Knowledge, Power and Action: Towards an Understanding of Implementation Failures in a Government Scheme

Al & Society, pp. 1-21, January 2006

Posted: 1 Jun 2006

See all articles by Biswatosh Saha

Biswatosh Saha

Indian Institute of Management Calcutta

Ram Kumar Kakani

Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA)

Abstract

Conceptual knowledge inspires imagination. On the other hand, it is a claim to power as well. Multiple knowledge claims often, therefore, are engaged in a contest. This contest can take the form of several discourses. Extant power structures play a significant role in lending (or not lending) a voice to one or several such discourses. To one with the power to govern, knowledge claims flowing from abstract concepts generated in an elite discourse not only inspires imagination but also often leads to 'norms' and 'rules' that drive governance in the system which leads to action. Norms and rules define actionability of the conceptual knowledge claim. However, for the one weighed by powerlessness in being governed, knowledge claims often get generated only in action, since an autonomous discourse is often lacking. Yet the sheer powerlessness of the authors of such knowledge claims generated in action leads to its non-celebration. It fails to get elevated. It might also wither away. Such actionable knowledge claims of the powerless often then gets manifested as something like an 'unvoiced' or an 'unvoicable' discourse, in macabre forms of subversion of 'norms' and 'rules' of the system that leads to a sense of failure in governance among those with power as well. Power, thus, brings actionable knowledge to the fore, but in two different forms. For the power-holder, it takes the form of a 'deviation' from norms and rules in the actionable domain through subversion by the powerless, revealing a gap between knowledge in the conceptual and actionable domain that is reluctantly (often tacitly) tolerated. For the powerless, on the other hand, actionable knowledge is living; negotiating on the 'deviation' is an existential requirement. This paper is an attempt to explore these dichotomies, how power (and the lack of it) alters the significance and implications of actionable knowledge.

Keywords: Actionable knowledge, Gandhian vision, Rural development, Negotiation, Lifeworlds, Folkworld, Power structures, Conflict resolution

JEL Classification: H53, H55, I38, D78, D61

Suggested Citation

Saha, Biswatosh and Kakani, Ram Kumar, Knowledge, Power and Action: Towards an Understanding of Implementation Failures in a Government Scheme. Al & Society, pp. 1-21, January 2006, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=905002

Biswatosh Saha (Contact Author)

Indian Institute of Management Calcutta ( email )

E-110, NTB
Joka, Diamond Harbour Road
Calcutta, West Bengal 700104
India

Ram Kumar Kakani

Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) ( email )

Mussorie, Uttarakhand 248179
India

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