Between State and Citizen: Decentralization, Institutions, and Accountability
Between State and Citizen: Decentralization, Institutions, and Accountability, a review of Going Local: Decentralization, democratization, and the promise of good governance by Merilee S. Grindle and Controlling Governments: Voters, Institutions, and Accountability edited by José María Maravall and Ignacio Sánchez-Cuenca. 2010. India Review. Vol. 9, No. 2.
Are politicians accountable to the demands of their citizens? What facilitates political behavior that meets citizen needs and desires? Under what circumstances will citizens reject politicians who fail in this task? The two books considered in this review essay attempt to answer these questions largely through empirical analyses of politician and citizen behavior. These works touch on two distinct but related topics in comparative politics—the ability of governments to govern and the reaction of citizens to government performance. While Grindle assesses the capacity of governments to deal with changing patterns of authority and responsibility, the contributors to the Maravall and Sánchez-Cuenca volume focus primarily on understanding, first, how and why citizens reward and punish politicians in particular ways and, second, how politicians respond to this expected behavior. In both cases, while many potential state and societal characteristics are taken into account, the nature of formal institutions plays a predominant role
in explaining the behavior of both politicians and their constituents. Jennifer Bussell is a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Asian Democracy, University of Louisville.86 India Review Given the differing theoretical agendas of these two books, I will, for the most part, discuss them separately. In both cases, I will focus on the relevance of these analyses, grounded in general theories but evaluated largely in the context of Western Europe and Mexico, for
understanding the dynamics of political behavior in India. It is true that the specific empirical realities examined here may have only limited similarities with micro-level Indian politics. What these works provide, rather the prospect of direct empirical comparisons, is instead an opportunity for broadening the range of theoretical and empirical analyses in India. In other words, I argue that these works are most relevant for shedding light on new or under analyzed questions which, if posed to the Indian case, could provide important new insights into the behavior of both citizens and their representatives.
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