Expansive intervention as neo-institutional learning: root causes in the Merida Initiative

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Interventions since the 1990s have greatly expanded in policy scope. While neo-liberals understand expansion as an attempt to work on the enabling preconditions of liberal market democracy, Foucauldian governmentality studies see in expansion a set of increasingly intrusive disciplinary techniques of responsibilization. This paper introduces an alternative lens: neo-institutional learning. Through a case study of the Merida Initiative, a US–Mexican security cooperation agreement, the paper argues that expansion grows serendipitously out of the repetitive discovery of new, ‘deeper’ unknowns within a neo-institutional framework of analysis. Importantly, downward penetration requires deconstructing reductionist liberal-universal knowledge claims. Paradoxically, then, the more statebuilders learn (empirically), the less they know (analytically).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-180
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Intervention and Statebuilding
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2016

Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in
Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding on 16/02/16, available
online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/17502977.2016.1146503

Copyright © and Moral Rights are retained by the author(s) and/ or other copyright owners. A copy can be downloaded for personal non-commercial research or study,without prior permission or charge. This item cannot be reproduced or quoted extensively from without first obtaining permission in writing from the copyright holder(s). The content must not be changed in any way or sold commercially in any format or medium without the formal permission of the copyright holders.


  • Statebuilding
  • Neo-liberalism
  • Latin America
  • Governmentality
  • Neo-institutionalism Introduction


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