In this work, the author argues against widely prevailing views about why governments so often do badly and about what causes them to perform well when they do. In so doing, she raises several questions about the policy advice proffered today by the mainstream donor community. Drawing on a set of four cases involving public bureaucracies at work under the direction of an innovative state government in Brazil, Tendler offers findings of significance to the debates about organization of the public sector workplace, public service delivery, decentralization, and the interaction between government and civil society. Each case chapter represents a different sector, traditionally spoken for by its own experts and a largely self-contained literature - rural preventive health, small enterprise development, agricultural extension for small farmers, and employment-creating public works construction and drought relief.
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.