A wave of public sector reforms has swept through developed, developing, and transitional countries in the past 30 years, prompting what has been labelled ‘a new public management revolution’. A political premium has been set on such reforms, by leaderships committed to neo-liberal principles. In research, a ‘contested’ literature of governance has emerged, reflecting the debate’s ideological nature. Proponents of reform claim successful transfers of state powers; critics point to growing research evidence of flawed application and negative results. Aid agencies are also uneasy on this score. Might the State after all be the fittest agent of worthwhile economic and social change? And should we not therefore be looking for ways to revitalise rather than unravel it?