Development in the Face of Global Inequalities; Barcelona Institute for International Studies (IBEI)
Faculty Research Conference Travel Grants
Paper presentation at the conference “Development in the Face of Global Inequalities”
Within seemingly “weak” states exceptionally effective subunits lie hidden. These high-performing niches exhibit organizational characteristics distinct from poor-performing peer organizations, but also from high-functioning organizations in Western countries. This article develops the concept of interstitial bureaucracy to explain how and why unusually high-performing state organizations in developing countries invert canonical features of Weberian bureaucracy. Interstices are distinct-yet-embedded subsystems characterized by practices inconsistent with those of the dominant institution. This interstitial position thereby poses particular challenges and requires unique solutions. Interstices cluster together scarce proto-bureaucratic resources to cultivate durable distinction from the status quo, while managing disruptions arising from interdependencies with the wider neopatrimonial field. The article proposes a framework for how bureaucratic interstices respond to those challenges, generalizing from organizational comparisons within the Ghanaian state and abbreviated historical comparison cases from 19th-Century America, early 20th-Century China, mid-20th Century Kenya, and early 21st Century Nigeria.