The administrative state is a powerful tool because it can control the population and, in moments of crisis, help leaders put down popular threats to their rule. But a state does not act; bureaucrats work through the state to carry out a leader's demands. In turn, leaders attempt to use their authority over the state to manage bureaucrats in a way that induces bureaucratic behavior that furthers their policy and political goals. Focusing on Kenya since independence, the book weaves together micro-level personnel data, rich archival records, and interviews to show how the country's different leaders have strategically managed, and in effect weaponized, the public sector. This nuanced analysis shows how even states categorized as weak have proven capable of helping their leader stay in power.
Reviewed in: African Studies Quarterly, African Studies Review, Commonwealth & Comparative Politics, Foreign Affairs, Global Change, Peace & Security, Governance, Journal of Development Studies, The Monkey Cage (Washington Post), Perspectives on Politics