Katherine Bersch: Comparative Politics Article

Katherine Bersch’s article, “The Merits of Puzzle-Solving over Powering: Governance Reform in Brazil and Argentina,” is forthcoming in Comparative Politics.

Abstract: Scholars of governance reforms in developing countries often argue that the surest way to address corruption, cronyism, inefficiency, and red tape is swift, dramatic change enacted by political leaders during moments of upheaval (i.e., “powering” reforms). This research finds that a very different type of change is not only possible but also more effective and enduring. A comparison of attempts to increase accountability, transparency, and institutional strength in Brazil and Argentina demonstrates that incremental changes sequenced over time in response to failings in previous policy (i.e., “puzzle-solving” reforms) provide two crucial advantages over powering’s wholesale and rapid overhauls of the state: (1) continual adjustments and modifications benefit from learning; and (2) an incremental approach makes reform more durable and helps preserve bureaucratic autonomy.