"The Bureaucratic Politics of Social Disasters"

What drives bureaucratic behavior in dictatorships? How do political-bureaucratic relationships shape policy implementation and social outcomes in the absence of electoral accountability? Focusing on the Great Leap Forward in China under Mao, a misguided economic experiment that caused over 30 million deaths, this book explains how politicized control of bureaucracy causes policy disasters in authoritarian states.

Building on extensive micro-level data from archives, the central argument of this book is that politicized control of bureaucracy creates perverse incentives among bureaucrats, who behave over-zealously in implementing coercive policies at social costs. This book highlights two distinctions between democratic and authoritarian states in the way politicians control bureaucrats, which underlie the ''social tragedies'' of bureaucratic control in authoritarian states. First, politically motivated coercion against bureaucrats can politicize policy implementation, generating negative downstream impacts on citizens. Second, in the absence of electoral accountability, political oversight can increase bureaucratic accountability to political leaders, but at the cost of bureaucratic responsiveness to citizens.