The (im)possibility of transferring the developmental state model to Africa and elsewhere

In debates around the transfer of the East Asian developmental state model to other regions it seems that the transfer of this model to Africa has generated the most debate within the literature. There has been dissent around the possibilities for the emergence of developmental states in Africa with some exposing what Musamba entitles the ‘impossibility theorem’ arguing that African states will not be able to become developmental (Musamba 2010, pp.30-31). Thandika Mkandawire’s 2001 article is in essence a refutation of this overtly sceptical view of the possibilities for African states to be developmental.

In his introduction Mkandawire highlights the central disjuncture within the literature on African states regards the developmental state,

“States whose capacity to pursue any national project is denied at one level (theoretical or diagnostic) are extorted, at the prescriptive level, to assume roles that are, ex definicione ,[by definition] beyond their capacity, character or political will.” (Mkandawire 2001, p.289)

This is the central contention according to Mkandawire of much of the literature on the state in Africa, and this characterisation of the literature is not without foundation as much of the literature concerns understanding African states as weak, predatory or kleptocratic. (Jackson and Rosberg 1982; Bayart, Ellis and Hibou 1999; Diamond 2008) He argues that the replication of East Asian successes are seen by other scholars as impossible because of how the African state is viewed as well as other elements such as the international environment. (Mkandawire 2001, 294) Mkandawire rejects that these various characterisations of the African state, and the inability of African states to be developmental pointing to the diversity of African experiences and arguing against the assumptions made within these portraits of African states. Musamba makes similar arguments drawing on Mkandawire’s work to highlight the possibilities for developmental states to emerge in Africa. She highlights in particular (in line with some of the discussion above) the importance of the adaptation of the developmental state model to the African context (Musamba 2010, pp.34 -35).

Mkandawire and Musamba’s rejection of the wholesale denial of the possibility of developmental states emerging in Africa deserves to be taken seriously. However, many of the issues and barriers to the emergence of developmental states in Africa and elsewhere also have considerable purchase. Musamba outlines several arguments of those who espouse the impossibility theorem (2010, pp.30-33). Drawing on her summation, my own categorisation is that there are three key substantial strands to the arguments made about the difficulties of the transferral of the developmental state model.
1. The changed geo-political situation (from when East Asian states became developmental) and increased globalisation.
2. The generic problematic nature of the transfer of institutions.
3. The absence of state capacity and developmental commitment in Africa and elsewhere.

I will not explore the first strand about the changed global economic environment here as the next section deals with this in detail. The third strand I think commits the error of saying that developmental states cannot emerge as they are not currently emerging. As state capacity and commitment are what defines a developmental state saying that they are absent does not mean that they will not be present in the future – of course these processes take time. There are also of course states in Africa and elsewhere that do show promise of state capacity and commitment; Lockwood highlights Tanzania (Lockwood 2005) and others have highlighted Ethiopia and Rwanda

The second strand about the generic problematic of transferring institutions from one context to another and the specificity of the East Asian experience is however highly relevant and has been part of the discussion surrounding developmental states from when the term was coined. Chalmers Johnson was one of the first to layout the character of what he called ‘the Japanese model’ and identify abstract features which other societies could use as a guide (1982, pp.314-5). Interestingly the state which he identified as possibly desiring to learn from Japan’s experience was the United States (Johnson 1982, p.323). Despite Johnson’s outlining of a Japanese model, he also highlights that the significance of Japan’s experience rests on them building on pre-existing ‘assets’ rather than following dogmatically models which had worked elsewhere (1982, p.322). He argues that;

“… other nations seeking to emulate Japan’s achievements might be better advised to fabricate the institutions of their own developmental states from local materials.” (Johnson 1982, p.323)

Peter Evans has a similar view that East Asian lessons could produce development elsewhere if “understood as an invitation to indigenous innovation” (Evans 1998, p.79). For Evans it is the ability of East Asia’s developmental states to reinvent rather than copy that was vital to their success and possibly a key ‘transferable lesson’ (Evans 1998). This does not mean that he rejects attempts at transferring the lessons from the East Asian experience, as he sees it as a way to avoid fatalism and hopefully posits,

“In the best of all possible worlds, African and Latin American countries would follow the lessons generated by the East Asian experience in the same way that East Asian policy-makers followed western models of capitalism: with such originality and inventiveness as to outperform the original.” (Evans 1998, p. 83).

Adaptation and innovation should then be the hallmark of any emerging developmental
state rather than a dogmatic following of the East Asian model. This does not mean however that there are not particular challenges for any developing world state embarking upon an developmental path that were not present for other states when they took a developmental turn. There were specific elements, many of which are laid out above, that were highlight conducive to the emergence of developmental states especially in the East Asian case which contemporary states do not have the advantage of. A number of these are about the altered global economic environment which is dealt with in the next section.

Changed Global Economic Environment

“It is highly unlikely that potential emulators of the Northeast Asian political economies will enjoy anything like the same favourable international conditions as did Japan, Korea and Taiwan” (Pempel 1999, p.180).

Global conditions are vitally important for the emergence of developmental states because in many ways the strategies of developmental states are about a change in the position of the state globally and are also tightly tied into international markets; as Evans argues, “[industrial] transformation is inescapably defined in global terms” (Evans 1995, p.6). The possibilities for states to undergo rapid growth and industrialisation are therefore constrained and shaped by the global environment (Beeson 2004, p.31). The changed nature of these international interactions has a significant impact upon the emergence of developmental states.

There is also literature which examines how globalisation and liberalisation is changing existing developmental states, however, there is not space to explore this here but discussions of this topic can be found in Linda Low’s edited volume (Low, 2004a).
One of the key changes is globalisation and global economic liberalisation. These put particular pressures on developmental states industrial and economic policies. These pressures were less prevalent when the current successful developmental states started to pursue these policies – although they were not absent. In addition, the east Asian states’ significant strategic geopolitical position meant that the US who have subsequently been a key driver behind the pressure to liberalise and open up national markets, in order to level the playing field, were well disposed towards these states and in fact opened up their markets to them. (Chang 2006, p.18; Pempel 1999, p.155). This economic tolerance or support was of course offset for the Americans by the political commitment these states gave to their side in the cold war (Hayashi 2010, p.46). As Beeson states,

“…the tolerant geopolitical environment which saw the US privilege systemic strategic issues over, narrower national economic interests, and which provided the relatively tolerant environment in which the DS [developmental] states flourished, has been overturned” (Beeson 2004, p.32).

This special status in relation to a dominant global power does not apply to new developmental states and the pressure to liberalise has been seen as proposing particular difficulties for states wishing to take a developmental route (Hayashi 2010, p.60; Chang 2006; Wade 2003). Many of the industrial strategies undertaken by developmental states have been protectionist and nationalistic rather than following the neo-liberal free market line. The current global political environment places considerable pressure on countries to liberalise and to open up their markets. Wade has argued that this pressure limits the ‘development space’, in the options available to developing countries to protect their emerging industries; many of which were utilised by the East Asian developmental states (Wade 2003, p.622). Chang however contends that this argument is sometimes overstated and argues that there is an exaggeration of the amount of policy freedom which existed in the pre-World Trade Organisation international trading system and also that the new WTO “constraints are not as widespread and binding as they are usually made out to be” (Chang 2006, p.51).

However, it is not only liberalisation in terms of preventing protectionist industrial policies that impacts newly emerging developmental states, it is also the changed relationships between local and global capital, part of what can be called globalisation. These changed relations place the state in a different position with regards their domestic industrialists who in the East Asian case were reliant on the state in many senses for capital (Evans 1995, p.53; Hayashi 2010, p.62). There has been a weakening globally of states’ control over their own national economies through this process of globalisation (Hayashi 2010, p.46). As governing the market (Wade 1990) has been seen to be at the core of the developmental state this poses a significant difficulty for states wishing to emulate previous developmental state practices. As Evans has it,

“The growing power of global capital and the growing integration of local capital into transnational networks has made close ties with capital riskier and more difficult for a developmental state” (Evans 2011, p.50)

Clearly global capital’s influence is increasing, however, Sandbrook et al. argue that globalization brings significant complementarities for developmental states as well as challenges (Sandbrook et al. 2007, p.227). These centre on global capitals requirements which do not always constitute ‘a race to the bottom’ but which often demonstrate preferences towards states in which services and infrastructure are provided by the state, in which populations are educated and healthy and where the likelihood of disruptive violent unrest is low (Sandbrook et al. 2007, pp. 227-230). However, the increased risks involved for developmental states engaging with capital in a more globalised environment remain, and the social democratic developmental states which Sandbrook et al. study are seen to be exceptions rather than the rule (Sandbrook et al. 2007).13 That said these exceptions merit analysis and the explanation which they have provided for their success is not the avoidance of the risks of global capital but the management of them through provision of social protection (Sandbrook et al. 2007, p.230).

Finally alongside the challenges of liberalisation and globalisation newly emerging developmental states face considerably slowed growth in global markets. Markets were expanding at the time Japanese, Korea, Taiwan and Mauritius were successful in upgrading their economies (Wade, 1990, p.346; Meisenhelder, 1997, p.290). Since then this expansion has slowed considerably which will make it harder if not impossible for states to achieve growth using the same strategies that the East Asian states utilised (Wade 1990, pp.347-8; Hayashi 2010, p.59). Although as Wade argues this does not necessarily mean that there are better policies available and that the strategies of developmental states should be jettisoned (1990, p.348). The change in the markets is not just limited to the declining growth of the markets for goods. There are also connected changes in the labour market globally which affect the strategies which will be necessary for emerging developmental states. Manufacturing jobs were decreasing at the end of the 20th century in both the global south and the global north, even in China often seen as the current hub of manufacturing production (Evans 2011, p. 41). The growing sector of the labour market is the service sector, which requires different types of inputs – centrally argues Evans they require human capabilities (Evans 2010; 2011). This in turn requires a developmental state which looks quite different to its East Asian precursors – the possibilities for different routes to a developmental state are discussed below.

What forms of governance? (Authoritarianism? Democracy?)

Whilst transferring the economic growth and poverty reduction gains of developmental states to other parts of the world is generally seen as laudable if practically difficult, there are also problematic elements of developmental states which have often been authoritarian rather than democratic. (Fritz and Menocal 2007, p.536) This raises debates around the relationship between democracy and the particular state-society relations constructed within developmental regimes. As we have seen from Evans concept of embedded autonomy there is a need for the bureaucracy to be shielded from demands of society for it to be autonomous. Democracy in itself has been seen as problematic for the emergence of developmental states due, to the short-termism that electoral politics can breed, as opposed to the long view that those pursuing a developmental vision in developmental states can take (Kelsall and Booth 2010, p.27). Although as Sandbrook et al argue; “It is disputable that authoritarian governments are any less prone to instability and unpredictability than democratic ones” (2007, p.23). This is often seen to conflict with the frequent calls of western donors for accountability and democracy – often discussed as good governance. There is then, much debate within the literature on the possibilities for, and existence of, democratic developmental states. The anti-democratic nature of many developmental states is seen by some scholars to be problematic in-and-of-itself, or in regards to specific issues such as – environmental justice. (Neo, 2007)

The importance of the nature of the regime (authoritarian or democratic) for the emergence of developmental states has been one of the key debates within the developmental states literature. In part this is because democratisation has been a key plank of western development policy and the developmental properties of authoritarianism is thus a significant challenge to this stance. As long ago as 1998 Gordon White highlighted that there was no longer a consensus on the positive developmental properties of democratisation (White 1998, p.5). This shift was in part due to the successes of the East-Asian authoritarian developmental states. A number of factors have been posited to constitute a positive linkage between authoritarianism and the emergence of developmental states. An authoritarian government is seen to be able to take a longer term view (Johnson 1987, p.143). The state is also able to suppress, or ignore, interest groups demands which allows for the necessary bureaucratic autonomy (Wade 1990, p. 375).
Authoritarianism is not however seen by scholars as necessarily being developmental (White 1998, p.7; Fritz and Menocal 2007, p.536). Vu argues that the suppression of the masses, as opposed to their incorporation, allows for the construction of a developmental structure (2007, p.30). But all authoritarian states do not build this developmental structure (Vu 2007, p.49). The linkage between regime type – democracy or authoritarianism – and growth generally seems to be weak (Haggard 2004, p.59). However, this does not explain the clustering of developmental authoritarian regimes in East-Asia (Haggard 2004, p.60). The problem with this argument may be as Vu identifies that Authoritarianism (and indeed democracy) are too broader terms which encompass a vast range possible sets of state society relations (2007, p.48).

The literature which discusses the emergence of new developmental states particularly in Africa – has however argued that they are likely to be democratic. This is in part because as White has argued the majority of states are now democratic (White 1998). However, it is also an aspiration with many advising that this is what would bring about the ‘best’ developmental outcomes (Edigheji, 2005; Musamba 2010). There are of course already democratic developmental states significantly Japan and Botswana. Democracy may however change the nature of developmental states by requiring a broader based coalition as in Botswana (Poteete, 2009) rather than the narrower one in South Korea (Vu, 2007). After all Evans argues that it was a fairly narrow group of bureaucrats and industrialists with whom the dense links of embeddedness were formed in the east Asian developmental state cases he looks at. However, he also looks at case studies in India and Austria and suggests that, “…a broadly defined embeddedness may offer a more robust basis for transformation in the long run. This suggestive evidence argues for further exploration of potential variations of embedded autonomy” (Evans 1995, p.17).

So for Evans broader incorporation of social groups such as labour and other civil society interests under a democracy may in fact be possible and desirable in newly emergent developmental states.

Evans has recently developed these ideas in a recent chapter and paper, where he argues that the 21st century developmental state will in contrast to its 20th century version need to build close ties and be embedded in a broad cross section of society (Evans 2010; 2011). This is because he sees the 21st century developmental state as centrally being a capability enhancing state, looking to promote the capabilities of their citizenry through provision of collective goods such as, health and education (Evans 2010; 2011). He does not see this as a complete departure from the developmental state model of the East Asian states and highlights the high levels of investment in education (Evans 2010, p. 5; Evans 2011; p.47). However, the focus on the development of capabilities means that the ‘knowledge’ required by the state cannot be obtained only by building the close ties that Evans and other documented between business leaders and the bureaucracy in the East Asian case (Evans, 1995; Moon and Prassad 1994). Instead there will be an acute need for “information on collective priorities at the community level” (Evans 2011, p.49). This requires that policies are not created by technocrats rather Evans argues they “must be derived from democratically organised public deliberation” (Evans 2011, p.43).
What type of bureaucracy?

State capacity and the effectiveness of the state, in that it is able to act and attain significant progress towards most of its goals, continues to be an essential foundational element of developmental states (Evans 2010, p.3). The establishment of effective states, generally with high levels of bureaucratic capacity, is seen as a prerequisite for the development of a developmental state (Leftwich 2008, p.4). The nature of the bureaucracy as has been discussed is seen to be vital for the emergence of a developmental state. The bureaucracies of developmental states are generally seen to be in a number of ways close to the Weberian ideal. Their staffing is seen to be significant. The civil service in a developmental state is usually seen to be: recruited along meritocratic grounds from top universities; possess prestige as a career; have clear merit based promotion prospects; and have a sense of internal cooperate coherence (Johnson, 1982; Evans, 1995). However, Evans cautions against assuming that a ‘super bureaucracy’ staffed by ‘incorruptible super-bureaucrats’ are needed for developing states to move towards becoming developmental states (1998, p. 79). He argues that whilst there does need to be more than ‘pockets of efficiency’ (which in earlier work he identified as present in Brazil (Evans 1995, p.61)), minimal norms of probity and competence” will suffice in general and radical transformation of bureaucratic practice can be reserved for agencies key to economic policy and planning (Evans 1998, p.79-80).

The nature of the bureaucracy required may also vary in future developmental states as they may be required to undertake quite different roles to those required of the East Asian developmental state bureaucrats. Evans has recently argued the 21st century developmental state will need to be a capability-enhancing state. The role of the bureaucracy in this conception of the developmental state is quite different. One of the key roles of the state, in this model, is to facilitate the co-production of capability-enhancing services through building links with civil society actors which allow for a consensus about the provision of collective goods such as education and health to be researched (Evans 2011, p.49). The skills and dispositions required for these kinds of activities are very different to those needed by East Asian bureaucrats who manipulated industrial policy in order to promote growth. However the bureaucracy still requires a high level of competency, state capacity and effectiveness are essential to the success of a 21st century developmental state. In fact more competence is likely to be required due to the higher levels of direct involvement and provision involved in this model (Evans 2010, p.7).

Within the literature there seems to be some consensus that if developmental states emerge in the near future these will look remarkably different to the states originally labelled as developmental. How useful labelling states as developmental states in contexts where these states cannot be said to possess the attributes originally associated with the category remains an open question. There could be perceived gains for states attempting to perform some kinds of developmental roles through the association with states which are seen as ‘successful’.

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