The Historic Origins Of Public Goods: Local Distributional Politics In Rural West Africa, 1880-Present
This dissertation examines why some local governments deliver social services more broadly to citizens than others under democratic decentralization, arguing that the divergent politics of local service delivery are explained by variation in pre-colonial statehood. Specifically, differences in pre-colonial political geography left distinct socio-political legacies in the network relations of local elites: local elites are tied together through mutually-reinforcing claims to authority in areas that were home to pre-colonial states, but they are fragmented and contentious in areas that were acephalous. Following widespread decentralization reforms, it is the relative congruence of newly created local government boundaries with local elite networks that drives distributional politics. Greater overlap between these formal and informal institutions widens the webs of obligations that local elites have to citizens in areas of high network congruence while its absence facilitates the emergence of exclusive identities and incentivizes narrow targeting in the rest of the country. This study demonstrates that distinct distributional patterns are emerging by looking at two locally delivered public goods, primary schools and basic health facilities, in Senegal, a West African nation that was home to a dynamic pre-colonial state system. The project blends quantitative and qualitative data collected during a year of fieldwork to illustrate the link between pre-colonial geography and different forms of local distributional politics. These differences, which only emerged following the 1996 decentralization reforms, were a critical juncture for local elites, who gained control over substantial patronage to redistribute locally. The project therefore contributes to the recent 'historical renaissance' among students of political economy of development by making an important distinction between historical antecedents that are path dependent but not persistent when we 'decompress' history. It further contributes to the literature by emphasizing the social incentives facing local elites over the narrow materialist goals often ascribed to them in the clientelism literature and, finally, it calls attention to the vivid political debates that take place within rural communities, posing a series of implicit questions for the current agendas of decentralized governance and bottom-up development.
Senegal; Public Goods; Historical Legacies
van de Walle,Nicolas
Way,Christopher Robert; Roberts,Kenneth
Ph.D. of Government
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis