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Delegating coercion: Linking decentralization to state formation in UzbekistanNeema Noori
In the last decade, important members of the international aid community - including the UNDP, the World Bank, and USAID - have produced reports that encourage states to devolve administrative power. In response, the Uzbek government promoted its ongoing efforts to empower local communities via the Mahalla Initiative. The Initiative consists of a series of policy directives that defer the administration of critical state services to community-based institutions, chiefly the mahalla (residential committees). Most contemporary studies of decentralization, particularly those weighted towards policy, tend to situate similar processes within the literature on democratization, measuring the extent to which the devolution of power has promoted or restricted the rights of local populations. These studies, however, fail to account for the fact that decentralization in the developing world often precipitates rounds of institution building that paradoxically have the potential to consolidate central state power. This study argues that the Mahalla Initiative, its democratic and repressive effects aside, should in fact be viewed as an attempt by the central state to increase its reach over regional elites and deepen its institutional presence across Uzbekistan. This dissertation interrogates the presumed link between decentralization and democratization, arguing in favor of exploring the seemingly contradictory relationship between decentralization and state formation. A central contribution of this dissertation is my contention that decentralization, as it is promoted by international organizations such as the World Bank and UNDP, can have the unintended consequence of leading to an expansion of state power and state institutions. It is imperative, therefore, to consider how international forces shape domestic policy. I document how the international discourse on decentralization has helped structure mahalla policy by linking changes in local modes of governance with the activities of international actors and NGOs. Utilizing ethnographic and archival research methods, this project examines micro-level interactions between various levels of the state, including the mahalla and officials intimately involved in the formulation and implementation of mahalla policy. This study also has an important historical component that documents critical continuities between Soviet and post-Soviet mahalla-based policies. In pointing out these connections, I argue that the Mahalla Initiative resurrected government technologies that were initially pioneered by the Communist Party.
Social sciences; Civil society; Coercion; Community; Decentralization; International organizations; Nongovernmental organizations; Participatory development; State formation; Uzbekistan; Political science; Sociology; 0615:Political science; 0626:Sociology
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