WIDER Annual Lecture 16
Folk and the Formula

Fact and Fiction in Development

Lant Pritchett’s key line of argument in this lecture is that if the current formula that development agencies rely on for building state capability was sound, it should have worked by now. Moreover, success in building state capability typically comes from a struggle to replace bad institutions with good (‘folk’) practices based on learning from experience – rather than from imposing a rigid formula unsuited to the local conditions.

Accordingly, the illuminating search light of Lant Pritchett is put on the practice of systemic isomorphic mimicry, wherein the outward forms (appearances, structures) of functional states and organizations elsewhere are adopted to camouflage a persistent lack of function; and on indigenous learning and knowledge, which are often undercut by the routine placement of highly unrealistic expectations on fledging systems.

The result is a fascinating journey into complex issues at the heart of the continued struggle for socioeconomic transformation and development.The 16th WIDER Annual Lecture was given by Professor Lant Pritchett at the impressive House of Nobility in Helsinki in September 2012, under the enticing title ‘Folk and the Formula: Pathways to Capable States’.