This comparison of rural development in India and the United States develops important departures from economic and historical institutionalism. It elaborates a new conceptual framework for analyzing state-society relations beginning from the premise that policy implementation, as the site of tangible exchanges between state and society, provides strategic interaction among self-interested individuals, social groups, and bureaucracies. It demonstrates how this interaction can be harnessed to enhance the effectiveness of public policy. Echeverri-Gent's application of this framework to poverty alleviation programs generates provocative insights about the ways in which institutions and social structure constrain policy-makers. In the process, he illuminates new implications for the concepts of state autonomy and state capacity.
The book's original conceptual framework and intriguing findings will interest scholars of South Asia and American politics, social theorists, and policy-makers.
John Echeverri-Gent is Associate Professor of Government and Foreign Affairs at the University of Virginia.
"This rich, original study crosses boundaries—between countries, genres of scholarship, and substantive foci—in disciplined but audacious fashion to study rural poverty and policy implementation in India and the United States. It shows the way not only to better social science, but to more effective, and more decent, government."—Ira Katznelson, New School for Social Research
"What happens when governments devise programs to help the rural poor? Comparing programs in two democracies, India and the United States, this thoughtful book draws lessons about politics and administation. There are practical lessons for policymakers to be found here—and also challenges to theorists of state and society."—Theda Skocpol, Harvard University
"A pioneering work in a new kind of political economy that puts structure and agency into a policy framework. Gent's skillful application of the organizational environment perspective in three radically different locations—Communist Bengal, Congress party ruled Maharashtra, and New Deal United States—suggests theoretically fruitful commonalities and divergences among pro-poor programs. It breaks new ground in conceptualizing what counts as comparable, and constitutes a significant advance in the study of comparative policy."—Lloyd I. Rudolph and Susanne Hoeber Rudolph, University of Chicago