Some Notes on Conflict and Decentralisation in India

Some Notes on Conflict and Decentralisation in India

World Bank, 31 May 2010

Conflicts have a variety of causes: political, cultural, social or economic.  But the form in which conflicts express themselves are almost always the work of politics. The potential causes of conflict do not tell us about the forms of mediation through which conflict is expressed: the forms in which it will be ideologically articulated or articulated at all, the methods it will deploy, the bottom lines that will mark it, the passions it will generate, the character of leadership it will throw up. In this sense, the expression of conflict is contingent. It is the work of political agency, not over-determined structural causes.

The following will offer a series of reflections on different types of conflict in India. It will focus less on providing solutions than on articulating what might be called “wicked problems” in conflict resolution. These problems turn out to be wicked in two senses. They are wicked in the sense of being difficult to deal with, but also wicked in the sense that they exemplify Polubiyus’ definition of a wicked problem: where you can neither endure a condition of conflict, nor the means to overcome it.

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