This article examines the governance arrangements that have been supporting the implementation of federal public policies in Brazil in the last decade. The goal is to understand how the characteristics of such governance arrangements condition state capacities and influence the performance and outcomes of contemporary public policies. The research is based on the comparative analysis of eight cases of public policies or programs implemented by the federal government. The cases were selected because of the homogeneity in their contexts of implementation and because of the heterogeneity of their substantive policy focus (social, infrastructure, and industrial development). For each of the eight cases, we mapped out their specific governance arrangements and evaluated their respective technical-administrative and political-relational state capacities. Based on this, we used QCA (Qualitative Comparative Analysis) techniques to identify associations and causal mechanisms linking the characteristics of governance arrangements, types and levels of state capacities, and policy performance in terms of output delivery and innovation. The comparative analysis indicated substantive variations in the configurations of the governance arrangements that support policy implementation in the Brazilian federal government. The analysis of such variations revealed two main findings. On the one hand, the governance arrangements that induced greater technical-administrative capacities – i.e. those involving some combination of professionalized bureaucracies and effective inter and intra-government coordination mechanisms – promoted better performance in terms of output delivery, in relation to the other cases. On the other hand, governance arrangements that induced higher political-relational capacities – i.e. involving interactions with political agents and channels for civil society participation – expanded the potential for revision, learning, and innovation in policy implementation. These findings advance the debates on governance and state capacity because they allow us to understand how different types and levels of state capacity produce different effects on the performance and outcomes of public policies. These conclusions suggest the need for more research on governance structures for public policy in contemporary Brazil, as well as on their theoretical implications for debates on state capacities, and on their consequences for the actual management of public policies.
governance; state capacity; bureaucracy; implementation; public policy