[Solution]Norm changes and the State

We Can largely bypasses the formal world of state action, but states too can reinforce emerging norms. In 1993, the Indian government introduced a law…

We Can largely bypasses the formal world of state action, but states too can reinforce emerging norms. In 1993, the Indian government introduced a law calling for one third of village council leader positions in village councils (Panchayat) to be reserved for women. At the time, sceptics argued that influential men would place their wives in the position and manage from behind the scenes. However, researchers subsequently found that adolescent girls in villages with female leaders in two election cycles were more likely to want to marry after age 18, less likely to want to be a housewife or have their occupation determined by their in-laws and more likely to want a job requiring education. Parents were less likely to believe in-laws should determine girls’ occupations. The gender gap in adolescent educational attainment was erased and the gender gap in time spent on household chores closed by 18 whole minutes, reflecting girls spending less time on these activities.[1]
Part of the art of outstanding political leaders such as Gandhi or Mandela lies in their ability to go beyond merely reflecting public norms and instead influence them for the better. Even the endless repetition of simple messages, which may be one of the most off-putting aspects of politicians’ daily lives, helps challenge old norms and cement new ones. Of course, politicians can also reinforce norms that should change, for example by whipping up hatred against ethnic………..
[1] Lori Beaman, Esther Duflo, Rohini Pande and Petia Topalova ‘Female Leadership Raises Aspirations and Educational Attainment for Girls: A Policy Experiment in India’, Science 335, no. 6068 (2012): pp. 582-586.

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