Predatory, Developmental and Other Apparatuses

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Session 2

Peter Evans, “Predatory, Developmental and Other Apparatuses,” Sociological Forum, Dec. 1989, pp. 561-87

Summary of the summary: Evans analyzes various models of the state. The neoutilitarian model (minimize the state) is compared with Weber (a coherent bureaucracy is necessary), Gerschenkron (state as surrogate entrepreneur) and Hirschman (state must provide incentives to invest). These theoretical models provide a background to compare a developmental state (Japan) with a predatory state (Zaire) and an intermediate case (Brazil).

Despite a relatively uninteresting beginning, this reading gets better as it goes on (I think) and presents a good framework for viewing the “state”. The author begins with presenting the context for his article.

Context: The “neoutilitarian model” of the state has seen a recent resurgence in popularity due to frustrations and disillusionment over the failures of post-colonial states burdened with corrupt bureaucracies. The fact that neoutilitarian thinking (basically that states are inherently “rent-seeking” or corrupt) has gained great favor in the world of development (this article written in 1989) makes the author uneasy – he feels we must look more carefully at what useful role the state might play.
What exactly is the neoutilitarian model?
Public choice theory generates the most prominent and powerful version of the neoutilitarian vision of the state:

  • Assumes that incumbents in public office (like all social actors) are rational maximizers

  • Incumbents require political supporters to survive and these in turn must be provided with incentives sufficient to retain their support

  • The exchange relationship between incumbents (office holders) and their supporters is the essence of the state

  • Office holders may distribute resources directly (jobs, subsidies, contracts, etc)


They may use their rule-making authority to create rents my restricting the ability of the market forces to operate (import restrictions, licenses, quotas, tariffs) and may exact a share of the rent for themselves

  • this relationship between office holders in creating rents is self-reinforcing  supporters who originally were productive become dependent on rents (and favor the expansion of rental havens) while office holders gain resources and political power from creating and collecting rents


  • As state size increases, more economic activity is incorporated into “rental havens” and economic efficiency and dynamism will decline


Problem with the utilitarian model: following neoutilitarian logic, even the most minimal state will move into the business of providing and collecting rents, so we need a model which shows how individuals can be both constrained (from rent-seeking behavior) and motivated (to pursue corporate/collective goals)
Summary of neoutilitarian thinking: Any state action is likely to lead to negative outcomes. State size should be kept to an absolute minimum.

Historical Perspectives (on role of state)

Weber - bureaucracy is necessary

  • “the operation of large-scale capitalist enterprise depended on the availability of the kind of order that only a modern state could provide”

  • the bureaucracy must be a:

  • corporately coherent entity

  • somewhat insulated from surrounding society

  • made effective by the concentration of expertise through meritocratic recruitment and the provision of opportunities for long-term career rewards (bureaucrats must be given a distinctive status)

  • Thus, Weber’s state was able to support markets and capitalist accumulation precisely because the actions of the office holders/bureaucrats followed a logic very different from that of the market

Gerschenkron – state must sometimes serve as a surrogate entrepreneur (when private markets incapable of amassing adequate resources)

  • Late industrializers confronted production technologies with very large capital requirements – and individual capitalists were unable or unwilling to take on the risk

Hirschmann – state must provide incentives to induce private capitalists to invest (and be ready to alleviate bottlenecks that create disincentives to invest)

  • what is lacking in developing countries is not capital, but entrepreneurship (willingness to risk capital)

Relation between state and society: Weber sees a fairly insulated bureaucracy, Gerschenkron and Hirschmann’s arguments demand a state that, while still somewhat insulated (to maintain corporate coherence) is actually “embedded” in society

Comparisons of States

The Predatory State – Zaire

  • preoccupation with “rent-seeking” (corruption) by the political class has turned the rest of society into prey

  • a textbook example of what we would expect if neoutilitarian logic held

  • control of the state apparatus is held by a small group of personally connected individuals

  • personalism and plundering at the top destroys any possibility of rule-governed behavior in the lower levels of bureaucracy, giving individual maximization free-rein (thus the individual hand of the market dominates administrative behavior)

Lesson 1: it is not bureaucracy that impedes development, but the lack of capacity to behave like a bureaucracy

Lesson 2: most decisions are up for sale to private elites, so state has little real autonomy but in another sense is very autonomous from any constraining social interests (so not a good example of autonomy)
The Developmental State – Japan

  • officials have the special status that Weber felt was so important (long-career paths in bureaucracy, established norms)

 individual maximation takes place via conformity to bureacratic rules rather via exploitation of individual opportunities presented by the “individual hand”

  • informal networks extremely important:

- internal networks

- provide an internal coherence and corporate identity that meritocracy alone could not provide

- formal competence is the prime requirement for entry into the network (effective performance becomes a valued attribute)

  • external networks

  • connect state and private corporate elites – very important

  • exceptionally competent, cohesive organization, able to participate in external networks

  • autonomous (in the sense of being able to independently formulate its own goals)

Result: a relative or “embedded autonomy” that is the key to the developing state’s effectiveness

***depends on a combination of Weberian bureaucratic isolation with intense immersion in the surrounding social structure)

How did it come about?

  • began post WWII period with long bureaucratic tradition

  • the exceptional autonomy of the Japanese state after WWII allowed the state to dominate the formation of the ties that bound capital and state together

  • Result: made possible the embedded autonomy of the Japanese state

Intermediate Case – Brazil

  • unusually extensive powers of political appointment are the necessary complement to a lack of a generalized meritocratic requirement

  • only pockets of efficiency exist, which are dependent on the personal protection of individual presidents

  • Brazil has tried to modernize its bureaucracy by piecemeal, but the resulting fragmented structure makes policy coordination difficult and encourages resort to personalistic solutions

  • No incentives for long-term commitments by members of the bureaucracy

  • Lack of a stable bureaucratic structure

  • State has always had to deal traditional elites (landed oligarchy) and the presence of foreign multinationals in the domestic manufacturing market – complex environment for state

  • Poor linkages with society (individualized rather than institutionalized)

  • Brazil’s state has achieved limited successes in some areas where the state organization had exceptional coherence and capacity, which in turn facilitated effective linkages with the private sector

Brazil summary: only partial embedded autonomy. Full embedded autonomy impossible because of a lack of internal organizational capacity and Brazil’s complex and contentious elite structure.
Most effective states – well-developed, bureaucratic internal organization joined with dense public-private ties (embedded autonomy)

Intermediate states – occasionally approximate embedded autonomy, but not sufficiently to give them the transformative power of the developmental state

Least effective states – undisciplined internal structures combined with external ties ruled by the invisible hand
***Construction of a “real” bureaucratic apparatus is a crucial developmental task. Sometimes it is useful to shrink the state apparatus to increase efficiency, but intermediate states (like Brazil) are especially vulnerable to the negative consequences of neoutilitarian policies, which can undermine the “pockets of efficiency” that do exist and undercutting any possibility of moving in the direction of the developmental state. The ideal of embedded autonomy demonstrates that bureaucratic capacity and social connectedness may be mutually reinforcing.

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