In This Review

Regime Threats and State Solutions: Bureaucratic Loyalty and Embeddedness in Kenya
Regime Threats and State Solutions: Bureaucratic Loyalty and Embeddedness in Kenya
By Mai Hassan
284 pp, Cambridge University Press, 2020
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This remarkable study of the bureaucracy in Kenya since its independence is all the more impressive because it is one of very few recent academic studies of the internal dynamics of an authoritarian state. It can be difficult for scholars to speak meaningfully about the internal political logic of such opaque systems. But Hassan is able to show how successive regimes in Kenya have managed the administration of the state and appointed top bureaucrats to regulate the country’s ethnic elites and maintain political stability. She employs a novel data set that tracks the career trajectories of over 2,000 Kenyan bureaucrats, and she layers in fascinating qualitative data from her interviews with dozens of the officials. Her analysis questions simplistic understandings of the role that ethnicity plays in governing Kenya: many bureaucrats have not come from the president’s ethnic group, even as the president has been far more likely to place administrators from his own ethnic group in key positions. Hassan’s book should be required reading for students of contemporary authoritarian rule.