Christian Lo

The chapter is structured as a presentation of the dominating narratives describing the development of local government, the municipal organization and political culture in Norway. While these narratives inform the analysis of policy processes in the later chapters of the book, their relevance is also critically explored as their explanatory powers are put to the test.

The chapter begins with a historical overview of the major institutional developments that have given the Norwegian municipality its present form and function. Thereafter, the author provides a brief introduction to the multiple roles the present-day municipal organization is working to fulfill (service provider, administrative machinery, democratic body, local community developer and employer). The third part introduces three interrelated narratives dominating the stories of recent developments within municipal leadership. These are the introduction of New Public Management reforms, the aforementioned shift toward (network) governance and, finally, a narrative of local government being reduced to mere implementers of national policy.

The final part of the chapter is informed by the notion that political institutions neither develop nor persist within a historical and cultural vacuum. Rather, their present-day form and practices are profoundly shaped by their historical pathways and the political culture informing them. Through past ethnographic accounts, the reader is introduced to a discussion of political culture and the configuration of “egalitarian individualism” claimed to characterize Scandinavian culture. This discussion will form an important theoretical background for the analysis of municipal policy processes presented in the succeeding chapters.

in When politics meets bureaucracy
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The rules of political struggle
Christian Lo

During a municipal council meeting, a council member is met with strong reactions after giving a speech concerning the sale of municipal-owned property. In the heated debate, it is revealed that the councillor has been in contact with the county governor concerning the sale, enquiring about the relevant rules and regulations. This revelation prompts strong reactions both from both the administrative and political actors present during the meeting. This vignette provides a mystery to be solved in the chapter as the author attempt to interpret the strong reactions through mapping the normative rules at play during municipal policy processes.

Inspired by F. G. Bailey’s (1969) game theory approach, the chapter develops an understanding of the normative rules at play through observations and numerous accounts from both administrative and political informants discussing their roles during policy processes. The normative rules echo the classical Weberian distinction between political and administrative roles, and understanding the normative emphasis put on this distinction proves essential to understanding the enactment of both government and governance.

The empirical examples provided in the chapter show how conforming to the normatively prescribed rules functions as a tool for securing the legitimacy of policy processes by vesting them in the municipal organization’s democratic and impartial legitimacy. However, the examples also show how that the enactment and enforcement of prescribed roles can sometimes seem arbitrary and, in some cases, even strategic. Revisiting the vignette that opens the chapter reveals a telling intertwinement between formal sanctions and more informal social control regulating political behavior.

in When politics meets bureaucracy
Tales of municipal entrepreneurship
Christian Lo

Drawing on the previous chapters, this chapter explores the more pragmatic rules at play during municipal policy development. The chapter begins with a short discussion of the dialectic relationship between political and administrative roles in municipal policy development. A central point is the paradoxical normative status of administrative entrepreneurship: that while administrators are expected to propose new policy developments, they are expected to await political initiatives before doing so and to refrain from engaging in a political fight. Moreover, the empirical cases show how the emphasis on conformity and consensus also puts normative constraints on the politician’s ability to singlehandedly introduce political fights.

By analyzing the tactics and strategies applied in municipal entrepreneurship, the author shows how the normative rules of conduct were enacted in a tension with the pragmatic rules of political struggle. Through a discussion of how different forms of relations within, and stretching beyond, the municipal organization were individualized, the author argues that municipal policy processes are characterized by the creation of pragmatic policy alliances. These alliances create a system of cross-cutting loyalties and conflicts that exist in tension with the hierarchical command chain of the municipal organization. Toward the end of the chapter, these findings are related to the discussion of political culture in Chapter 3 in an effort to advance not only the understanding of the political culture at play but also some of its functions and consequences.

in When politics meets bureaucracy
Rules, norms, conformity and cheating
Author: Christian Lo

This book is based on a study of the strategies and tactics applied by municipal bureaucrats and local politicians in the pursuit of political goals. The study is set in two small Norwegian municipalities. Here, the enactment of a bureaucracy based on legal-rational authority within a small and close-knit community tend to essentialize some central tension and dilemmas related to how formal and informal relations intersect during the production of public policy. By analyzing the relation between normative and pragmatic rules regulating political action, the author demonstrates how the efforts to resolve these tensions and dilemmas involve a balance between alternative sources of political legitimacy.

Through ethnographic accounts of policy-making in action, the book offers novel perspectives on the interdisciplinary debate about local governance. Most significantly, these accounts demonstrate how processes of hierarchical government are inextricably intertwined with broader processes of governance during policy processes, thereby dissolving the theoretical and normative separation between the two concepts characterizing large parts of the literature. By focusing on the interconnections between government and governance, the author explores the cultural and historical conditions informing this intertwinement, which, the author argues, enable horizontal alignments that can modify the hierarchical logic of bureaucratic organizations.

Through its interdisciplinary approach, the book draws on a range of perspectives from political science, sociology and anthropology. This broad approach makes the book relevant for a wide audience of students and scholars interested in the inner workings of bureaucratic organizations and how such organizations interact with their societal surroundings.

Johanna Söderström

This chapter portrays the former combatants’ understanding of their process of coming home, which has been ongoing for on average twenty-four years (M-19), twenty-eight years (SWAPO), and forty-two years (Vietnam veterans in the USA), respectively. Many reveal a range of challenges which faced them as they came home, as they were trying to catch up with their own lives. But they also faced family relations in need of mending, mental and physical health issues, and concerns about their own security, some of which became exacerbated over time. The chapter also details how they make meaning of peace, as a way to understand the transition these individuals embarked upon. Coming home is not a process which is limited in time. Rather, for many this is seen as an ongoing process, and some even expressed a sense of being stuck in that process many years later. The war and the time after war are experiences which carry over, and are not always easily separated. What is clear is that while coming home is a watershed moment, it is also extended in time and is an ongoing process several decades after the end of the war. This combination of a rupture and an ongoing process is important for the way in which the life of politics is formulated for these former combatants. Hence, in this book “coming home” refers not only to the immediate process following war but also this drawn out process of continually reinterpreting these experiences throughout their lives.

in Living politics after war
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Johanna Söderström

In the concluding chapter, the main similarities of the experience of the former combatants in the three cases are discussed in an effort to help us see the traits and challenges of this global phenomenon. In order to make sense of these findings, the interviews and how they were conducted is further reflected on. The extended time perspective of this book helped both to see and understand the longevity of these dynamics. The legacy of the war and coming home from the war is not constant and overtly present in their lives, but continuously available for resummoning and recollection later in life, and thus also becomes part of the political present for these individuals. Ultimately coming home from war is not an experience limited in time. Through the eyes and lives of former combatants in Colombia, Namibia, and the United States we can see how questions of identity, networks, and political mobilization feed into each other. Despite large variations between these cases, similar patterns of political engagement can be located in the political lives of the individuals within these groups. In this way, the personal lived experiences of coming home from war are also connected to universal and comparative questions related to this process. Through displaying and engaging in how fifty former combatants navigate politics, how living politics is socially and emotionally embedded, we start to understand how they move toward peace and coming home from war.

in Living politics after war
Johanna Söderström

This chapter situates the three cases: independence fighters from the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN)/South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO); guerrillas from Movimiento 19 de Abril (M-19) in Colombia; and Vietnam veterans in the USA. As such, the chapter demonstrates the diversity both between and within these cases. This diversity is important, as any ensuing similarities in the political lives of these former combatants will be particularly striking. The cases are diverse in terms of both the war in general and policies at the end of the war. The specific experiences of the individuals interviewed for this book are also diverse, in terms of how they joined the armed groups, their war experiences, and their reception upon returning home. In Namibia, veterans’ programs were not planned, and the services on offer developed over time and were delivered in a compartmentalized and piecemeal fashion. In Colombia, M-19 was one of several guerrilla groups which demobilized in 1990, and the demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration (DDR) package included economic, educational, health, legal, and political components. In the United States, support was offered following a longer tradition of state support after war, largely used templates from earlier wars. In all three cases, the veterans expressed criticism against these programs. This chapter is important not only in terms of the research design of the book, but also as these war experiences are reinterpreted and reimagined over the course of the former combatants’ lives and therefore become sounding boards for the next chapters.

in Living politics after war
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Johanna Söderström

This chapter introduces the setting for the book and its aims, and describes the layout of the book’s argument. The introduction situates the book within a broad literature on former combatants, and shows how the book builds on previous literature in a number of different respects. The notable continuities across the Global North–South divide in the literature on former combatants pertaining to life after war highlight the importance of making comparisons across boundaries which are often taken for granted, and the book hopes to encourage these literatures to speak more to each other. The introduction shows that while there have been calls for such studies in the past, very few have taken on this challenge. The introduction also explains how this book tries to bridge this gap by studying different types of former combatants from different wars. The book is based on fifty life history interviews with former combatants in Namibia, Colombia, and the United States. Their political life is unfolded through examining how their identity, networks, and activities are shaped by the legacy of war and coming home. The introduction also explains some of the data collection strategies, and rationale for using life histories and life diagrams: these enable an insider’s perspective as well as a more long-term, dynamic, and holistic perspective. These are elements which have been missing in the current literature on former combatants.

in Living politics after war

This book is about understanding how former combatants come home after war, and how their political lives are refracted by the war and the experience of coming home itself. In particular, it captures the political mobilization among former combatants as they come home from three very different types of war: civil war (Colombia), war of independence (Namibia), and interstate war (United States involvement in the Vietnam War). The book provides a much-needed long-term perspective on peace. It also demonstrates the artificial division between literatures across the Global North and Global South, and demonstrates how these literatures speak to each other just as the three cases speak to each other. The novel use of interviews to document life histories and the inside perspective they provide also give a unique insight into the former combatants’ own perspectives on the process of coming home and their sense of political voice. This book is not about peacebuilding in the sense of interventions. Rather, it examines peace as a process through studying the lived experiences of individuals, displaying the dynamics of political mobilization after disarmament across time in the lives of fifty former combatants. The book demonstrates how the process of coming home shapes their political commitment and identity, and how the legacy of war is a powerful reminder in the lives of these former combatants long after the end of the war.

Johanna Söderström

This chapter turns the focus instead to the political activity of these former combatants after war, asking what paths of political mobilization they have embarked on after coming home from war. In this chapter it becomes clear that war and homecoming experiences have left many traces on the former combatants’ political lives. These experiences, as well as the network and identity, shape their political engagement, both positively and negatively, and together they make up their political life. How their political mobilization waxes and wanes over the years, was in part captured through life diagrams drawn during the interviews. These different life paths can be divided into three types of mobilization paths: Resilient (sustained or increased political mobilization), Remobilized (falling in and out of politics, often multiple times), and Removed (leaving politics). This typology of mobilization paths shows how former combatants from each of the three cases follow similar paths. The distribution of individuals across these types, however, did seem to be gendered, as no women remobilized once they left politics. The chapter highlights how the war experience and the homecoming experience, as well as how their identity as a veteran and their networks, are understood as crucial in shaping these political paths, through both encouraging and depressing their political mobilization. The ways in which these pressures originate and reappear across their lives help us understand why former combatants, not only in these three cases, are often involved in long-term political mobilization.

in Living politics after war