Colonial Histories Shape Future Development Research Proposal

Excerpt from Research Proposal :

People can feel more comfortable if their sense of safety results from a strong national security. Political leadership in cohesive-capitalist countries typically has a firm grip on the labor force, albeit sometimes the leadership becomes "repressive and authoritarian" and leaders are known to use nationalism (extreme patriotism) as a driver to keep people believing in the state.

A states that Kohli identifies as having pursued a cohesive-capitalist approach to economy and governing is South Korea under Park Chung Hee. Another country that has historically exhibited a cohesive-capitalist approach is Brazil. Both of those countries have experienced some success, Kohli goes on.

The fragmented-multiclass states have policies that lie somewhere between the two extremes previously mentioned. The leaders in fragmented-multiclass states are held accountable for more dynamics in their societies than others in the previous two state descriptions. For example, on page 215 Kohli states that India and Brazil during several periods in their nations' histories have exemplified what he terms the fragmented-multiclass approach. Leaders in the fragmented-multiclass must worry about political support because there are so many competing factions in their constituencies. They must try to make many different cultural groups within their societies happy -- and that is never easy. Kohli calls this satisfying "multiple constituencies" by pursuing "several goals simultaneously.

Typically a leader in a fragmented-multiclass society must push all the right buttons to ensure economic stability -- through progressive industrialization policies -- but that is only one of his or her concerns. Also that leader must be concerned with "…agricultural development, economic redistribution, welfare provision, and maintaining national sovereignty" (Kohli, p. 215). Leaders in a fragmented-multiclass society certainly must be able to deliver promises, but typically, the leader in this kind of state promises far more than he or she can actually deliver.

Is the United States a Fragmented-Multiclass State?

The more Kohli describes fragmented-multiclass states the more that description seems to fit the United States in many respects. To wit, the fragmented-multiclass leader faces a more politicized situation when trying to make policy -- and anyone watching the current vigorous (and sometimes mean-spirited) debate in the U.S. Congress over health care reform can clearly see a politicized and highly polarized dynamic. So far in this debate only one member of the opposition party (the Republicans) have signed on to the possibility of the government offering a "public option" for those with no insurance. The private sector (lobbyists for insurance companies) flexes muscle and influence in national political workings and that could be seen to be helping in the fragmentation of the American society -- a "multiclass" dynamic in action.

Meantime, Kohli (p. 217) explains that fragmented-multiclass is more "normal" than the other two. This is true, he asserts, because it is normal for a government to have a hard time getting the citizens to accept higher taxes. And having the society accept certain priorities on public spending that goes beyond national security and the growth of the economy is difficult across the board in many societies. Moreover, the "normal" description fits well because power at the top of the political ladder often "evolves into cronyism" (p. 217). It is disheartening to admit that cronyism is "normal" but alert readers and students of governments have to side with Kohli's explanations in this regard.

And so, where does colonialism come into this discussion? Chu barely mentioned colonialism albeit on page 665 he alludes to South Korea in the 1970s when the military "elite" pushes aside a democratically elected government. That takeover by the military stifled student dissent but it did reorganize the state structure "around the task of bringing about rapid industrialization" (Chu, p. 665).

Meantime Kohli (p. 220) states that the "bald emphasis on colonialism as a determinant of state forms in the developing world needs to be qualified." Not all the countries he and Chu have alluded to and examined have colonial histories that in positive ways link to the present economic and political realities. But India, certainly, is an example of a country whose colonial past relates to the present. The postcolonial India of course managed to become a powerful player in the global economy. But Kohli reminds readers that the nationalist movement in India -- which in the end proved to be powerful enough to push Britain out -- "…was itself not unrelated to the character of British colonialism." In other words, the Indian nationalist movement learned enough from what went into the British Empire to use those tactics for its own liberation.

The bottom line when it comes to linking colonialism with how a given country behaves economically and politically in the new millennium, every country has its own devices and distractions to stand in the way of progress. As Kohli puts it (p. 227), the problems of "growth and distribution" are totally different in India compared with Brazil. What it takes to best grasp and pursue solutions to developmental problems are "committed national leaders" blessed with "effective state machineries and with some room to maneuver in a global political economy."

Works Cited

Chu, Yun-han. "State Structure and Economic Adjustment of the East Asian Newly…

Sources Used in Document:

Works Cited

Chu, Yun-han. "State Structure and Economic Adjustment of the East Asian Newly

Industrializing Countries." International Organization 43.4 (1989): 647-672.

Kohli, Atul. "States and Economic Development." Brazilian Journal of Political

Economy 29.2 (2009): 212-227.

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