This article looks at how rural inhabitants navigated state power under a regime led by a former socialist party that negotiated its conversion to a market economy while keeping tight control on the whole society. In that regard, it addresses adjustment in a very specific context, by analysing a distinctive chronology, raising the ruling party's ability to negotiate with the international financial institutions, and considering popular reactions from a rural point of view. The regime led by the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) managed to delay measures of structural adjustment during the 1990s and 2000s while deepening structures of state control it partly inherited from the former military junta. Brutal structural adjustment plans were refused, while international financial institutions were kept away from the Ethiopian government's policy mix, by way of elaborate ideological and institutional arrangements. The EPRDF coined its own version of the “developmental state” and renewed state control of the economy while deepening its articulation to global markets. Under the EPRDF, all sectors of society and especially peasantries were closely monitored and mobilized in the name of development. But although the open expression of dissent remained rare, peasants resorted to many strategies to cope with political control and to some extent divert it. By taking agricultural policies as a case study, the article describes peasant practices and questions differences between resistance, false compliance, and diversion, underlining how blurred such labels can actually be.