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Article

Sanneke Kuipers and Annika Brändström

The post-crisis accountability process is a purification ritual that serves to channel public emotions and enables re-equilibration after a severe disturbance of the sociopolitical order. Crisis accountability literature can be reviewed in terms of forums, actors, and consequences. This setup allows a systematic discussion of how crises impact: the accountability process in influencing its setting (the forum); the strategies of accountees and their opponents (actors); and the resulting outcomes in terms of reputation damage, sanctions, and restoration (consequences). There is a clear distinction between formal and informal accountability forums, with the media being almost exclusively informal, and judicial forums, accident investigators, and political inquiries having formal authority over accountability assessments. Yet, through the presence of formal authorities in media reporting, and because media frames influence the work of formal authorities, the different forums intensively interact in accountability processes. Looking at accountability strategies reveals that the number of actors involved in blame games is likely rising because of increasingly networked crisis responses, and the role of actors has become more important and personal in the crisis aftermath and accountability process. The consequences and success of individual actors in influencing the accountability outcomes is shaped by both institutional settings and individual skills and strategies. A current political power position that exceeds prior mistakes is an effective shield, and denial is the least effective though most commonly used strategy. Accountability processes remain a balancing act between rebuttal and repair. Yet after major crisis, renewal is possible, and post-crisis accountability can play a crucial role therein.

Article

Accountability and responsibility are related ideas that are central to political, constitutional, and institutional arrangements in Western liberal democracies. However, political elites in non-democratic systems are generally not held accountable by citizens through such arrangements, and accountability is primarily a means of securing the compliance of state functionaries to the will of these elites. In liberal democracies the terms “accountability” and “responsibility” are often used in common discourse as if they were synonyms, but they are not. The former is a concept that embodies a number of different types, with a common theme of answerability by an accountor to an accountee, usually—but not necessarily—in a hierarchical relationship designed to ensure compliance and control. Responsibility, on the other hand, speaks of the associated but different domain of individual moral choice, where often conflicting duties of obligation are experienced by those in official positions. Beginning in the 1980s, the so-called new public management movement, which brought major changes to many Western systems of public administration, sought to enhance the accountability of public bureaucrats, especially their answerability to their elected political superiors. The effects have been mixed and uncertain, often with unintended consequences, such as the reinforcement of risk aversion and blame shifting and gaming behavior. The quest for accountability is inherently a political process, in which “holding to account” may often depend much less on any forensic determination of specific culpability and much more on evidential and political disputation, where the search for the “truth” is highly—and increasingly—contestable.

Article

Disproportionate policy response—which is composed of two core concepts, namely policy overreaction and under-reaction—is typically understood to be a lack of “fit” or balance between the costs of a public policy and the benefits deriving from this policy and/or between a policy’s ends and means. The disproportionate policy perspective introduces an intentional component into disproportionate response. It represents a conceptual turn whereby the concepts of policy overreaction and under-reaction are reentering the policy lexicon as types of intentional policy responses that are largely undertaken when political executives are vulnerable to voters. In times of crisis, disproportionate policy responses may be intentionally designed, implemented as planned, and sometimes successful in achieving policy goals and in delivering the political benefits sought by the political executives who design them. The premise underlying this argument is that crises vary in many respects, some of which may incentivize a deliberate crisis response by political executives that is either excessive, or lacking. For example, when crises occur at times of electoral vulnerability, the relevancy of policy instruments’ visibility, theatricality, spectacularity, and popularity may dominate the calculus of crisis management decisions. The same applies in cases where strong negative emotions emerge, and subsequently, political executives may opt to overwhelm hysterical populations cognitively and emotionally, trying to convince them that the policy system is viable.

Article

Muiris MacCarthaigh and Leno Saarniit

Administrative culture is an established and prominent theme in public administration research. It is frequently used to explain or contextualize a variety of phenomena in the discipline, ranging from differences in governing styles and policy outcomes between national bureaucracies to making sense of the informal norms and values that determine the activities of individual public organizations and how they interact with political and non-state interests. It is also occasionally used to characterize a particular “type” of organizational culture, with features that distinguish it from the private or third sectors. With such varied uses of the term, as well as related concepts such as administrative style, tradition, and legacies, administrative culture attracts multiple interpretations as well as its fair share of criticisms as an explanatory tool. In some contexts, administrative culture is an independent variable that helps explain divergence and variety in policy outcomes within and across national borders, while in others it is a dependent variable that attracts experiments and new measurement tools with the aim of producing more sophisticated understanding of its place in public governance. Early skepticism about the study of administrative culture mainly arose due to the absence of adequate methodology as well as uncertainty about how to begin empirical research into the concept. The emergence of such a methodology and tools for inquiry since the 1970s has meant that administrative culture is now firmly located in the literature and practice of government and a burgeoning literature now exists across the globe. Some of the key contemporary debates around administrative culture concern the interplay between cultures and sub-cultures within bureaucracies, the influence of distinctive administrative traditions and styles on policy outcomes, and the role culture plays in public sector reform.

Article

Administrative reform has become an almost permanent feature of most governments across the world driven by the pursuit of efficiency, responsiveness and performance and sometimes induced by domestic or external crises. The paradigms and priorities of reform vary at different times in tandem with the dominant ideological currents. Despite similarities in the vision, rhetoric and tools of reform engaged, regional and national variations can be observed attributable to historical, cultural, political and institutional factors. These factors mediate the specific reform agenda setting and implementation processes, resulting in distinct national reform hybrids. The realpolitik of reform cannot be devoid of the prevailing political order and structures of power and resources, which determine institutional interactions such as between politicians and bureaucrats, between the center and localities, and between the executive and legislature. Forces for and against change interplay in the domains of politics, bureaucracy and society to ultimately make or break reform. Opportunities for change are rooted in the same setting as the resistance to reform, such that the drivers of and the barriers to reform are paradoxically two sides of the same coin. All reform junctures comprise elements of both preservation and innovation or renovation, mostly ending in a negotiated settlement and mixed results.

Article

Louisa Bayerlein and Christoph Knill

There are distinct characteristics to the ways and procedures through which public administrations typically accomplish their daily tasks. The informal routines that characterize the behavior and activities of public administrations in the policymaking process are called administrative styles. They can be understood as the meso-level of organizational culture. Studying administrative styles is important for comparative research on policymaking because they capture and explain variance in policymaking and implementation beyond merely structural aspects or formal institutions. Similar to policy styles and regulatory styles, the concept of administrative styles has long been employed to describe state–society relationships. It has found to be a useful independent variable in the study various phenomena, such as divergent policy developments across European states, national idiosyncrasies in regulatory regimes or the impact of Europeanization on national administrations. However, administrative styles can also be informative of the relationship between the bureaucracy with both their political masters and society and bureaucratic influence in policymaking. In this regard, one can distinguish two orientations underpinning administrative styles, namely positional and functional orientations characterizing informal bureaucratic routines and standard operating procedures. Depending on the prevalence of positional and functional orientations in behavioral patterns, it is possible to distinguish four ideal-typical administrative styles that apply to administrative routines of influencing the policymaking process: a servant style, an advocacy style, a consolidator style, and an entrepreneurial style. Variation in administrative styles across different organizations can be explained by two factors, namely the internal and external challenges they face. Understood this way, administrative styles could enable a comparative assessment of bureaucratic routines and influence in policymaking across different countries or sectors as well as in supra- and international bureaucracies.

Article

Contemporary administrative systems are shaped in part by their past and by the conceptions of good administration that are embedded in administrative culture. Administrative traditions shape contemporary administration in Europe and have been heavily influenced by European models. Administrative tradition means an historically based set of values, structures, and relationships with other institutions that define the nature of appropriate public administration. Seven dimensions can be used to both define these traditions and categorize public administration into four groups of nations. This explanation is similar to cultural explanations, but it includes the influence of structures as well as ideas. While the model of traditions developed is based largely on European and North American experiences, it can also be applied to a much broader range of administrative systems.

Article

Paul Sabatier and Hank Jenkins-Smith introduced the Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF) in the late 1980s to refine the theoretical and methodological tools available for the study of the policy process. Since the late 1990s, the use of the framework has grown in use outside the United States and it is now applied to study a broad range of policy arenas in all continents. ACF scholars have created a core community that regularly synthetizes findings from applications of the framework, giving the ACF the form of a true research program. The ACF has three principal theoretical domains: advocacy coalitions, policy subsystems, and policy change. The ACF posits that advocacy coalitions and policy subsystems are the most efficient ways to organize actors interested in the policy process for empirical research. The policy subsystem is the main unit of analysis in the ACF, and there are four paths leading to policy change. Expectations about the interactions between and within the three theoretical domains are contained in 15 main hypotheses which have received different degrees of confirmation since the late 1980s. The aspect that has received more attention in existing applications is the effect that external events have on policy change. The development of the ACF is supported by an active community of scholars that constantly reviews venerable as well as emerging criticisms, introducing adjustments that expand the heuristic power of the ACF in a controlled way. However, some areas in need of further refinement relate to: policy-oriented learning, interactions across subsystems, the theoretical foundations to identification of belief systems, and how the interactions between beliefs and interests affect coalition behavior.

Article

Jonathan Pierce and Katherine Hicks

The advocacy coalition framework (ACF) was developed to explain policy processes where contentious coalitions of actors seek to translate competing belief systems into public policy. Advocacy coalitions may include interest groups, members of the media, scientists and academics, and government officials that share beliefs about a public issue and coordinate their behavior. These advocacy coalitions engage in various strategies using resources to influence policy change or stasis. As part of this process, advocacy coalition members may learn within and/or across coalitions. This framework is one of the most prominent and widely applied approaches to explain public policy. While it has been applied hundreds of times, in over 50 different countries, the vast majority of ACF applications have sought to explain domestic policy processes. A reason for the paucity of applications to foreign policy is that some ACF assumptions may not seem congruent to foreign policy issues. For example, the ACF uses a policy subsystem as the unit of analysis that may include a territorial dimension. Yet, the purpose of the territorial dimension is to limit the scope of the study. Therefore, this dimension can be substituted for a government body that has the authority or potential authority to make and implement foreign policy. In addition, the ACF assumes a central role for technical and scientific information in the policy process. Such information makes learning across coalitions more conducive, but the ACF can and should also be applied to normative issues, such as those more common among foreign policy research. This article introduces the ACF; provides an overview of the framework, including assumptions, key concepts and theories, and transferability of the ACF to foreign policy analysis; and discusses four exemplary applications. In addition, it proposes future research that scholars should explore as part of the nexus of the ACF and foreign policy analysis. In the final analysis, the authors suggest the ACF can and should be applied to foreign policy analysis to better understand the development of advocacy coalitions and how they influence changes and stasis in foreign policy.

Article

Since its inception as a separate political entity in 1747, Afghanistan has been embroiled in almost perpetual warfare but has never been ruled directly by the military. From initial expansionist military campaigns to involvement in defensive, civil, and internal consolidation campaigns, the Afghan military until the mid-19th century remained mainly a combination of tribal forces and smaller organized units. The central government, however, was only able to gain tenuous monopoly over the use of violence throughout the country by the end the 19th century. The military as well as the Afghan society remained largely illiterate and generally isolated from the prevailing global political and ideological trends until the middle of the 20th century. The politicization of the Afghan military began in very small numbers after World War II, with Soviet-inspired communism gaining the largest foothold. Officers associated with the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan were instrumental in two successful coups d’état in the country. In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, ending the country’s sovereignty and ushering in a period of conflict that has continued into the third decade of the 21st century in varying degrees. In 2001, the United States led an international invasion of the country, which was followed by efforts to organize smaller, professional Afghan national defense forces, which remained largely apolitical and became the country’s most effective and trusted governmental institution. However, designed by foreign forces to support foreign goals, they disintegrated when left to defend the country independently against the Taliban in 2021. The Taliban may represent a new phenomenon in Afghanistan, that of having a politicized militarized force.

Article

Public administration in Africa has its own specific features for at least two reasons. First, African societies are not organized along the lines of competing interests driven by their grounding in the economic production process. These societies have never been subject to an agrarian revolution, let alone an industrial one, that allows for the evolution of a system of social stratification similar to what is found in economically developed countries. In the latter, society is shaped by the state, much of it in its own image. The second reason, therefore, is that the African state—the locus of public administration—is a foreign creation imposed on society without roots in the economy or society. This tends to make its governance capricious and shaped foremost by political battles over how rents and privileges are shared among groups that come together for reasons of consumption rather than production. This is a general feature of the African scene, but it is qualified by a variable colonial legacy and a postindependence development experience. Former British and French colonies differ because of the legal systems they inherited—the former the common law tradition, the latter the Napoleonic civil law apparatus. This difference is important in shaping not only public administration but also the wider political outlook—a factor that affects inter-African cooperation. Since independence, public administration in these countries has been influenced by international and domestic pressures to accelerate development and promote democratic governance. This postindependence experience has been variable, some having managed to steer clear of violence, others having suffered political breakdowns. The African story of public administration since independence is diverse and representative of both successes and failures. Three countries—Botswana, Kenya, and Rwanda—are of special interest because they indicate different pathways that other countries in the region may follow to improve their governance and public administration.

Article

Koen Verhoest, Sandra van Thiel, and Steven F. De Vadder

Agencification is the creation of semi-autonomous agencies: organizations charged with public tasks like policy implementation, regulation, and public service delivery, operating at arm’s length from the government. Although not a new development, agencification became very popular from the 1980s on as part of the New Public Management reforms. Three types of agencies can be distinguished, based predominantly on their formal legal features. Type 1 agencies have some managerial autonomy but do not have their own legal identity separate from the state or their parent ministry. Type 2 agencies are organizations and bodies with managerial autonomy that have their own legal identity separate from the state or their parent ministry. Type 3 organizations have their own legal identity vested in, and defined by, private law and are established by, or on behalf of, the government in the form of a private law corporation, company, or a foundation, but they are predominantly controlled by government and are at least partially involved in executing public tasks. Specific characteristics of agencies differ between countries and findings show few systematic patterns: similar tasks are charged to different types of agencies. A crucial element in the functioning of agencies is the formal and de facto interplay of autonomy and control, and how this can be explained in a static and dynamic way. Studies about agencification list three main categories of its effects: economic, organizational, and political effects. However, there is still a lot that needs to be studied about agencification, its forms, and its effects.

Article

Thomas A. Birkland and Kathryn L. Schwaeble

Agenda setting is a crucial aspect of the public policy process. Sudden, rare, and harmful events, known as focusing events, can be important influences on the policy process. Such events can reveal current and potential future harms, mobilize people and groups to address the policy failures that may be revealed by such events, and open the “window of opportunity” for intensive policy discussion and potential policy change. But focusing events operate differently at different times and in different policy domains. Although the idea of focusing events is firmly rooted in Kingdon’s “streams approach” to the policy process, focusing events are an important element of most contemporary theories of the policy process. But not every event works as a focusing event. The process by which a focusing event can yield policy change is complex and involves attention to the problems revealed by the event as well as evidence of learning from the event on the part of policymakers. Although focusing events are important, in many ways the concept remains underdeveloped, with few researchers seeking to understand the dynamics of these important events.

Article

An agenda is a list of issues being discussed and sometimes decided upon. This discussion can take place in society (the public agenda), in media outlets (the media agenda), and in government institutions (the political agenda). The number of issues that can be discussed in these fora is limited and thus not every issue will get onto the agenda. Actors will therefore try to put some issues on the agenda while blocking others. Not all issues, however, have the same weight. Some issues (such as the economy) are of such a magnitude that they can bump other issues off the agenda. This ability to push issues from the agenda is also attributed to crises. After all, an event with such an impact on society will surely affect what is being discussed. Reality, however, is more complex, starting with the fact that society may not perceive an event to be a crisis even though it has a huge impact on those directly affected. And even if society defines the event as a crisis, which aspect(s) of the crisis will be put on the agenda? Will the focus be on, for instance, preventative measures, or the fact that some parts of the population were more affected by the crisis than others? By combining several strands of literature (most notably the agenda-setting, media, and framing literature), it is possible to discern five elements that need to be included in a conceptual framework if one wants to explain how crises affect the agenda-setting process. These five elements are (a) agenda interaction, (b) windows of opportunity, (c) entrepreneurs, (d) venue shopping, and (e) framing and problem definition. Agenda interaction refers to the interaction between and within the three types of agendas: the public, the media, and the political agendas. If political actors are, for example, able to define the event as minor and this definition is accepted by the public and the media, the issue will drop from all agendas. Windows of opportunity are moments in time when issues can be pushed onto the agenda and may even lead to policy change. Crises are one way to open these windows. A person who is trying to use that window to get a problem or solution on the agenda (and sometimes succeeding) is an entrepreneur. Other actions entrepreneurs can use include venue shopping—strategically selecting (and trying to access) those decision making arenas that seem to be a good bet when one tries to win a debate. To get access to these venues, however, entrepreneurs need to ensure that they frame the problem in such a way that a venue will decide that the issue falls under its jurisdiction. Framing also plays a role in whether an event becomes defined as a crisis, which type of window will open, and which particular aspect of the crisis will make it onto the agenda.

Article

Dennis Dijkzeul and Diana Griesinger

The term “humanitarian crisis” combines two words of controversial meaning and definitions that are often used in very different situations. For example, there is no official definition of “humanitarian crisis” in international humanitarian law. Although some academic disciplines have developed ways of collecting and analyzing data on (potential) crises, all of them have difficulties understanding, defining, and even identifying humanitarian crises. Following an overview of the use of the compound noun “humanitarian crisis,” three perspectives from respectively the disciplines International Humanitarian Law, Public Health, and Humanitarian Studies are discussed in order to explore their different but partly overlapping approaches to (incompletely) defining, representing, and negotiating humanitarian crises. These disciplinary perspectives often paint an incomplete and technocratic picture of crises that is rarely contextualized and, thus, fails to reflect adequately the political causes of crises and the roles of local actors. They center more on defining humanitarian action than on humanitarian crises. They also show four different types of humanitarian action, namely radical, traditional Dunantist, multimandate, and resilience humanitarianism. These humanitarianisms have different strengths and weaknesses in different types of crisis, but none comprehensively and successfully defines humanitarian crises. Finally, a multiperspective and power-sensitive definition of crises, and a more fine-grained language for comprehending the diversity of crises will do more justice to the complexity and longevity of crises and the persons who are surviving—or attempting to survive—them.

Article

Brett Curry and Banks Miller

The pervasiveness of their influence arguably makes prosecutors the most consequential actors in the American criminal justice system. Armed with discretion over which cases to pursue, what charges to file, and which issue areas to prioritize, prosecutors play a decisive role in determining what progresses from investigation to the courtroom. It is their charge to do justice in each case, but that obligation hardly forecloses the influence of politics on their decisions. Despite their centrality, however, prosecutors and their behavior have failed to garner even a fraction of the attention that scholars have directed toward law enforcement, correctional systems, or judges. The discretion of American prosecutors is theoretically immense; there are few formal constraints upon it. If a federal or state prosecutor declines to pursue a case that has been referred to him or her, that declination decision is essentially immune from judicial review. But these formalisms come with more practical limitations. At the federal level, United States Attorneys are appointed by the president and, therefore, are expected to carry out an administration’s general policy priorities. In the states, most district attorneys answer to the electorate, which imposes its own constraints on a prosecutor’s freedom of action. Chief prosecutors—state and federal—are simultaneously principals to their subordinates and agents of the people or the president. If those considerations were not enough, American prosecutors must be mindful of still other factors. How might their actions today impact their future career paths? What influence might legislative changes, public opinion, or judicial rulings have on how they operate? Scholarship on prosecutors has addressed some of these questions, but we still lack a good understanding of all the ways in which politics infects prosecutorial decision-making. As “progressive prosecutors”—many who are former public defenders—continue to win office, new questions will arise about how far prosecutors can push reform of the criminal justice system. A major looming question is how voters conditioned to law-and-order rhetoric will evaluate the new prosecutors. Some preliminary work shows that non-White prosecutors tend to reduce rates of incarceration, while Republican-affiliated prosecutors increase them.

Article

Thomas Bierschenk and Jean-Pierre Olivier de Sardan

Anthropology is a latecomer to the study of bureaucracy. Nonetheless, the anthropological study of organizations—of which bureaucracies are a subtype, as larger organizations are always bureaucratically organized—was initiated by anthropologists as early as the 1920s. Since the 2010s, the anthropology of bureaucracy has slowly consolidated into a discernible subfield of the discipline. It brings to the study of public administrations a double added value: (a) a specific concern for the informal aspects of bureaucracy, (b) the emic views of bureaucratic actors and their pragmatic contexts, based on long-term immersion in the research field, as well as (c) a non-Eurocentric, global comparative perspective. Anthropologists have focused on bureaucratic actors (“bureaucrats”), the discursive, relational, and material contexts in which they work, the public policies they are supposed to implement or to comply with, and their interactions with the outside world, in particular ordinary citizens (“clients”). A foundational theorem of the anthropological study of bureaucracies has been that you cannot understand organizations on the basis of their official structures alone: the actual workings of an organization are largely based on informal practices and practical rules; there is always a gap between organizational norms and “real” practices; large-scale organizations are heterogeneous phenomena; and conflicts, negotiations, alliances, and power relations are their core components. Thus, one of the major methodological achievements of the anthropology of bureaucracy has been to focus on the dialectics of formal organization and real practices, official regulations, and informal norms in organizations “at work.”

Article

Erik Baekkeskov, Olivier Rubin, Louise Munkholm, and Wesal Zaman

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a global health crisis estimated to be responsible for 700,000 yearly deaths worldwide. Since the World Health Assembly adopted a Global Action Plan on AMR in 2015, national governments in more than 120 countries have developed national action plans. Notwithstanding this progress, AMR still has limited political commitment, and existing global efforts may be too slow to counter its rise. The article presents five characteristics of the global AMR health crisis that complicate the translation from global attention to effective global initiatives. AMR is (a) a transboundary crisis that suffers from collective action problems, (b) a super wicked and creeping crisis, (c) the product of trying to solve other global threats, (d) suffering from lack of advocacy, and (e) producing distributional and ethical dilemmas. Applying these five different crisis lenses, the article reviews central global initiatives, including the Global Action Plan on AMR and the recommendations of the Interagency Coordination Group on AMR. It argues that the five crisis lenses offer useful entry points for social science analyses that further nuance the existing global governance debate of AMR as a global health crisis.

Article

Making decisions is a complex and often problem-ridden process in a union of almost 30 member states. Most political science research hence discusses aspects of either decision-making or contents of specific EU policies. However, intricacies do not end when the governments and the European Parliament come to an agreement about, for example, regulative standards in a given policy. In actual fact, it is all but clear that the rules decided on the top layer of the European multi-level system will be implemented on the lower levels, ranging from the central governments of member states down to local communities. Multi-facetted issues related to the actual practice of implementing EU rules, and the Commission’s tough job in controlling this compound process, need to be addressed, while also evaluating the social science coverage of the topic. Research has a strong bias toward looking into the early phases of the implementation of EU law as opposed to the later ones, a trend which has only somewhat softened in the “new school” of relevant studies. A hardly researched but increasingly relevant factor in non-compliance with EU law is unwillingness by national governments. Therefore, it is important to consider the state of the rule of law in several member states and democratic backsliding—both essential for a healthy European integration process.

Article

Archives, including primary documents such as meeting minutes, memoranda, white papers, blueprints, drafts for laws, and acts, are a crucial part of a consistent research inquiry that provide significant understanding of the public-policy processes in public administration. Within qualitative methods for studying public policy and public administration, archives are a key step of the process-tracing method for comparative historical analysis. Archival research is the backbone of any process-tracing exercise. Using archives for public administration studies requires rigorous planning. It starts with the definition of a time horizon of analysis that sets the dates over which the analysis will be performed. The time horizon will also help design the types of documents and indicators needed to identify the decision-making process, along with the goals and the budget performance that will accompany the policy decision. The key elements of time, sequence, selection, and classification of archives in public-policy studies determine the causal process mechanisms within a public-policy process. Identifiers, data-mining software, and sequencing are additional tools for improving classification and interpretation.