The Politics of Knowledge and Social Cash Transfers: The Constitutive Effects of An Anti-Poverty Regime In Indonesia

Recent decades have witnessed the globalisation of policies promoting social cash transfers as a critical instrument for poverty reduction. Among various approaches, the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) model promoted by the World Bank has gained discursive dominance in countries where this strategy, and its technical model for implementation, appear more attractive than competing alternatives. While research has evaluated CCT programmes and considered the politics of development that they represent in Latin America, researchers are yet to explore the constitutive effects of CCT ways of knowing and measuring poverty in the societies of rural Asia. This paper explores the consequences of CCT knowledge politics in rural Indonesia. It argues that CCT practices of knowing and measuring have paradoxical effects.
The programme makes direct payments to millions of impoverished households, producing well-documented patterns of inclusion and advancement. Yet, CCT knowledge practices involvesimplifications and generate significant mis-targeting, eliciting anever-ending repair process among state actors, local leaders, and communities. This metricised knowledge system depoliticises political questions of distribution. It conceals alternative ways of knowing and addressing poverty, producing an order of entitlements somewhat at odds with established community logics of inclusion, while provoking a local politics of distribution.