Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 September 2009
Michel Foucault once told an interviewer that it was important to be humble in the face of apparent social irruptions. We should be properly alert, he said, to continuities of history and geography, and not constantly on the look out for markers of ‘the new’ or what today might be called ‘the post-’. This is surely good advice, and we need to bear it in mind when discussing issues like participation and good governance. The idea that states in the past have not been concerned with good government is clearly wrong. The emergence of biopolitics is one strong indicator of the responsibilities that governments are meant to have to their populations. Nevertheless, there is a strong perception in the development community that state failure and bad governance have become important issues since the 1970s, and this perception has been linked to a broader critique of rent-seeking behaviour, simple predation, and dirigiste development.
In the next part of the chapter we review some of the debates that have attended the rise of the good governance agenda. We shall also follow Adrian Leftwich and Rob Jenkins in drawing attention to the ways in which the agendas of good governance can be said to depoliticize accounts of development and rule. They do so, not least, by refusing to pay close attention to questions of state capabilities, and the incapacity of some regimes to secure control over their territories.