The Primacy of Politics
This was the last presentation of the course and it definitely felt as though it was a nice summary of what I felt to be one of the most useful courses I have so far taken. Although half the class involved group discussions surrounding Brexit, its impact on students in the UK, and thinking politically about how to address concerns, the first half involved a presentation by David Hudson on learning to think and work politically. I found this to be extremely useful because it outlines a more constructive way of working in international development. Decisions need to take politics into account, as stakeholders, interest groups, and individuals all hold biases, interests, and views at heart. In essence, the presentation strongly linked politics to getting things done.
David Hudson, having written a DLP paper with Adrian Leftwich, whose works I have read quite frequently, was obviously well-versed in TWP (Thinking and Working Politically). They co-authored From Political Economy to Political Analysis (2014), a very useful paper on understanding how “politics shapes and frames developmental processes.” The key takeaway here is that politics absolutely matters in the field of international development. In order to get things done, one needs to analyze the stakeholders and the interests and intentions of all involved and be able to work with that in mind. One of the first books I briefly read authored by Adrian Leftwich was States of Development: On the Primacy of Politics in Development (2000). Although its main intention was to present the importance of the primacy of politics in development, the book also countered the insistence that democracy is an absolutely necessary precondition of development. The book argues that politics plays a larger role in development than the technocratic notion of democracy as a necessary prerequisite for development. Adrian Leftwich is able to counter the nation that international development is an ideological, technical, and simplistic orthodoxy and is instead a developing field that should recognize that practitioners needs to be politically aware in their work.
One of the main questions brought up during the presentation was about learning politics: can thinking politically be taught to an individual or organisation, or does one have to have an innate ability to do so. The key is to present the concept of working politically as a necessary skill and to persuade professional to use it in their day-to-day dealings and experiences. It might be true that not everyone can be political in their thought processes, but I believe that it can be introduced on an organizational level.