Law, Social Norms and Welfare as Means of Public Administration: Case Study of Mahalla Institutions in Uzbekistan
Despite numerous challenges, since its independence, Uzbekistan, with the exception of the May 2005 Andijan events, has enjoyed extraordinary political stability and not recorded any considerable cases of interethnic or interfaith conflict, regime change or civil war, whereas neighboring Kyrgyzstan, labeled an "island of democracy" by the Western world, has experienced numerous conflicts and chaos, ranging from "color revolutions" to ethnic conflict. However, for understanding Uzbekistan's ability to cope with internal and external challenges, little recourse is made to the post-independence discourse on public administration known as "mahalla reforms". In spite of the significant existing body of literature on the mahalla, there has been little systematic scholarly investigation of the role of mahalla in maintaining political stability and security in Uzbekistan. Previous studies did not provide an account of how the law, social norms and welfare come to interplay in the mahalla system and how this influences the public administration developments in Uzbekistan. This paper begins to redress this lacuna by analyzing public-administration reforms in post-independence Uzbekistan, namely mahalla reforms, with an effort to show how political and social stability is established through mahalla, and to what extent those reforms have affected the position of individuals vis-à-vis the public-administration system. In undertaking this task, the paper employs three theoretical concepts: the theory of norms, the welfare-pentagon model and the theory of social control. In this paper, I argue that public-administration reforms since 1991 have transformed mahalla into a comprehensive system of social control; and therefore, mahalla can be places of democratic involvement or sites of authoritarianism in Uzbekistan.