About governance

Image: Magali Magalhães


A government project that does not intend to change the previously existing situation will not require high governance, as there will not be many obstacles to its action

We have heard from left-wing militants that “we have to bring the people to the street”, that “we have to go back to doing the grassroots work”, and that “we have to make the grassroots aware” and, from less politicized people, that “when the politicians come to power forget what they promised”. These statements reveal a feeling that it is necessary to expand the political support of the current government so that it can carry out what the grassroots want; or what he promised to those who elected him.

Expressing the same apprehension, we heard from university colleagues that “it is necessary to ensure a degree of governance for the current government”. By assimilating this concept to that political support that those militants talk about, or to what we will later call “political support”, they are the target audience of this text.

We approach this last concern here, seeking to clarify the “problem” of governability. For this, we are going to expose some things we learned about governance when organizing a Public Strategic Management Course for PT militants, within the scope of a partnership between the Perseu Abramo Foundation and Unicamp, which were gathered at https://fpabramo.org. br/publicacoes/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2017/05/gestao-WEB-final.pdf.

In a second text, based on this one, but oriented towards the “solution”, we will propose government actions capable of helping to address those first three apprehensions of the leftist militants.


A model for understanding governance

Interpreting the teachings of master Carlos Matus, we draw a figure to show the students of the Course how to analyze the political viability of government projects and actions: the government triangle.

It offers a model that expresses governance as a function of three variables that are represented at its vertices. At the risk of over-simplification, it can be said that governing is adequately controlling these three variables in order to maximize governance. It is conceived, in a two-dimensional scheme, by the area of ​​the governing triangle.

g = f (a, p, c)

Where: g = governance;

a = political support;

p = conservatism of the government project; It is

c = capacity of government
A political group that intends to govern has to previously formulate, in order to participate in the election, a government project. It is understood here as the set of objectives that it has and wants to materialize, and that in fact express the desires of the part of the population that elected it. This approach excludes the demagogic biases that appear in “symbolic policies”; that is, those that typically appear in pre-election speeches, whose stated objective is not considered by those who formulate them as something to be actually implemented.

The political support given to it by this part of the population through the “vote in the ballot box”, and which can be later evaluated by opinion polls, and the “vote in parliament”, which the government needs to approve the measures it has promised its voters and continuing to govern, is a combination of these two elements. Like many other things in the and politics, depends on media support. Political Support, also because it is the most visible and monitorable component of governability and expresses the current correlation of political forces at a given moment, is often assimilated to governability.

The intuitive idea that governability is directly proportional to political support can be expressed as follows: g = f (The, …); where: g = governance; a = political support.

A government project that does not intend to change the previously existing situation – a conservative project (or one that proposes to “go with the current”, taking advantage of the correlation of forces) – will not require high governance, as there will not be many obstacles to your action. On the contrary, a “transformative” (or change-oriented) government project, as it expresses a great ambition to change the existing situation “by paddling against the current”), will require high governance. It will even have to face internal obstacles to a system made up of human and non-human agents, and their relationships, which tend to be adverse to its implementation; what we called the "inherited state" in the Course.

This implies that the degree of governance a government needs to govern is inversely proportional to the ambition of the government project. Or, what is the same, in other words, that it is directly proportional to the conservatism of the government's project. This is g = f (a, p …), where: g = governance; a = political support; ep = conservatism of the government project.

The government team (or leadership team), always concerned with obtaining political support, must at all times assess the existing relationship of forces – resistance and support. In order to build results that change reality to serve its base, to implement its government project and expand its governance, it needs to have the capacity to govern. 

It is an idiosyncratic composite of management experience, work methods, internal organization, people skills, control of means to undertake the government project, and control of resources (time, knowledge, finances, trained personnel). It involves the ability to form an opinion, to manage or coordinate work processes, to generate legislation or regulations, communication, mobilization of support. It is idiosyncratic and particular in the sense that it is not neutral, that it is intrinsically connected to the government project. It materializes, in short, in the specific capacity of the management team to carry out the government project.

It is intuitive that governance is directly proportional to the ability to govern (or what is also known as governance), the cognitive resource (knowing how to govern) of the management team.

In short, it can be written that g = f (a, p, c). where: g = governance; a = political support; p = conservatism of the government project; ec = government capacity.

Governance, therefore, is not synonymous with political support. Governability, as it depends on political support, is a momentary or conjunctural attribute, in the sense that it depends on the political conjuncture or, more particularly, on the correlation of political forces in force at a given moment.

On government capacity, it should be noted that, unlike political support, it is a variable that, without being immutable, as will be shown below, does not vary over time according to the political situation. And that it should not be understood, as the conservative thinking of public management assumes, as something neutral. The elements that make it up are ideologically and politically situated.

Ultimately, and this was the reason for the Public Strategic Management Course I mentioned, the government capacity needed to implement a change government project is radically (in the sense of going to the roots) different from that required by a conservative government. The Course arose from the realization that left-wing militants, especially when transformed into managers, were based on conservative knowledge of public management, “contaminated” with the values ​​and interests internalized in the analytical-conceptual framework of the right and in the methodological-operational instruments derived from of business administration (those that were considered efficient, etc.) that had guided the managerial reform of neoliberalism.


Examples to clarify

In order to make the concept of governance clearer and emphasize the characteristics of its constitutive variables that are of particular interest to the leading teams of change government projects, as was the case with the students of the Course, we added more elements to the analysis. For this, two situations were depicted in two graphs in which political support and government capacity are indicated on the vertical axis and the time in government on the horizontal axis.

In this first graph, the darkest curve, for government capacity, starts in the negative area, indicating that the elected government team, as often happens, does not yet know how to implement its government project. And it only does so, in fact, when it crosses the horizontal axis. The political support curve starts out positive and high, reflecting the fact that the elected government always has, at the beginning, the approval of the majority of the population.

The time it takes the management team to acquire the capacity to govern is a critical variable. This time cannot be considered as a time of government. While the team is acquiring the ability to govern, while the curve does not exceed the horizontal line shown in the graph, someone other than the team is actually governing. It is a time during which the tendency is for a loss of political support.

The following figure represents governance, now using a three-dimensional scheme. On the left is shown a situation that corresponds to the previous graph. This is a government that has a very ambitious government project (or low level of conservatism), evidenced by the fact that the apex corresponding to it is far below its maximum level. And which, as the diagram shows, has reasonable political support and low government capacity. And finally, as a result, it has relatively low governance (represented by the area of ​​the triangle).

To the right of the diagram it is shown, now from another perspective, what happened to that government whose movement the previous graph represented. Due to the fact that the leading team did not have a government capacity consistent with (or sufficient for) the implementation of its government project, it took time to start its government; or actually rule.

For this reason, due to the low capacity of government of the management team (or scarce capacity to implement actions that met the interest of the population), there was a decrease in its political support (which is denoted by the displacement of the apex that represents it towards the center of the triangle).

As a result, to avoid its governance (represented by the diminished area of ​​the triangle), the team had to reduce the ambition of its government project. Or, what is the same thing, he had to increase the conservatism of his government project (which is denoted by the upward shift of the apex that represents him). His ambition to change the previously existing situation was sacrificed in order to compensate for the loss of political support. The introduction of objectives or managers that expressed the interest of conservative forces led to the leadership team no longer actually governing; and that the period of government actually ended earlier than expected.

A different situation from the previous one, in which the management team manages to acquire government capacity more quickly, and thus attend to the population's interest and maintain its political support, is represented in the graph below. In it, the dashed line representing the capacity of government is located to the left of the previous one.

This team, by starting to govern already with a greater government capacity (in the sense of more adequate to the implementation of its government project), can cause political support to increase instead of decreasing. The ruler, now, will not be forced to lower his expectations of changing reality. As a result, the effective period of government begins earlier, your project can be maintained until the end. He may even promote an extension of the envisaged mandate through the election of his successor.


Conclusions awaiting closing

The analysis carried out so far and the consideration of these two cases allows advancing in the understanding of the government triangle model to explain governability and to reinforce the idea that it should not be interpreted as synonymous with political support. It emphasizes, in particular, that the key variable under the control of the change coalition is the governing capacity of the leading team that “emerges” from it. That is, its ability to promote government actions that change the correlation of forces in order to increase political support and increase the probability of implementing its government project.

Before the elections, the population can vote for a candidate because they think he knows how to govern, because he speaks well, is attractive, and says he defends their interests. However, later on, after the candidate takes office, political support will not be a mere reflection of sympathy for the leadership team's ideas. Once the government is running sympathy is not as important as it was before the election.

As shown in the graph above, it is when the government capacity curve starts to rise and reaches the point where the management team starts to possess a sufficient cognitive repertoire to implement its government project, that political support, which had already begun to decrease increases and reaches the level necessary for the government to be able to elect the next coalition.

From there, particularly, but also as a general rule, it is clear that political support is proportional to the capacity of government. This is what, finally summarizing, one can write that g = f (a, p, c). Where: g = governance; a = political support; p = conservatism of the government project; c = capacity of government = f (The). In other words, that governability would be a function of the capacity of government, or that it would “depend twice” on the capacity of government.

The capacity of government, understood as a capacity to “make happen” (which is more than implementing) the set of objectives, agreed or “negotiated” by the political coalition with the portion of the population with which it is allied, that it wants to carry out through its government project.

When gaining the executive power of the State, a coalition government for change will find compositions of the other two constitutional powers (Legislative and Judiciary) and those that are manifested in the social fabric (media, economic power, military, etc.) that will tend to undermine its political support . The first two directly, curbing its action by resorting to the bureaucratic-legal framework of what, in the Course to which reference was made, we baptized as “inherited State”. That is, the institutional apparatus from which the change government will have to “invent” what we call the “Necessary State”.

In order to maintain high political support, the leadership team must launch an “inside-out” process aimed at neutralizing and combating the opposition of the two constitutional powers in order to unbalance the correlation of forces in favor of the government. And, “from the outside in”, through what we baptized in the Course as the “pentagram of power”. That is, a process in which five feedback moments, awareness – mobilization-organization-participation-empowerment, will enable the portion of the population that supports the government to be able to act as an agent of their interests and promote their values. These two processes, when linked and strengthened, will constitute the virtuous circle of government capacity (and, consequently, governability) required for the transit of the “Inherited State” and the “Necessary State”.

If this does not happen, a vicious circle will begin in which the government's capacity, when shown to be insufficient to implement the government's project and meet the population's interest, will lead to a decrease in political support and will open the way to the loss of governability. Portions of the State apparatus controlled by the Executive that manage positions and operate money that the opposition considers important, especially those that are decisive to win the next election, will be a preferential target of its action.

It will involve pressures to replace members of the management team. In regimes such as coalition presidentialism, a change in ministerial composition, especially when it is the case of “closed gate” structures, will imply the sacrifice of the part of the government project that confronts the interests of the opposition. Reducing the ambition of the government project or increasing the conservatism of the government project is the only alternative to (apparently) maintain a minimum degree of governability.

The result of the bargain in which the management team will tend to get involved in order to achieve the implementation of the policy measures corresponding to the part of the government project that it wishes to preserve and that need parliamentary approval will often be presented to public opinion as a technical question. .

The pressure-concession character of this result is not usually made explicit. It tends to be covered with the allegation that the management team does not have the necessary technical knowledge to deal with the problems emerging from the conjuncture and that, therefore, it is necessary to “add” people with the required qualification. These people may be openly affiliated with opposition parties, but they are often technicians operating in the private or state sphere. This last case, also frequent, in which a technobureaucrat identified with the idea of ​​reducing the ambition of the government project already belongs to the group of civil servants who operate the State, deserves two comments.

The first refers to the fact that the “amoeba” the State (which was the term we used in the Course in place of “machine” to emphasize its dialectical character of something biased, but changeable) feeds back on its culture broth. closest that is your bureaucracy. And that, for this reason, it will never be difficult to find people interested in promoting greater conservatism in the government project. Appearing as “saviors of the homeland”, they will be chosen to provide governability to a government that, by losing political support due to the lack of government capacity of its leading team, will be conforming to no longer governing in fact.

The second comment has to do with the need for changeist government coalitions to revert the ontogenic tendency that makes the “amoeba” of the State feed itself, within its wider culture broth (universities, NGOs, etc.) ideologically conservative. That is, that they take on the challenge of incorporating into the bureaucracy people who have characteristics more in line with the capacity for government consistent with their government project. More than that, that they dedicate themselves, through public and private organizations over which they have some degree of interference (whether in government or outside it), to form the “technopolitical cadres” that master Carlos Matus spoke of.

It must be remembered that government capacity is something specifically oriented towards implementing the political project of the coalition to which the leading team belongs. And that, therefore, it is not appropriate to think that the cognitive capacity to implement a conservative government project (this yes, assimilable to what is known as “management capacity”) can be used to implement a changeist political project.

To conclude, it is worth noting that maintaining an adequate degree of governance ultimately depends on the governing team's ability to govern. It must be aware of the opportunities that the correlation of forces, expressed in those two types of political support, the one that derived from the “vote in the ballot box” and can be later evaluated by opinion polls, and from the “vote in parliament”, allows exploring . The first limit facing the leadership team is that of its own ability to govern. That is, the cognitive resource needed to mobilize the state's "amoeba" for the implementation of government actions expected by the part of the population that will be effectively willing to defend the government. The second limit is that of the correlation of forces. After drawing up the strategy and choosing the timeframes corresponding to the tactical movements and actions of the government, the management team should, taking advantage of the gain in political support (albeit localized in space and time) resulting from its implementation, tighten the correlation of forces. By shifting it in her favor and increasing political support (shifting the vertex of the governability triangle and increasing its area), she can then further increase governability (shifting the vertex of the triangle downwards) and decrease conservatism of the government project.

* Renato Dagnino He is a professor at the Department of Scientific and Technological Policy at Unicamp. Author, among other books, of Solidarity Technoscience, a strategic manual (anti-capital fights).

* Paula Arcoverde Cavalcanti Professor of Education at the State University of Bahia.

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