Networks of effectiveness? The impact of politicization on bureaucratic performance in Pakistan

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Bureaucratic performance varies immensely even within low-capacity states. Politicians and bureaucrats create pockets or networks of effectiveness that allow some departments to perform more efficiently than others. How do these networks develop and how are politicized bureaucratic appointments used to influence performance? Drawing on qualitative fieldwork conducted in Punjab, Pakistan, this paper argues that politicians and bureaucrats ensure enhanced performance by making legal and extra-legal appointments of hand-picked bureaucrats to key posts. The choice of bureaucrat is made on the basis of carefully curated relationships of patronage established through work, training, and old school networks. As a result, temporary networks of effectiveness are created but rendered unsustainable by the very patronage relationships that create them, preventing them from evolving into more permanent pockets of effectiveness. More broadly, my argument contributes to debates on intra-state capacity and politicization, establishing a link between patterns of staffing and patterns of governance.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Development Research
Early online date17 Mar 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI).


  • Bureaucratic performance
  • Pakistan
  • Patronage
  • Pockets of effectiveness
  • South Asia
  • State capacity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development


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