Master of Public Policy  

Governance transitions

The unforeseen public health crisis related to the COVID-19 pandemic has shown once more the importance of the quality of governance. Writing in the midst of the crisis, the world's leading political development scholar, Francis Fukuyama, remarked that beyond political regimes – democracies or dictatorships – the crisis has shown the importance of state capacity, itself dependent on trust (the existence of a social contract between regimes and citizens). Quite advanced democracies including the UK and the US underperformed due to political reasons while some new good governance achievers such as South Korea or Taiwan overperformed. While the failures of democracy are always in the news, the positive evolutions and the lessons learned from mistakes remain very much in the shadows.

This class is an empirical investigation into what factors drive transitions between government regimes. How do societies transition from extractive institutions, where rulers distribute concentrated benefits (rents) as privileges, to inclusive institutions, where the government maximises social welfare and treats everyone equally? And why have we been seeing lately that certain societies (which were historically able to solve their collective problems and achieve high quality leadership) have been seemingly travelling back in time and facing governance regressions?

This is a class on comparative political development. We do not study and research these questions in this class in a static, path-determined manner but with a view to identifying theories of change based in the political economy of specific contexts. The main authors to be read are Francis Fukuyama and Acemoglu and Robinson (among others). These authors either use comparative methods, whether historical or econometrical, or are country-specific authors working to develop a theory of how the quality of government (or of good governance) comes about and decays. The Hertie School's own Centre for Fundamental Rights is well-acknowledged for its work in its field, so we shall use our very recent contributions for the World Bank and the European Union to explore the answers – and have some of our research partners come to class.

The class will be divided into two parts, one exploring factors of good governance and theories of change across all the world, both contemporary and historical (such as education, equality, stability, democracy, constitutional factors, economic policies and so on) and the other focusing on each continent, on its governance trends, achievers and laggards. Both the literature and the students’ assignments will be selected to make this a comparative methods class at the same time. Students will be part of a team surveying continental evolutions and work individually on one transformation (process-tracing), in order to acquire a mix of skills.