Just like the function of painting dramatically changed after the invention of photography, the function of planning too drastically changed after the State has redefined its role in relation to market and civil society in a globalised world. There is no suggestion to do away with planning (see Stiglitz 1997; Bagchi 2007). Rather, creative use of older paradigm of planning means not merely ‘seeing like a state’ (Scott 1998), but also planning after ‘seeing like a household’, ‘seeing like a market’ and ‘seeing like a collective’ all at the same time. Some authors (see Wade 1990) have argued that where there is a synergy of such different ‘sights’ through division of allocation decisions between market and the State, growth is more likely to occur. This paper aims to spell out the rationale for a new type of planning in democratic society like that of India, which could be termed as ‘planning as persuasion’.
Neutral Planning for Political Masters
Valuation is at the heart of policy making. Value-conflicts also refer to equity as the goal of public policy. Is there neutral planning when equity is the goal? It is good to be reminded of the history of Planning Commission to answer this. Ideological conflicts between Gandhians and Nehruvians in the pre-independence period (that time to go after industrialization or not) resulted in the formation of National Planning Committee in 1937 (Chatterjee, 2001: 273), in the hope that such ‘neutral’ committee would be able to find a workable path despite of ideological controversies. The committee reemerged as Planning Commission after independence.
Vibrancy of democracy is the existence of different voices. Once these different voices are made into ‘abstract citizens’ a neutral planning is achievable. Fortunately, different voices in our country have not chosen to make the ‘exit’ option. That has made planning a challenging affair. Guha (2008) has argued that ideological divisions in the Indian society determine the nature of scientific inquiry in this country. There is no reason to believe that intellectual space exists apart from ideological orientations. As ideological divisions are deeply political, the ‘positioning’ in fact saturates any intellectual space. Valuations are entrenched in such ideological divisions. This has macro level applications at the decision making level for policy, also at micro level of policy implementation since policy performance is also dependent on the set of beliefs, values and judgments of participants.
Reason-dominated planning has been the hallmark of modernity, and such rational determination in the planning process “…must know the physical resources whose allocation is to be planned, it must know the economic agents who act upon these resources, know their needs, capacities, and propensities, know what constitutes the signals according to which they act, know how they respond to those signals.” (Chatterjee 2001: 281). There is always a lot of residue while technocratic planners gain such information. Such residue works as politics outside the political process upsetting the plans. A lot of what is attributed as ‘implementation deficit’ is actually design failure. Free market propagators such as Friedman believed when planning is completely left to market such residue does not exist, since local people know what is best. Such thinkers, therefore, believed that hope for India is not from big industrialists or government planned public sector units, rather from street-level entrepreneurs who had perfect information about local realities. But, we may argue a planning that leaves space for such entrepreneurs is still desirable.
There are two options for planning here. One, ignore ideologies and pronounce like Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1992: ‘It is economy, stupid’. Second, denounce such simplification and let planning acknowledge ideologies more seriously. In the Indian context, the second approach has more worth since planning has taken issues of inequality and poverty, which requires differential treatment of different groups. India has not seen individuals like Bismark in Germany or Beveridge in the United Kingdom, i.e., those who have made practical application of the social rights through policy instruments in those countries. But, Planning Commission has filled this void to some extent. Chelliah (2007) has shown in a paper how Planning Commission could undertake the responsibility for developing backward states through differential policy prescriptions. This differential policy prescription (see chapter 4 of Sachs  or Galbraith  for more details), which is primarily an equity-based argumentation could be effective only when ideologies have been taken seriously. What is the nature of planning when ideologies are taken more seriously?
Planning in Interactive Contexts
Charles E. Lindblom (1977), in his famous Politics and Markets, showed how intellectually guided ‘decision’ and socially guided ‘volition’ are two modes of reaching solutions: “The model of the intellectually guided society, Model 1, specified that some people in the society are wise and informed enough to ameliorate its problems and guide social change with a high degree of success. According to Model 2, however, ‘everyone well knows himself to be falliable’, as J. S. Mill argued in “On Liberty.” While in the Model 2 interaction becomes part of the decision making. In the process of interaction to reach an agreement persuasion or bargaining or coercion takes place. A healthy democracy should aspire to carry out the role of persuasion to a great extent, which could ensure deepening of the democracy as well.
Persuasion is not merely about reasoned arguments and backing with evidence, but also winning the other comprehensively, even by appealing to values. “Power has a rationality that rationality does not know, whereas rationality does not have a power that power does not know” (Flyvberg, 1998: 2). Persuasion with reasoned arguments alone is the voice of the experts. Ethnographic revelations about such expert-led planning have been scandalous, and has been moderately criticized as ‘anti-politics machine’ (Ferguson, 1994). Such anti-politics machine of planning also initially sidelines the ideational frame of social change by effectively blocking the new ideas on the periphery. Good example is to look at how most of the grandeous plans have ignored the way social and structural processes producing poverty at local level. A slowly, but steadily, growing stream of literature on social structures of accumulation in India, has shown how both planning process as well as market is entrenched in the social structures. Such entrenchment retards the development of a liberal capitalism, as well as threatens the fabric of democracy by stifling the voices which have limited economic resources.
Persuasion is the ability to take cognizance of such different voices and to allow intellectual space not to stifle new ideas. “Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.” (Keynes 1936: 383).
A persuasive planner could act as a policy entrepreneur. A policy entrepreneur is engaged in streamlining the problems and solutions to the political environment. Technically, this process is called as ‘opening of policy windows’ (Kingdon 1995; Roberts & King, 1991). Properties of problems in pluralist democracies are often ‘constructed’ than given. Solutions are often picked up rather than created. What is important is aligning these two to the third one, namely, political environment. Art of persuasion is bringing these three into a synchronization. Here, role of planner is not merely acting as ‘handmaid to political master’ but to assume the role of ‘speaking truth to power’. A good example is K .N. Raj (at a young age of 26), architect of the first Five Year Plan, in opposing Nehru’s ambitious Soviet-style plan, by pointing out the incompatibility between high investment and democratic fabric of the country.
Policy and planning has primarily worked within the framework of means-ends dichotomy. What policy means would achieve the goals desired. Persuasion is demystifying the real impossibility of means-ends dichotomy. What is good for one section is bad for another. Or what is of strong interest for humanity is of least interest for future generation or environment. Thus, exhibiting the impossibility of means-ends dichotomy becomes possible by juxtaposing the existing claims with new ideas. In the instrumental rationality newer ideas have little space. Once the means-ends dichotomy is overcome, the instrumental rationality has limited role. Thus, persuasion is interested in cogeneration of practical wisdom by engaging with stakeholders who present new ideas or different voices of democracy. Decisions arrived through this manner would be in tandem with volition of the members of society, thus gaining more legitimacy for them.
Choosing and deciding has been the older style of planning and policy making. In post-modern plural democracies, persuasion becomes the hallmark of planning. Here, practice of the policy is the concern, and aims at minimizing the implementation deficit. What practice will take place will be determined by institutionalizing as to what is given for practice is practical or not. This is feasible when there is shared values and beliefs of citizens and the State. In other words, merely by a Weberian bureaucratic insulation from ‘societal interests’, a policy may not be successful. Rather, autonomy gained through such insulation must be capable of cogenerating synergy by aligning with the internal structure of society. Dialogue has to happen to generate these shared platforms or aligning process. This dialogical process actively encourages different voices and new ideas to take centre stage than experts occupying such spaces. Thus, embedded autonomy is designed and generated rather than working only with existing embedded autonomies (existing social ties of the internal structure of society with internal structure of the State). This is truly the State as a social construct, not in a passive sense, but in active sense (creating new ties) of we are continuously reconstructing the State. This is true Swaraj, where neither there is fear for the citizens about the mighty arm of the state to control their behavior, nor there is fear for the State machinery as to whether society would take over the former.
References and Additional Thinking
Bagchi, A. (2007) “Role of the planning and the planning commission in the new Indian economy”, Economic and Political Weekly, November 3.
Chatterjee, P. (2001) “Development planning and the Indian state” in State and Politics in India (ed. Partha Chatterjee) New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
Chelliah, R. J. (2007) ‘Strategy for poverty reduction and narrowing regional disparities’, Economic and Political Weekly, August 25.
Ferguson, J. (1994) The anti-politics machine: ‘Development’, depolitization, and bureaucratic power in Lesotho. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Flyvbjerg, B. (1998). Rationality and power: Democracy in practice. Chicago: The university of Chicago press.
Galbraith, J. K. (1972) Economics, Peace and Laughter. New York: New American Library.
Guha, R. (2008) “Autonomy and ideology”, Economic and Political Weekly, February 2.
Keynes, John M. (1936) The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company.
Kingdon, J. W. (1995) Agendas, alternatives, and public policies. New York: Harper Collins.
Roberts, N. C. & Paula J. King (1991) “Policy Entrepreneurs: Their Activity Structure and Function in the Policy Process”, Journal of Public Administration, Research and Theory 1 (2) pp. 147-175.
Sachs, J. (2005) The end of poverty. London: Penguin Books.
Scott, J. E. (1998) Seeing like a state. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Stiglitz, J. E. (1997) Economics of the public sector. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Wade, R. (1990) Governing the market. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
(The views expressed in the write-up are personal and do not re?ect the official policy or position of the organization.)