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Looking Like a State: Techniques of Persistent Failure in State Capability for Implementation

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  • Lant Pritchett
  • Michael Woolcock
  • Matt Andrews

Abstract

In many nations today the state has little capability to carry out even basic functions like security, policing, regulation or core service delivery. Enhancing this capability, especially in fragile states, is a long-term task: countries like Haiti or Liberia will take many decades to reach even a moderate capability country like India, and millennia to reach the capability of Singapore. Short-term programmatic efforts to build administrative capability in these countries are thus unlikely to be able to demonstrate actual success, yet billions of dollars continue to be spent on such activities. What techniques enable states to ‘buy time’ to enable reforms to work, to mask non-accomplishment, or actively to resist or deflect the internal and external pressures for improvement? How do donor and recipient countries manage to engage in the logics of ‘development’ for so long and yet consistently acquire so little administrative capability? We document two such techniques: (a) systemic isomorphic mimicry, wherein the outward forms (appearances, structures) of functional states and organisations elsewhere are adopted to camouflage a persistent lack of function ; and (b) premature load bearing, in which indigenous learning, the legitimacy of change and the support of key political constituencies are undercut by the routine placement of highly unrealistic expectations on fledging systems. We conclude with some suggestions for sabotaging these techniques.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal The Journal of Development Studies.

Volume (Year): 49 (2013)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 1-18

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Handle: RePEc:taf:jdevst:v:49:y:2013:i:1:p:1-18

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References

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Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
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  1. Lant Pritchett & Matt Andrews & Michael Woolcock, 2012. "Escaping Capability Traps through Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA)," Working Papers 299, Center for Global Development.
  2. Nancy Birdsall & Ayah Mahgoub & William D. Savedoff, 2010. "Cash on Delivery: A New Approach to Foreign Aid," Working Papers id:3308, eSocialSciences.
  3. Matt Andrews, 2008. "The Good Governance Agenda: Beyond Indicators without Theory," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 36(4), pages 379-407.
  4. World Bank, 2011. "World Development Report 2011," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 4389, October.
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Blog mentions

As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. Involving local non-state capacity to improve service delivery: it can be more difficult than it appears
    by Jed Friedman in Development Impact on 2014-06-26 16:20:18
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Cited by:
  1. Pritchett, Lant & Andrews, Matthew R. & Woolcock, Michael J., 2012. "Escaping Capability Traps through Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA)," Scholarly Articles 9403175, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
  2. David Hulme & Antonio Savoia & Kunal Sen, 2014. "Governance as a global development goal? Setting, measuring and monitoring the Post-2015 Development Agenda," Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper Series esid-032-14, BWPI, The University of Manchester.
  3. Pritchett, Lant & Samji, Salimah & Hammer, Jeffrey, 2013. "It's All about MeE: Using Structured Experiential Learning ("e") to Crawl the Design Space," Working Paper Series rwp13-012, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  4. François Bourguignon & Jean-Philippe Platteau, 2013. "Optimal Discipline in Donor-Recipient Relationships -Reframing the Aid Effectiveness Debate," PSE Working Papers halshs-00960570, HAL.
  5. Das, Ashis & Friedman, Jed & Kandpal, Eeshani, 2014. "Does involvement of local NGOs enhance public service delivery ? cautionary evidence from a Malaria-prevention evaluation in India," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6931, The World Bank.
  6. Lant Pritchett, Justin Sandefur, 2013. "Context Matters for Size: Why External Validity Claims and Development Practice Don't Mix-Working Paper 336," Working Papers 336, Center for Global Development.
  7. Andrews, Matt, 2013. "Explaining positive deviance in public sector reforms in development," Working Paper Series UNU-WIDER Research Paper , World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  8. Andrews, Matt, 2013. "Who really leads development?," Working Paper Series UNU-WIDER Research Paper , World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  9. Woolcock, Michael, 2013. "Using case studies to explore the external validity of .complex. development interventions," Working Paper Series UNU-WIDER Research Paper , World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).

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