IHP news 473: Research

By on June 8, 2018

Rethinking power and institutions in the shadows of neoliberalism: (An introduction to a special issue of World Development)

P Kashwan et al; https://www.sciencedirect.com/journal/world-development/articles-in-press

Despite the recognition that institutions matter for international development, the debates over institutional reforms tend to obscure the role of power. Neoliberal models of development are often promoted in terms of their technical merits and efficiency gains and rarely account for the multiple ways that social, economic and political power shape institutional design and institutional change. Even recent efforts to address power tend to conceptualize it too narrowly. This special issue seeks to rethink the role of power in institutional creation and change in the context of persistent neoliberalism. In the introduction, we synthesize the literature on the nature of power to develop a new conceptual framework – a power in institutions matrix – that highlights the multiple dimensions of power involved in institutional development and change. We argue that such a theoretically-informed mapping of power in institutions will enable scholars, practitioners, and citizen groups to go beyond the standard critiques in order to analyze the multifaceted effects of neoliberal institutional change. Our introduction draws on an extensive literature review as well as the special issue contributors who examine institutional change in a variety of policy sectors in Africa, South Asia, Latin America, and North America. We find that a range of diverse local, national and transnational actors, with disparate access to power, negotiate institutional changes from above and below through overt imposition of and resistance to new rules, influence of agendas, and promotion of discourses. Neoliberalism thus creates a new distributive politics. The special issue thus offers a theoretically-grounded approach for linking international and domestic power differences to the process of institutional change, with a specific focus on equity and sustainability. In a departure from the current literature’s focus on elite bargains, we showcase the efforts by less powerful groups to gain a foothold in decision-making processes.”

Journal of Public Health Policy (Editorial Comment) – ToxicDocs: a new resource for assessing the impact of corporate practices on health

N Freudenberg; https://link.springer.com/article/10.1057%2Fs41271-017-0101-0

Article from February. “One of the main obstacles to creating the scientific evidence needed to reduce the adverse impact of corporations on health has been the extensive efforts of corporations to shield their harmful practices from scrutiny, scientific or public. … … Fortunately, in response to growing corporate efforts to limit public access to scientific evidence and free debate, researchers, activists, public interest lawyers, and public health professionals have created new ways of collecting, analyzing, and publicizing the evidence, ways that can illuminate what corporations seek to keep in the dark. The new websitehttp://www.ToxicDocs.org, is an example. It provides scholars and activists with an important new resource to harness the power of new search technologies, worldwide Internet availability, and the growing recognition of corporate practices as a fundamental social determinant of health. By using www.ToxicDocs.org’s embedded search methods, investigators can answer legal and scientific questions such as the following: What did corporate executives know about the harmful effects of their products and practices? What steps did they take to reveal or hide this knowledge? And, what was their understanding of the mechanisms by which their practices influenced the health of workers, consumers, and the environment?… “

“… The creation of ToxicDocs and similar sources signals an important new development in assembling evidence for public health action. Ensuring that we fully realize this potential is an important priority for the public health community.”

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