It is well established that even in countries that have poor governance and weak public sectors exceptional, well-functioning government and governmentsupported agencies do exist. What has not been established is how and why these ‘pockets of productivity’ are able to emerge.
Some attribute their existence to exceptional leadership and good management. Others, while not doubting the importance of these internal factors, believe that these ‘pockets’ are generated by their place in the country’s political economy. The literature on this subject is dominated by case studies and the consequence is that a very large number of hypotheses have been generated about what the political processes at work might be.
This paper inventories the array of available hypotheses and condenses them into five sets of mega-hypotheses. It also discusses how social scientists and practioners ought to think about something whose occurrence is idiosyncratic and therefore perhaps an exception to the normal causal patterns sketched by research.