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Beyond state capacity: bureaucratic performance, policy implementation and reform

Beyond state capacity: bureaucratic performance, policy implementation and reform Abstract There is a broad consensus that state capacity is central to economic and institutional development. But while the concept originated as a tool for macro-historical and comparative analysis, its success has led the term ‘capacity’ to become a default metaphor for discussing the quality of government bureaucracies. This paper discusses the limitations to conceiving of narrower questions of bureaucratic performance and policy implementation through the lens of the broad, aggregate concept of capacity. Whereas capacity refers to bureaucracies' hypothetical potential, this usually differs from their actual actions due to internal information and incentive problems created by bureaucracies' collective nature, and the constraints and uncertainty imposed by their multiple political principals. Capacity is a convenient shorthand term and is appropriate for some purposes, but it achieves this convenience by abstracting away from the mechanisms that determine bureaucratic performance and policy implementation. To advance the study of bureaucratic quality, researchers should seek to understand the implications of bureaucracies' collective nature, engage with contextual specificity and contingency in policy implementation, and focus measurement and reform efforts more towards actual performance than hypothetical capacity. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Institutional Economics Cambridge University Press

Beyond state capacity: bureaucratic performance, policy implementation and reform

Journal of Institutional Economics , Volume 17 (2): 19 – Apr 1, 2021

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References (135)

Publisher
Cambridge University Press
Copyright
Copyright © Millennium Economics Ltd 2020
ISSN
1744-1382
eISSN
1744-1374
DOI
10.1017/S1744137420000478
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Abstract There is a broad consensus that state capacity is central to economic and institutional development. But while the concept originated as a tool for macro-historical and comparative analysis, its success has led the term ‘capacity’ to become a default metaphor for discussing the quality of government bureaucracies. This paper discusses the limitations to conceiving of narrower questions of bureaucratic performance and policy implementation through the lens of the broad, aggregate concept of capacity. Whereas capacity refers to bureaucracies' hypothetical potential, this usually differs from their actual actions due to internal information and incentive problems created by bureaucracies' collective nature, and the constraints and uncertainty imposed by their multiple political principals. Capacity is a convenient shorthand term and is appropriate for some purposes, but it achieves this convenience by abstracting away from the mechanisms that determine bureaucratic performance and policy implementation. To advance the study of bureaucratic quality, researchers should seek to understand the implications of bureaucracies' collective nature, engage with contextual specificity and contingency in policy implementation, and focus measurement and reform efforts more towards actual performance than hypothetical capacity.

Journal

Journal of Institutional EconomicsCambridge University Press

Published: Apr 1, 2021

Keywords: State capacity; government performance; bureaucracy; policy implementation; H8; H11

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