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Patchwork Leviathan: Pockets of Bureaucratic Effectiveness in Developing States

Patchwork Leviathan: Pockets of Bureaucratic Effectiveness in Developing States

by Erin Metz McDonnell


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Available for Pre-Order. This item will be available on March 3, 2020


Corruption and ineffectiveness are often expected of public servants in developing countries. However, some groups within these states are distinctly more effective and public oriented than the rest. Why? Patchwork Leviathan explains how a few spectacularly effective state organizations manage to thrive amid general institutional weakness and succeed against impressive odds. Drawing on the Hobbesian image of the state as Leviathan, Erin Metz McDonnell argues that many seemingly weak states actually have a wide range of administrative capacities. Such states are in fact patchworks sewn loosely together from scarce resources into the semblance of unity.

McDonnell demonstrates that when the human, cognitive, and material resources of bureaucracy are rare, it is critically important how they are distributed. Too often, scarce bureaucratic resources are scattered throughout the state, yielding little effect. McDonnell reveals how a sufficient concentration of resources clustered within particular pockets of a state can be transformative, enabling distinctively effective organizations to emerge from a sea of ineffectiveness.

Patchwork Leviathan offers a comprehensive analysis of successful statecraft in institutionally challenging environments, drawing on cases from contemporary Ghana and Nigeria, mid-twentieth-century Kenya and Brazil, and China in the early twentieth century. Based on nearly two years of pioneering fieldwork in West Africa, this incisive book explains how these highly effective pockets differ from the Western bureaucracies on which so much state and organizational theory is based, providing a fresh answer to why well-funded global capacity-building reforms fail—and how they can do better.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691197364
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 03/03/2020
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 6.14(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

Erin Metz McDonnell is Kellogg Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame. Her award-winning work has appeared in the American Sociological Review, the American Journal of Sociology, and Comparative Political Studies.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Patchwork Leviathan is a fantastic piece of scholarship. Rather than accept the stereotype of bad government, McDonnell reverses the telescope used to study bureaucracies by asking why some good governance practices exist and succeed. She demonstrates that successful bureaucracy is not a purely institutional or a structural creation but one originating in cultural practices and beliefs."—Miguel A. Centeno, coauthor of War and Society

"McDonnell offers an important contribution to the sociology of the state and state capacity. Patchwork Leviathan will have a major influence on the way social scientists understand and study bureaucratic practices and ethos, especially in developing countries."—Nitsan Chorev, author of Give and Take: Developmental Foreign Aid and the Pharmaceutical Industry in East Africa