At the beginning of the twenty-first century, a peculiar
promise held sway in international development circles. Its
central premise was that modern bureaucracies, managing
transparent information, were the key to promoting equal-
ity, freedom, and prosperity around the world. This model
of development emerged at the end of the Cold War along-
side a host of other projects that have come to be known as
“neoliberalism”: structural adjustment programs including
privatization of state industries, outsourcing of public ser-
vices, deregulation of markets and trade. Most neoliberal
projects, and the premises on which they were based, have
been widely critiqued, and in the wake of financial collapses
in Asia, Latin America, Europe, and the United States, neo-
liberalism and unfettered deregulation have become unpop-
ular in mainstream political and economic thinking.1 We
have entered, we are told, the era of “post-neoliberalism.”2
And yet the model of governance based on bureaucratic
reform remains, and with it many of the catchwords that
were popular in the early 1990s, the heyday of neoliberal-
ism: transparency, accountability, efficiency, anticorruption.
If anything, these promising tropes have thrived and have
been invested with even greater expectation than before.
With deregulation off the table, development is suddenly
to be achieved solely by eliminating waste, streamlining pa-
perwork, making service providers accountable. But if there
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