For jargon junkies

Book>> An Intelligent Person's Guide to Good Governance by Surendra Munshi, Biju Paul Abraham and Soma Chaudhuri Sage, Delhi Rs 270

By Shefali Kukreti
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015 | 03:16:47 AM

-- Book>> An Intelligent Person's Guide to Good Governance by Surendra Munshi, Biju Paul Abraham and Soma Chaudhuri Sage, Delhi Rs 270

The book under review is titled inappropriately. It should have been called the Intelligent Person's Guide to Concepts and Theories of Good Governance, instead of the Intelligent Person's Guide to Good Governance. The difference between the two monikers pertains to readership. An evocation to concepts and theories attracts academia, while a focus on the practice of good governance means a wider audience--described rather condescendingly in publishing parlance as the interested layperson.

For a layperson good governance is about mechanisms, processes and institutions through which citizens can articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights, meet their obligations and mediate their differences.

Government is one of the actors in governance. Other actors may include influential landlords, associations of peasant farmers, cooperatives, research institutes, religious leaders, finance institutions, political parties and the military.

Down to Earth Viewed as an interplay between different social actors, the idea of good governance is as old as civilization. But since the 1990s the terms "governance" and "good governance" are being increasingly used in development literature. Donors and international financial institutions are increasingly basing aid and loans on the condition there are reforms to ensure "good governance".

The volume under review does a commendable job in showing there is much more to concepts of good governance than what current development literature would allow. But the volume does not quite live up to its title The Intelligent Person's Guide To Good Governance. We are sometimes tantalized by examples from Malaysia and India of Nehru's times. But there is very little on institutions and practice of good governance. In fact, the authors only come to grips with the title of their book in the last chapter--rather curiously called an appendix. They argue that any serious engagement with good governance must go beyond a reliance on the market and explore other avenues of public participation. What are these avenues? How are they faring today?.

A theory scanner will find a lot in this book. A layperson can give it a go.

Shefali Kukreti is with the Indian Administrative Services. The views here are her own

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