Women, International Development, and Politics: The Bureaucratic Mire

By Kathleen Staudt | Go to book overview

Preface to the 1990 Edition

We live in a world of obscene inequalities and looming crises associated with international development strategies. Yet enormous possibilities also exist for transforming inequalities and responding to people's needs. In this volume, we examine problems of development ideology and institutions, particularly their gendered quality and the bureaucratic mire in which seemingly progressive programs and policies become stuck.

Policy rhetoric may not be real, for policies are routinely ignored; contradicted, and distorted in bureaucracies. Bureaucratic politics can make or break programs, and analysts and activists who ignore the bureaucracy do so at their peril. What is amazing about the growing literature on women and politics is the lingering silence on bureaucratic politics. While analyses of legislatures, parties, movements, and policies are crucial, the picture is incomplete without attention td bureaucratic politics and implementation.

Bureaucracies--relatively closed institutions, but complex and fascinating--are Orwellian bastions in more ways than one. The language of bureaucracy is dense, sometimes deceptive. Often, only insiders have detailed knowledge of the discourse and strategy therein. Insiders who reveal the process to outsiders pose risks to themselves and their issues; exposure also explodes the myth of neutrality that pervades bureaucracy.

I am grateful to the contributors in this volume for their foresight in choosing to analyze gender in bureaucratic process. They bring expertise, keen analytic minds, and commitment to this transformative project, both in intellectual and applied senses. Not unimportant to an editor, they followed up on queries and responded to deadlines in a timely, substantive way. Insiders, particularly, used precious time, something that always seems to be in short supply to those working on gender issues in chronically understaffed and underfunded efforts. I also give thanks for permission to use versions of previously published work in this volume to the Institute for Food and Development Policy, also known as Food First; to the African Studies Association's Issue: A Journal of Opinion; to the Michigan State University

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