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Political settlements

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Why do similar sets of formal institutions often have such divergent outcomes? An analysis of political settlements goes some way to answering this question by bringing into focus the contending interests that exist within any state, which constrain and facilitate institutional and developmental change. It provides a framework to analyse how the state is linked to society and what lies behind the formal representation of politics in a state. The political settlement and the elite bargains from which it emerges are central to patterns of state fragility and resilience. The role of political organisation within the political settlement is crucial to both the stability of the settlement and the direction in which it evolves over time. The elite bargains that may lead to the establishment of what might be considered a resilient political settlement may also act as a barrier to progressive developmental change. Analysis of political settlements suggests that state-building is far from a set of technical formulas, but is a highly political process. Creating capacity within a state to consolidate and expand taxation is fundamentally determined by the shape of the political settlement underlying the state. This is true as well for the development of service delivery or any other function of the state. This analytical framework provides a window for donors to grasp the politics of a place in order to design more effective interventions.

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