This is a recurring theme in my work and it links to points I’ve made elsewhere about rights – that people have to be willing & able to claim them or they remain a pretty fiction. And this means people have to expect something of their state. In my work, often with others (like the lovely Tariq Omar Ali, now an economic historian, but once upon a time a development researcher too) it seems that what people expect from their state partly depends on political culture – the political ideas and practices that resonate with the powerful. It depends very much on how governments have responded in the past and on how people expect they will in the future. This describes a dance of citizens with their state, an elaborate, longstanding and sometimes unruly or even violent courtship.
These papers are from decade-old work done in the early stages of the Chronic Poverty Research Centre. Their messages – that the average Bangladeshi actually trusted their state a fair bit to provide some basic protections was not very popular nor very credible at the time – with good reason. But the more I research and think about this, the truer I think it probably is that the average Bangladeshi citizen expects their government to at least protect them from the crises of barest subsistence. They do so because this is what successive governments have tended to do, for a population that faces such frequent catastrophes from its ecology, unruly politics, and its prone position in the global political economy.