This article reviews the literature on the politics of bureaucracy in the developing world, with a focus on service delivery and bureaucratic performance. We survey classic topics and themes such as the developmental state, principal–agent relations, and the efficient grease hypothesis, and we link them to new research findings in political science, sociology, and economics. We identify the concept of embeddedness as an important yet still underexplored framework that cuts across disciplines and may be used to understand bureaucratic performance and service delivery. Looking forward, we outline a framework for conceptualizing bureaucratic action by exploiting variation across time, space, task, and client, and we identify promising areas for further research on the bureaucrat–citizen encounter in developing countries.


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