Jobs for the Boys: Patronage and the State in Comparative Perspective

Jobs for the Boys: Patronage and the State in Comparative Perspective

by Merilee S. Grindle


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Patronage systems in the public service are universally reviled as undemocratic and corrupt. Yet patronage was the prevailing method of staffing government for centuries, and in some countries it still is. In Jobs for the Boys, Merilee Grindle considers why patronage has been so ubiquitous in history and explores the political processes through which it is replaced by merit-based civil service systems. Such reforms are consistently resisted, she finds, because patronage systems, though capricious, offer political executives flexibility to achieve a wide variety of objectives.

Grindle looks at the histories of public sector reform in six developed countries and compares them with contemporary struggles for reform in four Latin American countries. A historical, case-based approach allows her to take into account contextual differences between countries as well as to identify cycles that govern reform across the board. As a rule, she finds, transition to merit-based systems involves years and sometimes decades of conflict and compromise with supporters of patronage, as new systems of public service are politically constructed. Becoming aware of the limitations of public sector reform, Grindle hopes, will temper expectations for institutional change now being undertaken.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674065703
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 06/11/2012
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Merilee S. Grindle is Edward S. Mason Professor of International Development, Emerita, at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the former Director of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Weber's.Ghost 1

I The Longue Durée

1 A System for All Seasons 37

2 Politics in the Construction of Reform 72

3 Aprés Reform: Deconstruction and Reconstruction 104

II A Contemporary Record

4 Latin America: Patterns of Patronage and Politics 141

5 Roots and Branches 156

6 Crafting Reform: Elite Projects and Political Moments 178

7 Ambiguous Futures: The Politics of Implementation 203

Conclusion: The Politics of Institutional Creation and Re-creation 241

Notes 265

Bibliography 293

Index 309

What People are Saying About This

Javier Corrales

One of the book's most original arguments is that there are drawbacks to professionalizing the bureaucracy. A stable, rule-bound administration may compromise flexibility for rulers, and even degrees of loyalty, both of which are arguably necessary for good governance. The book offers a counterargument to those scholars who, following Weber, believe that maximizing meritocracy is an unmitigated gift.

Javier Corrales, Amherst College

Judith Tendler

An outstanding book, highly original in its creation of a new interface between the historical-institutional literature on now-"developed" countries and the almost completely separate world of the development literature.

Judith Tendler, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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