Reconceptualizing the Politics of Pockets of Effectiveness: A Power Domains Approach

Hickey, Sam and Mohan, Giles (2023). Reconceptualizing the Politics of Pockets of Effectiveness: A Power Domains Approach. In: Hickey, Sam ed. Pockets of Effectiveness and the Politics of State-building and Development in Africa. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, pp. 30–58.



This previous chapter argued that existing studies of PoEs have struggled to specify the forms of politics that shape how PoEs emerge and perform PoEs over time. To help address this problem, this chapter outlines the new conceptual and methodological approach developed for this project, which constitutes the first systematic investigation of PoEs across different types of political context. In conceptual terms, the authors argue that an alignment of political settlements analysis with critical theories of state power and African politics can help reveal how PoEs are shaped by underlying relations of power and politics. However, PoEs also need to be located within the particular ‘policy domain’ that they operate within, and which defines the political role they play, the policy challenges they face, and the organizational characteristics they require to perform effectively. The chapter identifies how this integrated ‘power domains’ approach can generate researchable propositions and how these were investigated through a mixture of within- and across-case analysis. It summarizes the results of the expert surveys that undertaken in Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, and Zambia, which were chosen to represent different types of political settlement. These surveys identified state agencies that operated within the domain of economic governance, namely ministries of finance, central banks, and revenue authorities. The chapter discusses how in-depth mixed methods investigations of these fifteen organizational case-studies were undertaken, tracking performance from the early 1990s through to the late 2010s, and locating each within shifting political settlement dynamics and the changing transnational political economy of development.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions