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When Democracies Deliver: Governance Reform in Latin America

Published: 30 April 2019

The Institute for the Study of International Development congratulates Dr Kate Bersch for the publication of her new book. "When Democracies Deliver:  Governance Refrom in Latin America".  Dr Bersch was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for the academic years 2016-2017 and 2017-2018, and much of the research and writing of this volume was made possible by her ISID fellowship. 


Publication Detail

When Democracies Deliver:  Governance Reform in Latin America

Katherine Bersch, Davidson College, North Carolina

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

Online publication date: January 2019

Print publication year: 2019

Online ISBN: 9781108559638


Subjects: Politics and International Relations, Area Studies, Latin American Government, Politics and Policy, Comparative Politics, Latin American Studies

Book description

Why do governance reforms in developing democracies so often fail, and when might they succeed? When Democracies Deliver offers a dynamic framework for assessing the effectiveness and durability of policy change. Drawing on detailed analyses of public sector reforms in Brazil and Argentina, this book challenges conventional wisdom to reveal that incremental changes sequenced over time prove more effective in promoting accountability, increasing transparency, and strengthening institutions than comprehensive overhauls pushed through by political will. Developing an innovative theory that integrates cognitive-psychological insights about decision making with research on institutional change, Katherine Bersch shows how political and organizational factors can shape reform strategies and information processing. Through extensive interviews and field research, Bersch traces how two competing strategies have determined the different trajectories of institutions responsible for government contracting in health care and transportation. When Democracies Deliver offers a fresh insight on the perils of powering and the benefits of gradual reform.


'Public sector reform in emerging democracies is much demanded, but little understood. This wonderful book convincingly argues that effective and lasting improvements in governance are achieved not by swift, wholesale reform, as commonly believed, but by incremental reforms focused on solving specific problems. This book will change the way we think about bureaucratic reform.'

Frances Hagopian - Harvard University

'When Democracies Deliver takes a fresh look at state capacity-building in Latin America, and lays out the conditions under which it has happened successfully. It is relevant both to specialists in the region and to comparativists interested in general problems of political development.'

Francis Fukuyama - Stanford University


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