February 16 | 1 p.m. EST
What makes bureaucracy work for the least advantaged? Akshay Mangla explores this question in his new book, Making Bureaucracy Work: Norms, Education and Public Service Delivery in Rural India
. Countries around the world have policies for universal primary education, but implementation is highly uneven and not well understood. Conventional wisdom holds that developing countries need strong, formal, legal institutions to implement social programs, including strong Weberian bureaucracies insulated from political interference. Yet, bureaucracies in developing countries often depart widely from the Weberian ideal. More, while some perform poorly, others produce remarkable results. To explore this varied performance, Mangla analyzes the puzzling differences in education outcomes in rural India, a highly unequal setting in which existing theories expect bureaucracy to fail. Based on a multilevel comparative research design and 28 months of field research, Mangla opens up the black box of Indian bureaucracy, tracing policy implementation processes from state capitals down to local districts and village primary schools.
Making Bureaucracy Work
advances a novel theoretical argument anchored on bureaucratic norms, the informal rules of the game that guide how public officials understand their duties and relate with citizens on the ground. It finds that legalistic bureaucracies generate improvements in school infrastructure and enrollments, but perform poorly on complex tasks involving coordination with societal actors. Worse, they impose administrative burdens on marginalized groups, weakening societal participation. By contrast, deliberative bureaucracies encourage flexible problem-solving by state officials. Join us as Mangla reveals the complex ways bureaucratic norms interact with socioeconomic inequalities on the ground, illuminating bureaucracy’s role in promoting inclusive development.
Akshay Mangla, Associate Professor, University of Oxford
Meghna Sabharwal, Moderator, Professor, University of Texas at Dallas