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The Impact of the Postmodern Condition on the Administrative Transformation of Developing Countries

A note for our readers: the views reflected by the authors do not reflect the views of ASPA.

By Mehmet Yesilbas

yesilbas aprilMy previous article, Postmodern Politics: An Evaluation on Administrative Transformation,’ emphasized that the 20th century was an era of intensive analysis of democracy and policy. From this debate, several ideologies have arisen to find solutions to the political dilemma. Owing to the argument that policy and democracy suffer in developing countries, compounded with the fact that existing doctrines may not offer rational solutions to contemporary problems, new approaches are suggested. Postmodern politics is one of them.

In order to understand the effects of postmodern politics and political conditions, one might reference Lyotard’s study, The Differend: Phrases in Dispute. In it, he defines the ‘differend’ as “the unstable state and instant of language wherein something which must be able to be put into phrases cannot yet be… the human beings who thought they could use language as an instrument of communication, learn through the feeling of pain which accompanies silence.” According to Lyotard, there are several patterns in language and narratives where a common subtext is assumed and in reality, subjectivity is relative to perspective. For instance, when one mentions ‘there is a universal truth,’ Lyotard asserts the phenomenon is totally relative, since it is impossible to reach a universal norm or meaning based on language. Because of this analysis, he reaches a ‘pluralism of justice,’ formulating several concepts and patterns for justice or fairness.

Limited resources, a potential for adverse conjuncture and the framework of the language used further complicate evaluation of postmodern politics and conditions in developing countries. Hence, it is highly probable that any discussion might fall victim to subjectivity. Modernity constructs itself in a system, in all reason, since it is concerned about clarifying and categorizing the unknown or dynamic. The only way to deal with the anxiety stemming from undifferentiated turmoil is to create an order from the chaos with rationality. Hence, the integrity of Lyotard, which is identified in his 1984 book, The Postmodern Condition, and the unified system identified by Derrida are the preconditions of stability and order. The emerging study will be proceeded by the meta-narratives created subjectively within the prevailing scientific society. Within this context, integrity refers to homogeneity and coherence. Any differences not uniformly assimilated or integrated into the emerging narrative might provoke turmoil, panic and extinction concerns.

The basic assumption of a postmodern perspective is that the meaning and function of the subject matter is not the same within each context. For example, emerging political or philosophical currents in developing countries may have a deliberate mission, such as eliminating the nation state, in contrast to a western partisan-focused policy progression. Applying the postmodern perspective to the administrative transformation of developing countries relies on the concepts of subjective versus universal, special versus general and local versus central. As a natural consequence, transformation regarding a nation or unitary state is the main discussion of developing countries. The processes regarding the administrative shift in the developing countries generally arise as follows: ‘existing’ is suppressed and deliberately ignored, pushing away into an unconscious mind. It is replaced with other neutral conditions. The power of the new neutral condition is exaggerated and idealized.

The nation state is a societal unit defined by modernity as a whole and not the individual/citizen, and therefore those elements must undergo change. Subjectivity must move from the state to the individual or local perspective. Within this context, developing countries face the obligation to reconsider administrative policies formed in the predominant centralized approach common within a nation state perspective. A central government with strict hierarchical bureaucracy prevailed as the main model of public policy and service delivery for over a century in developing countries. This traditional model primarily utilized direct service delivery tools with little or no involvement of external players in the entire process. Currently, the spread of information technology is leading to a robust societal and economic transformation. In addition, the proliferation of globalization brings challenges not only to the conventional government paradigm, but also to its instruments.

The new approach developing countries have adopted mainly aims to eliminate the drawbacks of the centralized system. Hence, these countries went into a rebuilding process by dismantling the highly centralized model, policy and tools used for last decades. Within this context, the challenge of management is to grant units organized outside the central administration with greater autonomy, information and control of resources.

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2 Responses to The Impact of the Postmodern Condition on the Administrative Transformation of Developing Countries

  1. Pingback: Glocalization: The New Form of the Colonialist Mindset or a Way Out? | PA TIMES Online

  2. Steve Wallis Reply

    July 24, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    I think that this is one of the most important topics for our new century – perhaps the millennium. Not only do we have failure of top-down bureaucracies and autocratic states, we also have bottom-up failure on the national scale (e.g. Somalia) and the local scale wherever there is urban blight (e.g. Oakland, California).

    However, I don’t believe that a postmodern perspective (alone) will solve the problem. Individuality is an unstable situation. Even if all states were magically disbanded, people would join to create new states. Also, if we push for the destruction of states, the states will push back. That will not be beneficial to any of us!

    Our need goes beyond the postmodern understanding. Instead of an over-connected modernity or a disconnected postmodernity let me suggest an interconnected post-postmodern condition.

    By looking at our interconnections on multiple levels, it may be possible to re-structure society in a way that is beneficial for individuals and organizations. States may continue to exist, However, like religions of days past, their influence will slowly lose relevance as a new way gently emerges.

    I have not addressed this topic much (if at all) in my published works. This paper (under submission) provides some useful hints for restructuring. And (importantly) how to evaluate our structures so that they can form more easily and exist with synergistic benefits for all.




    Note – just visiting, not following. Please contact me directly at: swallis [at] projectfast [dot] org

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