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McDonnell, Erin Metz

Patchwork Leviathan

Pockets of Bureaucratic Effectiveness in Developing States


    155,95 € / $178.25 / £148.00*

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    March 2020
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    Aims and Scope

    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 have instead 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 presents 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.


    6 b/w illus. 4 tables.
    Evans; Embedded Autonomy; Vivek Chibber; Locked in Place; Nitsan Chorev; Transnational Origins of Local Production; Prerna Singh; How Solidarity Works for Welfare; Robert H. Bates; Markets and States in Tropical Africa; Jeffrey Herbst; States and Power in Africa; Lauren MacLean; Informal Institutions and Citizenship in Rural Africa; Nicolas van de Walle; African Economies and the Politics of Permanent Crisis; World Bank; NGOs; bureaucracies; developing world; development; international development; New Deal
    Professional and scholarly;College/higher education;

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    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.


    "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

    "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

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