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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1998, Vol. 1 No. 1 .

Challenging the State - Crisis and Innovation in Latin America and Africa
Merilee S Grindle.

(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

This book offers a broad perspective on the challenges presented to African and Latin American states by the economic and political crises of the 1980s, and outlines how states have responded to them. Crucial to the argument is the tracking of how four sets of state capacities (institutional, technical, administrative and political) have been weakened by these crises. Grindle argues that that the required response to these crises is for states to regain institutional capacity through establishing new political rules for the game, thus renegotiating basic state-economy and state-society relationships; to regain technical capacity by drawing technocratic expertise into the policy-making process; to regain administrative capacity by restructuring public institutions and redrawing public sector/private sector boundaries and responsibilities; and to regain political capacity through civic society succeeding in securing participation and responsiveness. Clearly, not all states succeed equally well in rising to these challenges, which Grindle demonstrates by in-depth analyses of the cases of Mexico and Kenya. She concludes this meticulous study by arguing that state leaders, given their respective institutional platforms provided by executive offices (i.e. Presidency), bureaucracy and political party, represent the pivotal independent variable in determining state responses to crises of capacity.

Pierre du Toit, University of Stellenbosch.

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