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Deliberate improvisation Enrique Rodrigo Silva

Deliberate improvisation

Enrique Rodrigo Silva

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ISBN : 9781109097436
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402 pages
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Chiles post-authoritarian governments built several urban highways in a relatively short period of time despite a history of under-funded public works initiatives and a swell of anti-highway neighborhood-level protests. Within this context ofMoreChiles post-authoritarian governments built several urban highways in a relatively short period of time despite a history of under-funded public works initiatives and a swell of anti-highway neighborhood-level protests. Within this context of remarkable planning capacity and conflict, this dissertation asks two central questions. First, how do neoliberal economic strategies and post-authoritarian democratic politics converge to manage economic and social order? Second, what emerges from the interplay of these strategies and public debate over highway planning? In the early 1990s, the democratically elected government of Patricio Aylwin created a legal and institutional framework that transformed certain public works projects into commodities, thrust the Ministry of Public Works into planning, brokering and regulating those commodities, and made private capital a preferred partner in planning. Boosters of the states infrastructure concessions system, a build-operate-transfer scheme for public works projects such as highways and airports, contend that its capacity to quickly generate long-needed projects is linked to the governments adherence to principles of collaboration, transparency, and accountability in the planning process. Those principles, however, only apply to a narrow set of actors and select stages of the planning process, and also conceal equally important aspects of the system that are divisive and opaque, thereby helping to precipitate a crippling surge of protests against the system.-In this dissertation, I argue that Chiles concessions system may be better understood through the lens of what I call deliberate improvisation, the conscious decision to control without a full plan. Deliberate improvisation is a manifestation of sovereignty, the power to determine the state of exception and to hold on to the monopoly to decide. It is ultimately a demonstration of the Chilean states capacity to create and enforce a set of exceptions to the countrys planning and political regime to achieve a laser-like focus on a single priority issue and partnership. The states exception is not simply the commodification of some public works projects and the creation of an entrepreneurial and flexible state agency within a pre-existing developmentalist bureaucracy- it is also the determination of what the state will and will not plan.-Through the lens of deliberate improvisation it is possible to understand how the Chilean state could quickly transform the countrys urban and political landscape. Institutionally, the price for Chile and Santiagos infrastructure development has been the states struggle to develop mechanisms that can order and manage public debate and dissent across a highly differentiated urban terrain and around projects meant for the greater good of the country. The state on the one hand has adapted and expanded its bureaucracy to include public participation in different stages of its policy making process. On the other hand, it has also taken to paying, greening and tunneling its way out of the controversies generated by its highways and its decision to plan without a full plan. Politically, citizens have mobilized in both old and familiar ways by blockading construction sites, marching through public spaces, and invoking images of foreign meddling in national affairs. They have also experimented with new forms of protests and organization, especially by crossing traditional political party and class orders, pitting the municipal and central governments against one another, and challenging the state on the interpretation and spirit of its own laws. The concessions system and deliberate improvisation set the stage for an uneven battle between local residents easily portrayed as self-interested, and a government looking out for the greater good. Depending on the resources available to those protesting the governments project, this literally and figuratively uneven playing field may further deflect the discussion of relevant policy issues or trivialize it by virtue of its association to a merely localized conflict. Finally, deliberate improvisation points a critical eye towards the ways that this mode of governance undermines democratic goals and practices in a country that has only recently re-embraced the ideals of democracy.