, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 30-52

Development as institutional change: The pitfalls of monocropping and the potentials of deliberation

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Development theory has moved from a single-minded focus on capital accumulation toward a more complex understanding of the institutions that make development possible. Yet, instead of expanding the range of institutional strategies explored, the most prominent policy consequence of this “institutional turn” has been the rise of “institutional monocropping”: the imposition of blueprints based on idealized versions of Anglo-American institutions, the applicability of which is presumed to transcend national circumstances and cultures. The disappointing results of monocropping suggest taking the institutional turn in a direction that would increase, rather than diminish, local input and experimentation. The examples of Porto Alegre, Brazil, and Kerala, India, reinforce Amartya Sen’s idea that “public discussion and exchange” should be at the heart of any trajectory of institutional change, and flag potential gains from strategies of “deliberative development” which rely on popular deliberation to set goals and allocate collective goods.

Peter Evans teaches in the Sociology Department at the University of California, Berkeley, where he holds the Marjorie Meyer Eliaser Chair of International Studies. He is currently exploring the role of labor as a transnational social movement. His earlier research has focused on the role of the state in industrial development, an interest reflected in his bookEmbedded Autonomy: States and Industrial Transformation (Princeton University Press 1995). He is also interested in urban environmental issues, as indicated by the recent edited volume,Livable Cities: Urban Struggles for Livelihood and Sustainability (University of California Press 2002).
I would like to thank the editors, Atul Kohli, Dani Rodrik, and Anne Wetlerberg for their valuable comments and suggestions. Remaining analytical and empirical errors are, of course, my own. For an earlier effort (in Portugese) to make this argument, see Evans 2003.