The devolution paradigm: theoretical critiques and the case of Kenya
Mueller, Susanne D.
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Devolution’s assumptions presume democracy, yet its proponents view it as an antidote to repressive centralized states, where its assumptions do not hold. This contradiction explains why devolution mostly reproduces the status quo rather than transforming it in transition political economies. Scholars have both supported and criticized devolution, while numerous donors, civil society activists, local politicians, and ordinary citizens still view it as a solution. Disaggregating the theoretical assumptions underpinning the devolution paradigm and juxtaposing them against a case study of Kenya demonstrates how old incentives undermine new formal legal changes and why institutional change may be a dependent rather than an independent variable. Thus, a range of institutional initiatives from organizational tinkering to devolution and constitutional engineering often fail in autocracies and nominal democracies.
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