How to make local government institutions work: some lessons on social change

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This paper uses Beck's concept of radicalization of rationality, as centered on the changing relationship between social structure and social agents, in understanding how Philippine local government institutions fulfil their varied functions. It traces the various strategies that enabled the municipal mayor and staff of a local government unit in Northern Luzon, who continually deal with the breakdown of bureaucratic and traditional modes of governance, to devise alternative practices, thereby making these practices correspond more closely to social goals. These strategies, singly or in combination, include displacement of existing institutional rules and their replacement with new ones; conversion, wherein rules remain the same but are interpreted and enacted in different ways; drifting with changes brought about by shifting environmental conditions, thereby resulting in a changed impact on the existing rules, and layering or the introduction of new rules alongside with existing ones. In conclusion, the paper points out that the potential of local governments to become sources of social change is hinged on the pursuit of two lines of engagement: making existing institutions fulfil their functions and enabling different social agents external and internal to these institutions to interact with each other in new ways. These pursuits, in turn, require the presence of individuals who can radically rationalize existing practices, a capability that is anchored on a perfect match between the challenge of the task and the skills of the person, resulting in motivation and commitment.