Working with the Grain: Fostering Democratic Development at the Edge of Chaos

Thursday, October 16, 2014
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
William J. Perry Conference Room
Encina Hall, Second Floor, Central, C231
616 Jane Stanford Way, Stanford, CA 94305
  • Brian Levy



“Best practices” prescriptions for democratic reform confuse the end point with the journey of getting from here to there, so  are not  useful in responding to the governance ambiguities of the early 21st century. In this seminar, Brian Levy will introduce an alternative approach laid out in his new book, Working with the Grain: Integrating Governance and Growth in Development Strategies (New York: OUP, 2014).

In many nascent democracies, power is fragmented,  the rule of law and  public bureaucracies are weak; political stability is sustained through personalized deals. The way forward in such settings is to set aside ‘best practices’, and engage with things as they actually are seeking out ‘with the grain’ opportunities for initiating a virtuous spiral of forward economic momentum and incremental, cumulative improvements in institutions. As the seminar will explore, the implications for action of this altered perspective are profound --  on  the economic front, on the institutional front and  vis-à-vis how commitment to a democratic approach to development can be sustained over the long-haul.


Speaker Bio: 

brian levy logo
Brian Levy is a Senior Adjunct Professor at the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, USA. He worked at the World Bank from 1989-2012, where he led the group tasked with scaling up support for public sector reform in Africa, and subsequently co-led the effort to mainstream governance and anti-corruption into the organization's operational programs.Along with Working with the Grain, he has authored, co-authored and co-edited numerous books and articles on the interactions between public institutions, the private sector and development in Africa, East Asia, and elsewhere, includingGovernance Reform: Bridging Monitoring and Action (World Bank, 2007), Building State Capacity in Africa (World Bank Institute, 2004), and (with Pablo Spiller)  Regulations, Institutions and Commitment (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996). Prior to joining the Bank he was assistant professor in development economics at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. He completed his Ph.D in economics at Harvard University in 1983.