IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

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

  • Lant Pritchett
  • Michael Woolcock
  • Matt Andrews

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.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1080/00220388.2012.709614
Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

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

as
in new window

Handle: RePEc:taf:jdevst:v:49:y:2013:i:1:p:1-18
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.tandfonline.com/FJDS20

Order Information: Web: http://www.tandfonline.com/pricing/journal/FJDS20

References listed on IDEAS
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.:

as in new window
  1. Andrews, Matt & Pritchett, Lant & Woolcock, Michael, 2013. "Escaping Capability Traps Through Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA)," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 234-244.
  2. Matt Andrews, 2008. "The Good Governance Agenda: Beyond Indicators without Theory," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 36(4), pages 379-407.
  3. Nancy Birdsall & Ayah Mahgoub & William D. Savedoff, 2010. "Cash on Delivery: A New Approach to Foreign Aid," Working Papers id:3308, eSocialSciences.
  4. World Bank, 2011. "World Development Report 2011," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 4389.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:taf:jdevst:v:49:y:2013:i:1:p:1-18. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Michael McNulty)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.