IDS Bulletin explores approaches to re-balance states-markets-society triad

14 December 2016

Articles in a new IDS Bulletin suggest that the over-dominance of market forces over government, business and civil society accounts for many of today’s development challenges, and suggest a rebalancing of the current states–markets–society triad to give greater weight and influence to state and societal forces to those of the market. 

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People shelter from the rain during a rally in Trafalgar Square at which tens of thousands of people protested the outcome of the EU referendum and declared their support for the EU.
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Looking back to look forward, authors of the IDS Bulletin 'States, Markets and Society – New Relationships for a New Development Era' consider an agenda for new alliances and relationships to reshape the current configuration, and to recognise the diverse, complex politics that are needed to move ahead on major global challenges.

The IDS Bulletin comes at a time of turbulence in many countries – in Europe and the US as well as in Asia, Africa and Latin America – including growing discontent with established political regimes in handling economic crisis and globalisation, the rise of right wing nationalist politics, and closing spaces for formal civil society. In this context, the Bulletin provides fresh thinking on the politics of development – understood as progressive change for everyone everywhere. It suggests that transdisciplinary approaches will be required – by international partnerships – to integrate high quality research with the knowledge of people working in state, business and civil society organisations, mobilising evidence for impact.

In such ways, this IDS Bulletin charts some contours of a future map of development studies, in a new era. 

Melissa Leach, IDS Director and IDS Bulletin Editor, said: 

“This IDS Bulletin offers powerful arguments and illustrations of the potential of new alliances in tackling challenges like inequality, sustainability, and inclusivity, and the importance of less-appreciated ‘politics from below’ in citizen action – yet also some important words of caution.”

Mariana Mazzacuto, Professor of the Economics of Innovation SPRU (Science Policy Research Unit), University of Sussex, said: 

"The challenges facing 21st century economies are huge. The need to create growth that is more inclusive, sustainable and driven by investment and innovation rather than personal credit, requires a different approach to policy making. IDS research is influencing that conversation building a new lens through which we can build the kind of partnerships between business, government, the third sector and civil society. Such dynamic partnerships are critical to shaping and creating the markets of the future, so that the direction of growth becomes as critical as its rate."

Tracking the history and future of debates around states, markets and society

Importantly, this IDS Bulletin explores lessons from the past in order to look forward to future challenges and how to meet them. While the first part of this IDS Bulletin draws on a selection of archive articles to highlight key debates over the decades, the second part looks forward by drawing on contributions to IDS’ 50th Anniversary conference, which took place in July 2016. The conference brought together over 200 researchers, policymakers and practitioners from around the world – including many IDS alumni and partners – for two intense days of rich and stimulating discussion, challenging us all to think about current and future configurations of state, market and societal actors, and the politics of these relationships amidst the emerging challenges of the 21st century – challenges that will be key as development and development studies navigate the next fifty years.

New relationships for a new development era

Development has always involved states, markets and societies interacting to define and shape progressive change. But since the 1980s over-dominant market forces – underpinned by the Washington Consensus on neo-liberalism, and mainstream economic orthodoxies - have contributed to growing inequalities, environmental degradation, exclusion of marginalised groups and rising insecurities, with all their consequences for development.

Addressing the challenges of this new development era will require new alliances and relationships between state, market and society. The question of what forms these relationships might take is inevitably complex, and the conference deliberations and Bulletin articles document numerous dilemmas and ambiguities, as well as clear directions. Much depends on the issue in question, and on the embedded configurations of power and institutions in different places that shape what is possible, and indeed imaginable.

What is clear is that in the context of emerging global challenges such as inequality, unsustainability and insecurity, a vibrant set of agendas for development research and action is emerging. Bulletin articles highlight and expand on some cross-cutting themes, which will need to guide future agendas. These include the importance of transformation, diversity, complexity, and perhaps most fundamental of all, power and politics.

Beyond the focus on quick fixes (whether technological, or in the market) that have dominated much of the last few decades of development thinking and practice, there is a renewed emphasis on deep structural changes in economy and social relations to meet the extent and depth of global challenges. This in turn will require approaches that cross disciplines, integrate quality research and knowledge mobilisation for impact, and link global understandings with local contexts and the perspectives of people on the ground.

All articles are free to read online or download at bulletin.ids.ac.uk, and are licensed under Creative Commons.

Image: Andrew Testa / Panos