Tackling Elite Capture by the ‘Counter-Elite’ and ‘Co-Opt-Elite’ Approaches in Bangladesh and Ghana

Sam Wong

in The Role of Elites in Economic Development

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199659036
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191749032 | DOI:

Series: WIDER Studies in Development Economics

Tackling Elite Capture by the ‘Counter-Elite’ and ‘Co-Opt-Elite’ Approaches in Bangladesh and Ghana

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Community-based development has been criticized for inadequate understanding of power relationships at the local level, which leaves room for elite capture. This chapter compares and contrasts two case studies: the solar home system in Bangladesh, represents the ‘counter-elite’ approach and explicitly excludes local elites from the decision-making process; and the trans-boundary water governance project in Ghana, in contrast, adopts the ‘co-opt-elite’ approach and deliberately absorbs local elites into the water committee. This chapter suggests that, while the ‘counter-elite’ approach is not necessarily effective in challenging elite domination, the ‘co-opt-elite’ approach risks legitimizing the authority of the elites and worsening poverty by implementing ‘anti-poor’ policies. The success of dealing with elite capture lies in the flexible use of the ‘counter-elite’ and ‘co-opt-elite’ approaches together with the need to secure alternative livelihoods and to achieve empowerment with the poor.

Keywords: elite capture; power; poverty; community development; water governance

Chapter.  8859 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Economic Development and Growth

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