Dissertation Project

Organizational Coherence, Bureaucratic Transfers, and State Responsiveness

In my dissertation, I examine the role of organizational processes within bureaucracy in shaping the quality of governance experienced by citizens. I suggest that governance failures, commonly observed across the low and middle income countries, stem from the inability of bureaucratic organizations to impose¬†de-jure¬†procedures on their agents. I show that misalignment between individual agents’ incentives and the organization’s overall goals result in variation in the quality of public service delivery. Specifically, I look at how bureaucrats, using informal social networks, circumvent formal administrative rules that seek to place them in remote, underdeveloped jurisdictions. The dominant explanations for state failure focus on the role of external actors like politicians and powerful local elites. I locate the source of state inefficiencies within the bureaucracy and highlight the need for examining the role of organizational procedures and norms in shaping citizen-state relations.

I situate my research in the state of Odisha in India and focus on the organization of the land bureaucracy, which is responsible for the management of agricultural and non-agricultural land use, collection of revenue, and approval of legal certifications that establish the eligibility of citizens for downstream welfare benefits. My analysis draws on 14 months of qualitative fieldwork, analysis of large scale administrative data set, and a unique dataset that captures the transfer history of state-level officials.