Chapter 8 – Return to the Extremes

Neither “good” nor “bad” is destiny, and indeed the theory can also explain how municipalities can be transformed over time. Chapter 8 returns to Viacha and Charagua twelve years later to examine persistence and change in governance. We find transformation in both; most dramatically, in Viacha, from dismal performance to a capable administration that invited citizen participation and gave quarterly public reports. In Charagua, decision-making had been driven deep down into the social fabric – small, dispersed Guaraní communities – resulting in a multiplication of participation and information amongst villagers, and of accountability to them. In both municipalities, transformation was driven by the emergence of dense networks of civic organizations that organized and educated citizens, amplified their voice, and represented their interests in the local government process. But this ascendancy of civil society, which occurred in both municipalities, is insufficient to explain the transformation of either. Civil society could only emerge in Viacha after the withdrawal of the CBN from public life ended systematic political and electoral distortions. And Guarani society’s emergence in Charagua is tied to the decline of the cattle ranching economy. Hence the transformation of governance in both was driven by the interaction of private sector actors with civic organizations. In each place, civic groups interacted with economic actors to support a local politics that was increasingly open, competitive and focused on local needs. This led, in turn, to improving responsiveness and accountability, as the theory predicts.

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