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ISBN 978-616-90053-0-8

252 pp, 140 x 210 mm

2010, THB 625

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The Politics of Decentralization: Natural Resource Management in Asia

Chusak Wittayapak and Peter Vandergeest, editors

This book brings together empirically grounded studies of the decentralization of natural resource management in seven South and Southeast Asian countries. It provides a clear explanation of the key concepts and debates in decentralization relevant to the management of forests, fisheries, and water in the region.

The editors draw on evidence presented in the book to argue that the politics of decentralization is best understood as the terrain of negotiation and conflict. This terrain shapes how decentralization is designed, implemented, and in some cases, appropriated, by popular movements. This approach to politics stands in contrast to the common assumption that democratic management can be manufactured by decentralization programs designed by experts and governments. Although a discussion of politics is never absent, politics is usually presented as an obstacle to effective decentralization. The diverse cases presented in the book show that decentralization can shift the terrain of struggle in a variety of ways, sometimes in favor of farmers, fishers, water users, and forest users, and sometimes to their disadvantage. Institutional design does make a difference, but more in relation to implementation than effect. Readers of this book will learn to be wary of centralizing forces that use donor-funded decentralization to stave off pressure for genuine democratization, and to identify opportunities to promote institutions that could be open to capture by democratic groups.

About the Author(s)

Chusak Wittayapak is Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University, Thailand, where he teaches development geography, political ecology, and community-based natural resource management. Peter Vandergeest is Associate Professor of Geography at York University in Canada. He has been researching and publishing on the politics of natural resource management in Southeast Asia for twenty years.