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The 1980s saw an increasing enthusiasm for decentralisation and good governance in developing countries. Citing an ethnographic study of the office of Tehsil Mayor in Kharalpur, Pakistan, it is argued that decentralisation, instead of creating opportunities for people to engage in democratic participation and empowerment through modern local government institutions, has itself been subverted by the traditional norms and rules of patronage-based personalised governance. Modernity has not influenced tradition: rather, it is the other way around. This has further strengthened the power and prestige of the rural elite.

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