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How do external threats affect leaders' incentives to repress? We argue that external threats both increase and decrease state repression, but through different causal pathways. Directly, external threats provide leaders with political cover to use repression against political opponents. Indirectly, threats incentivize leaders to augment state capacity, which decreases the likelihood of state repression. To test this argument, we develop a new latent measure of external threat using a Bayesian measurement model. We use mediation analysis to examine the direct and indirect effects of external threats on repression in developing countries from 1980 to 2016. We find that external threats increase government repression directly, but indirectly decrease repression through stronger state capacity. Our findings have implications for how international factors connect to domestic politics to help explain state repression. In addition, our new measure of external threat will help scholars study the consequences of the international threat environment.
We argue that the effectiveness of Rwandan governments, both at implementing the 1994 genocide and inducing the current growth miracle, illustrates that the state has high capacity. Yet this capacity is not captured by conventional Weberian concepts, with their focus on taxation and formal bureaucracy. Rather, the capacity of Rwanda's state relies on its ability to leverage dense social networks which connect it to society. The origins of these networks lie in the construction of the historical state which expanded by merging with local lineages and kinship groups. Using data on the historical expansion of the Rwandan state as a proxy for the strength of state–society social networks we show they are uncorrelated with measures of Weberian state capacity. In a fieldwork exercise, we show that rule compliance today is positively correlated with our proxy, but uncorrelated with Weberian state capacity.
This paper uses economic history to probe the relationship between state capacity and economic growth during the Great and Little Divergences (c.1500–c.1850). It identifies flaws in the dominant measure of state capacity, fiscal capacity, and advocates instead analysing state expenditures. It investigates five key activities on which states historically spent resources: waging war; providing law and administration; building infrastructure; pursuing industrial policy; and fostering a national culture. The lesson of history, it concludes, is not to build a capacious state. Rather, we need a state that uses its capacity to help (or at least not hinder) market activity.
The Conclusion briefly identifies avenues for future research. In particular, it returns to the question of Sino-Western economic divergence mentioned at the beginning of this Introduction, and explores the possible connections between Qing fiscal undercapacity and China’s relative economic decline in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries. The most promising of these appears to be that government taxation can be an effective - albeit not exclusively so - way to concentrate capital and acquire the economies of scale often necessary for industrial takeoff, and therefore that the Qing’s fiscal weakness deprived it of a capital accumulation tool that some of its main competitors, notably Japan, used to great effect. The Conclusion also discusses the various connections between fiscal capacity and the broader concept of state capacity, and whether the ideological narrative presented here offers more general insights into the sociopolitical decline of Confucianism in the later nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
This chapter provides a historical analysis of state-building in Chechnya through the lens of law. It gives an account of the formation and development of legal pluralism under the Russian colonial administration and Soviet rule. The chapter shows that the politics of the imperial and Soviet authorities regarding legal pluralism can be explained by state capacity and ideology. The Russian Empire institutionalized legal pluralism as part of a divide and rule strategy, a response to low state capacity, and an orientalist ideology. When the Empire collapsed in 1917, local actors attempted to mobilize Sharia for competing political projects. Even the Bolsheviks initially built a surprising coalition with religious leaders. Upon the consolidation of Soviet rule, the central government attempted to eliminate legal pluralism in the region. The Soviet drive to ensure legal centralism was fueled by the ideology of modernization and increased state capacity. However, the project ultimately failed because of Stalin’s forced deportation of the entire Chechen nation to Central Asia in 1944. State violence strengthened the Chechen national identity and alienated Chechens from state law. After the return to the Caucasus in 1957, Chechens remained marginalized in the Soviet state-building project and preserved customary and religious institutions.
This chapter starts with the central puzzle of this book: Why do governments choose blunt force regulation to control pollution when more reasonable, sustainable solutions are possible? It proposes that governments choose this suboptimal approach because they seek, first and foremost, to overcome principal–agent problems within the state apparatus. Drawing on case research and interviews with government officials around China, this chapter illustrates how blunt force regulation creates shortcuts that allow political leaders to increase the credible threat of punishment towards noncompliant bureaucrats. These measures temporarily scare local authorities into enforcing policies as ordered, even after prolonged periods of noncompliance. Finally, this chapter offers some observable implications for this theory, which will be tested in ensuing chapters.
This chapter broadens the scope of the analysis to assess whether blunt force regulation is unique to China. It reveals that blunt force regulation is a widespread political phenomenon found in both advanced industrial environments (like the UK) and weak institutional environments (like India and the Philippines). When political leaders confront urgent or overwhelming enforcement problems, they sometimes resort to unreasonable, one-size-fits-all measures to ensure that enforcement actions are effective. Through analyzing these cases, this chapter concludes that blunt force regulation is one of a set of potential responses to the inevitable principal–agent problems of regulation. However, the character of blunt force regulation – including how forceful or indiscriminate it is – is shaped by institutional features such as a state’s resource capabilities and coercive capacity.
In the past decade, the Chinese government has resorted to forcibly shuttering entire industries or industrial areas to clean up the air. These “blunt force” measures are often taken as a sign of authoritarian efficiency; the state uses its coercive powers to swiftly eliminate polluting industries and then silence social dissent. This chapter introduces an alternate perspective: that blunt force regulation is a sign of ineffective bureaucratic control. When institutions are too weak to hold bureaucrats accountable, central leaders increase oversight by drastically reducing the number of steps and resources required to produce a regulatory outcome – resulting in blunt force measures. Through an overview of the causes and consequences of China’s blunt force pollution regulation, this chapter challenges the tenets of authoritarian environmentalism, forcing us to rethink what it means to be a “high-capacity” state.
China's green transition is often perceived as a lesson in authoritarian efficiency. In just a few years, the state managed to improve air quality, contain dissent, and restructure local industry. Much of this was achieved through top-down, 'blunt force' solutions, such as forcibly shuttering or destroying polluting factories. This book argues that China's blunt force regulation is actually a sign of weak state capacity and ineffective bureaucratic control. Integrating case studies with quantitative evidence, it shows how widespread industry shutdowns are used, not to scare polluters into respecting pollution standards, but to scare bureaucrats into respecting central orders. These measures have improved air quality in almost all Chinese cities, but at immense social and economic cost. This book delves into the negotiations, trade-offs, and day-to-day battles of local pollution enforcement to explain why governments employ such costly measures, and what this reveals about a state's powers to govern society.
Chapter 1 introduces the central puzzle of implementing primary education in northern India, a least likely setting for programmatic service delivery. Despite having the same formal institutions and national policy framework for primary education, implementation varies remarkably across northern Indian states. After reviewing existing explanations, the chapter outlines the main argument, anchored around variation in informal bureaucratic norms, and foreshadows the theoretical contributions to comparative politics and development. It then presents the research design and methods, based on multilevel comparisons in four Indian states (Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Bihar). Using multiple field research methods, I trace the implementation process from state capitals down to the village primary schools, drawing on two and a half years of field research: participant observation inside bureaucracies; village ethnography; and 853 interviews and 103 focus group discussions. I conclude with an overview of the book’s remaining chapters.
Chapter 4 embarks on Part II of the book, the first of four empirical chapters analyzing implementation in northern India. It examines primary education in Uttar Pradesh (UP), a state that exemplifies the dynamic of legalistic bureaucracy theorized in Chapter 2. Rural UP is among the least likely setting. First, I trace the historical origins and persistence of legalistic bureaucracy in UP from the colonial era onward, but focusing on the recent period of lower caste mobilization and multiparty competition. Next, I present evidence from multilevel comparative fieldwork demonstrating how legalistic bureaucracy drives implementation over a range of administrative tasks, including school infrastructure and enrollments and provision of the Midday Meal program. I then bring the analysis down to the village-level. Taking a citizen-centric view of the state, I trace the evolution of village collective action around primary schooling over time, demonstrating how bureaucratic norms interact with citizen oversight.
Chapter 9 concludes the book by outlining its contributions to scholarship in comparative politics, development and public administration. The theoretical framework centered on bureaucratic norms brings institutionalist perspectives on the state and social policy together with insights on street-level bureaucracy and local collective action. The conceptual interweaving of meso-level state institutions with the micro-politics of frontline service delivery gives rise to a new understanding of bureaucracy and its relationship to human development. The chapter also explores the study's policy implications for the reform of bureaucracy, public services and primary education in developing countries.
Chapter 6 studies primary education in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand. It offers a matched-pair comparison with the previous chapter's study of Himachal Pradesh (HP). Despite similar geography, agrarian economies and sociocultural norms, Uttarakhand's school system performs far worse. I trace the underperformance to the persistence of legalistic bureaucratic norms. Drawing on historical and ethnographic materials, I explore the political process behind Uttarakhand’s political separation from UP in 2000, a critical juncture that offered a window for state elites to reshape bureaucratic norms. Field-based evidence from interviews with state and societal actors showcases how legalism persists inside the state bureaucracy. Next, I analyze how legalism influences the state's management of teachers and monitoring of education services. I find that village collective action gets thwarted due to administrative burdens posed by local agencies, which induces households to exit and seek private substitutes. The findings suggest that legalistic bureaucracy weakens societal coproduction of public services over time, even in settings of high social capital.
Chapter 2 presents the book’s theory connecting differences in bureaucratic norms to variation in the implementation of primary schooling. I first define implementation and operationalize it for the primary education domain. I then present comparative education indicators, showcasing differences in performance across four Indian states. Next, I develop a theory anchored around the ideal types of legalistic and deliberative bureaucracy. I argue that deliberative bureaucracies, which promote flexibility and problem-solving, are more effective since they can adapt policies to local needs and activate participation from marginalized communities. By contrast, legalistic states, which adhere strictly to rules and procedures, implement policies unevenly and tend to benefit privileged groups in society, weakening the engagement of poor communities. I elucidate two mechanisms: collective understanding and behavior of state officials, and societal feedback, which together yield varied mentation patterns and outcomes. I explore the political origins behind the differences in bureaucratic norms. I scope conditions of my theory and contrast it with alternative political explanations for the implementation of public services.
Chapter 8 extends the book's argument to cases beyond northern India. It considers how bureaucratic norms shapes the delivery of primary education in four cases--the southern Indian state of Kerala, along with country cases of China, Finland and France, based on a close reading of secondary literature on bureaucratic development and education. The Kerala case demonstrates how deliberative bureaucracy has emerged in the historical context of social movement politics and private provision of schooling, yielding higher quality government services within India. The study of China offers insights on deliberative bureaucracy operates in a nondemocratic context, highlighting the adaptative capabilities of Chinese bureaucracy. The comparison of school education in Finland and France offers suggestive evidence for the divergent impacts of deliberative and legalistic bureaucracy across these advanced economies. Although the chapter's findings are provisional, the study of bureaucratic norms and services across a wide spectrum of sociopolitical contexts suggests the wider reach of the book's theoretical framework.
Chapter 5 analyzes how deliberative bureaucracy works to produce superior outcomes for primary education through the analysis of implementation in the state of Himachal Pradesh (HP). Notwithstanding its difficult Himalayan geography, subsistence agricultural economy and weak initial conditions, HP has arisen to become one of India's leading states in primary education. Drawing on historical sources and interviews with state officials, I first examine the historical emergence of deliberation in HP, linked to the politics of state-building in the 1970s and 1980s. I then present findings from qualitative field research conducted at the state-, district- and village-levels, demonstrating how deliberative bureaucracy implements primary education across a range of administrative tasks: state planning to expand infrastructure and integrate disadvantaged children, the promotion of women’s participation in the monitoring of schools and, finally, village-level coproduction of primary education services over time.
What makes bureaucracy work for the least advantaged? Across the world, countries have adopted policies for universal primary education. Yet, policy implementation is uneven and not well understood. Making Bureaucracy Work investigates when and how public agencies deliver primary education across rural India. Through a multi-level comparative analysis and more than two years of ethnographic field research, Mangla opens the 'black box' of Indian bureaucracy to demonstrate how differences in bureaucratic norms - informal rules that guide public officials and their everyday relations with citizens - generate divergent implementation patterns and outcomes. While some public agencies operate in a legalistic manner and promote compliance with policy rules, others engage in deliberation and encourage flexible problem-solving with local communities, thereby enhancing the quality of education services. This book reveals the complex ways bureaucratic norms interact with socioeconomic inequalities on the ground, illuminating the possibilities and obstacles for bureaucracy to promote inclusive development.
Chapter 2 presents my theory of party violence in more detail. I explain why parties choose to engage in violence despite its costs, which parties are most likely to do so, and the strategies of violence they employ. I focus on two types of political landscapes of weak state capacity – landscapes of shared sovereignty and landscapes of multiple competing sovereigns – where parties face differing incentives for violence. I explain that the extent to which voters impose costs on parties depends on whether the party has a captive support base. Assuming a party does engage in violence, the party’s organizational structure is key to whether it will do so directly through its own party members or whether it will outsource the task to a street-level violence specialist. I also highlight a third way in which parties engage in violence: through electoral alliances with elite violence specialists. Each of these strategies of violence has different predictions for the nature and level of the violence that follows. This chapter also explains the origins of these key variables and argues that they are exogenous to party strategy.
Chapter 3 provides an overview of the political climate in Pakistan, setting the stage for the empirical cases which follow. It provides brief but essential context on political representation, state capacity, and manifestations of violence in Pakistan. I explain in more detail the manner in which state institutions, including the police and military, interact with political parties and local strongmen to determine the cost and incentive structure parties encounter. I focus on two types of political landscapes in Pakistan, shared sovereignty and multiple competing sovereigns, and introduce the particular dynamics of political representation and violence in each. In doing so, I highlight the important role played by such structural factors as land and socioeconomic inequality, ethnic demographics, urban sprawl, and the availability of arms and ammunition. I then provide brief overviews of the four main political parties discussed in this book, with a focus on the parties’ organizational structures and how these structures came to be.
Governments are put in place to carry out policies. Effective governance means that they have the capacity to implement those policies. As Samuel Huntington observed, “[t]he most important political distinction among countries concerns not their form of government but their degree of government.”1 For our purposes, state capacity is the ability of a government-in-place to develop and implement policies that its leaders believe will improve national well-being. The capacity to govern includes having the required material resources, the personnel for whatever is necessary to deliver the policies to their beneficiaries, and a bureaucratic organization that enables high-level officials to implement policies.
How does state capacity feature in constitutional adjudication? And how can courts contribute to effective governance? Of course, they can interpret constitutions and statutes to authorize government officials to use whatever capacity they have to implement their chosen policies.