The Co-opted State: Bureaucrats, Development, and Corruption in Ghana

  • 1 Nov 2022

    12:30-14:00, Clay Room, Nuffield College

  • Political Science Seminars   Add to Calendar
Speaker: Sarah Brierley


This event is part of the Political Science Seminar series. Please note: This is a hybrid event.

Abstract: Investing in state capacity presents a dilemma to politicians in developing democracies. While increased capacity can facilitate social and economic advancement, steps that enhance state capacity often result in decreased bureaucratic loyalty. Decreased loyalty can constrain politicians’ ability to use the state to satisfy their personal and political goals. Faced with the above dilemma, I argue that politicians engage in a mixed strategy in which they invest in bureaucratic capacity while retaining tools to enforce (individual) bureaucratic loyalty when needed. In this book, I analyze the case of Ghana. I show that despite the meritocratic recruitment of bureaucrats and de jure job security, politicians retain informal tools through which they can co-opt bureaucrats. I investigate the result of this co-optation in two areas: the distribution of local public goods projects and the awarding of public contracts to firms. The results imply that attempts to professionalize bureaucratic selection may be futile unless bureaucrats have sufficient career protection after they are hired.

The Political Science Seminar Series is convened by Tarik Abou-Chadi and Ezequiel Gonzalez Ocantos. For more information on this or any of the seminars in the series, please contact