘Theoretical Implications I: Clientelism and Populism as Modes of Political Incorporation’ In: Politics in the Semi-Periphery: Early Parliamentarism and Late Industrialization in the Balkans and Latin America. New York: MacMillan

Jessop, B. J. Peck and A. Tickell. 1999. ‘Retooling the Machine: Economic Crisis, State Restructuing, and Urban Politics’ In: A.E.G. Jonas and D. Wilson (eds) The Urban Growth Machine: Critical Perspectives, Two Decades Later. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press

Date: 30th May

Session 8: Neopatrimonialism and its critics

Roth, G. 1968. ‘Personal Rulership, Patrimonialism, and Empire-Building in the New States’, World Politics, 20, pp. 194–206

Chabal, P. and J.P. Daloz. 1999. ‘The Moral Economy of Corruption’ and ‘The Political Instrumentalisation of Disorder’ In: Africa Works: Disorder as Political Instrument. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press

De Sardan, O. and G. Blundo. 2006. ‘Corruption in Africa and the social sciences’, ‘Everyday corruption in West Africa’ and ‘An Ordered Corruption? The social world of public procurement’ In: Susan Cox (trans) Everyday Corruption and the State: Citizens and Public Officials in Africa. Cape Town: David Philip

Mkandawire, T. 2001. ‘Thinking about developmental states in Africa’, Cambridge Journal of Economics, 25 (3), pp. 289-314

Date: 20th June

Session 9: Nuhu Ribadu’s anti-corruption war in Nigeria

Adebanwi, W. 2012. Authority Stealing: Anti-Corruption War and Democratic Politics in Post-Military Nigeria. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press

Date: 4th July

Session 10: Contemporary South Africa II

Focusing on work on South African local government, participants and others can submit their own work for discussion, with the remainder of the around 120-page marker covered by suggestions as to published work.

Date: 18th July

Session 11: Comparative clientelism: the sociological approach

Eisenstadt, S.N. and L. Roniger. 1984. ‘Personal relations, trust and ambivalence in relation to the institutional order’, ‘The construction of trust in the social and its ambivalence’, ‘The structuring of trust in society’, ‘The basic characteristics and variety of patron-client relations’ and ‘The social conditions generating patron-client relations’ In: Patrons, clients and friends: Interpersonal relations and the structure of trust in society. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press

Date: 1st August

Session 12: Comparative clientelism: the strategic turn

Shefter, M. 1977. ‘Party and Patronage: Germany, England, and Italy’, Politics and Society, 7 (4), pp. 403-451

Kitschelt, H. and S.I. Wilkinson. 2007. ‘Citizen-politician linkages: an introduction’ In: Patrons, Clients, and Policies: Patterns of Democratic Accountability and Political Competition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Auyero, J. 2000. ‘The logic of clientelism in Argentina: an ethnographic account’, Latin America Research Review, 35 (3), pp. 55-81

Van de Walle, N. 2007. ‘Meet the new boss, same as the old boss? The evolution of political clientelism in Africa’ In: H. Kitschelt and S.I. Wilkinson (eds) Patrons, Clients, and Policies: Patterns of Democratic Accountability and Political Competition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Date: 15th August

Session 13: Public choice and the political economy of rent-seeking

Niskanen, W.A. 1987. ‘Bureaucracy’ In: C.K. Rowley (ed) Democracy and Public Choice. Oxford: Basil Blackwell

Bates, R.H. 1981. ‘The Market as a Political Arena and the Limits of Voluntarism’, ‘Rental Havens and Protective Shelters’ and ‘The Origins of Political Marginalism’ In: Markets and States in Tropical Africa. Los Angeles: University of California Press

Kahn, M.H. 2000. ‘Rents, Efficiency and Growth’ and ‘Rent-seeking as Process’ In: M.H. Kahn and Jomo K.S. (eds) Rents, Rent-seeking and Economic Development: Theory and Evidence in Asia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Date: 29th August

Session 14: Limited and open access orders

North, D.C., J.P Wallis and B.R. Weingast. 2009. ‘The Natural State’, ‘Open Access Orders’ and ‘The Transition from Limited to Open Access Orders’ In: Violence and Social Orders: A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Date: 12th September

Session 15: Governmentality, neoliberal bureaucratisation, articulation, patronage and violence

Foucault, M. 1978. ‘Governmentality’ In: Burchell, G. C. Gordon and P. Miller (Eds.) 1990. The Foucault effect: studies in governmentality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Slobodian, Q. 2018. [ONLY PUBLISHING IN MARCH, CHAPTERS TO BE DECIDED] Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press

Hibou, B. 1999. ‘From Privatising the Economy to Privatising the State: an Analysis of the Continual Formation of the State’ In: B. Hibou (ed) Privatising the State. United Kingdom: C. Hurst & co. Ltd

Springer, S. 2011. ‘Articulated neoliberalism: the specificity of patronage, kleptocracy, and violence in Cambodia’s neoliberalization’, Environment and Planning A, 43, pp. 2554-70

Rodgers, D. 2006. ‘The State as a Gang: Conceptualizing the Governmentality of Violence in Contemporary Nicaragua’, Critique of Anthropology, 26 (3), pp. 315-30

Date: 26th September

Session 16: Contemporary South Africa III

Focusing on work on South African local government, participants and others can submit their own work for discussion, with the remainder of the around 120-page marker covered by suggestions as to published work.

Date: 10th October

Overall programme schedule:

Session 1:           7th March

Session 2:           14th March

Session 3:           28th March

Session 4:           11th April

Session 5:           25th April

Session 6:           16th May

Session 7:           30th May

Session 8:           20th June

Session 9:           4th July

Session 10:         18th July

Session 11:         1st August

Session 12:         15th August

Session 13:         29th August

Session 14:         12th September

Session 15:         26th September

Session 16:         10th October