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Good Government in the Tropics

Paperback
, 240 pages
ISBN:
9780801860928
September 1998
$31.00

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Good Government in the Tropics

In Good Government in the Tropics, Judith Tendler questions widely prevailing views about why governments so often perform poorly and about what causes them to improve. Drawing on a set of four cases involving public bureaucracies at work under the direction of an innovative state government in Brazil, the book offers findings of significance to the current debates about organization of the public-sector workplace, public service delivery, decentralization, and the interaction between government and civil society. The case chapters represent four different sectors, each traditionally spoken for by its distinct experts, literatures, and public agnecies—rural preventive health, small enterprise development, agricultural extension for small farmers, and employment-creating public works construction and drought relief. With findings that cut across these sectoral boundaries, the book raises questions about the policy advice proferred by the international donor community. It shifts the terms of the prevailing debate away from mistrust of government toward an understanding of the circumstances under which public servants become truly committed to their work and public service improves dramatically.

Judith Tendler is professor of political economy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her previous works include Electric Power in Brazil: Entrepreneurship in the Public Sector, Inside Foreign Aid and New Lessons from Old Projects: The Workings of Rural Development in Northeast Brazil.

"Those who have been waiting for Judith Tendler's book... have been well rewarded. Bringing together the case studies of good government in the state of Ceara in North East Brazil enables Tendler to draw a series of wider, over-arching conclusions... [Overall] this is a splendid book, which reaches us just as the debates about the 'proper' role of the state in development are picking up again."

"The examples are well-presented, and together they weave a logical and forceful argument."

"Remarkably refreshing and timely."

"The traditional focus on trying to eliminate 'rent-seeking' by reducing the state's role has made a contribution but lost much of its charisma. Theoreticians and practitioners alike are looking for new ideas and Tendler offers a quite intriguing set of them. The cases demonstrate surprising counter-intuitive results that will be of interest even to those with little substantive interest in the particular setting described. Theoretical novelty and elegant use of evidence combine to make this book a clear winner,"