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Behavioral Public Administration  

Lars Tummers

Behavioral public administration is an interdisciplinary research field that studies public administration topics by connecting insights from public administration with psychology and, more broadly, the behavioral sciences. Behavioral public administration scholars study important public problems such as discrimination, corruption, and burnout. Various public administration scholars—including Herbert Simon—have stressed the importance of connecting psychology and public administration. Yet until the early 2010s, public administration did not work systematically on this connection. This has changed profoundly with the development of various overview articles, dedicated special issues in general public administration journals, and development of new journals. Behavioral public administration has several uses. First, behavioral public administration tests and extends theories and concepts from psychology in political-administrative settings. Examples include tests of prospect theory and the choice overload hypothesis in public-administrative settings. Second, it tests and extends the micro-foundations of public administration theories and concepts, such as concerning co-production and isomorphism. Third, behavioral public administration scholars develop new theories and concepts. This has probably been less widespread than the previous two uses, but is nonetheless already apparent in, for instance, concepts such as public service motivation, policy alienation, and administrative burden. Fourth, behavioral public administration can help in tackling practical public problems. Insights from behavioral public administration have been used to increase diversity within public organizations and reduce burnout. The field of behavioral public administration can develop further. The field could move beyond one-shot single studies and aim to build cumulative knowledge. This can be done via large-scale collaborations and replications. In addition, it is also beneficial if behavioral public administration scholars broaden their methodological toolkit to answer different kinds of research questions. It should not only focus on causal inference questions but also on questions concerning description of societal problems (e.g. via representative surveys) or concerning prediction (e.g. by using machine learning).


Instruments and Implementation in Public Policy and Administration  

Michael Howlett

Understanding policy instrument choices and the range of possibilities present in any implementation situation is key for both policy advisors and decision makers. These choices are a concern in policy formulation, which requires an understanding of what kinds of instrument options exist, which subset of tools is generally considered feasible or possible in a given context, and which among that smaller subset of all possible tools is deemed by policy experts, politicians, and the public to be the most appropriate to use at a given time. And, once plans have been adopted, questions of how they can best be implemented and how implementation can be done by governments raise another key set of instrument-related issues important to both policymaking and public administration.


Public Service Motivation in Public Administration  

Wouter Vandenabeele and Carina Schott

Public service motivation (PSM) refers to an individual’s motivation to contribute to society. It relates to ideas about society, and about what public servants are and how they should behave, that have persisted for more than 2,500 years. Despite this heritage, PSM was only formally conceptualized in the 1990s. The concept of PSM has traditionally been linked to several beneficial outcomes, such as public performance and public servants’ satisfaction, but recently also to negative outcomes, such as burnout and rule-breaking. While PSM is an individual-level concept, the role of the social environment is crucial to understanding PSM. On the one hand, social institutions play an important role in creating individual-level PSM through socializing mechanisms. Institutions such as the family and workplace, and other structured value-based interaction patterns, correlate with the prevalence of individual PSM. On the other hand, to render outcomes, interaction with the environment—in terms of fit—is necessary, because PSM cannot exert influence outside a context where public values are prominent. As most research focuses on public servants in their work environment, this fit mostly entails a match of the individual public servant with the organization or the job. If this fit is lacking, little or no PSM occurs. Although PSM research was initially a theoretical and psychometric exercise, it is increasingly put to practical use.


The Policy Capacity of Bureaucracy  

Sharma Shubham, Lei Shi, and Xun Wu

Bureaucracy is one of the oldest institutions of a government system. Its role and importance have grown immensely in modern government systems. Bureaucrats or public administrators are indispensable in the policy decision making process in the 21st century. From the early conception as a branch of government responsible for the implementation of policy decisions and everyday functioning, bureaucracy has assumed a more active role in the policymaking process. It has gone through many reforms; however, these reforms have been largely incremental and static. While the external environment or the problems faced by bureaucracy is continuously evolving, the change in bureaucracy has not been in the same proportion. In the 21st century, many issues confronting bureaucracy are not only wicked but also global in nature. Moreover, challenges posed by technological disruptions and long-term processes such as climate change put bureaucracy at all levels of a government in a far trickier position than their earlier envisaged basic functions. In dealing with such challenges, the policy capacity of bureaucracy cannot be taken for granted. There are often significant gaps in capacity to anticipate a policy problem, to ensure coordination and preserve legitimacy, to translate global issues at local levels, and to learn from the past. It is crucial to strengthen analytical capacity at the individual and organizational level, operational capacity at the organizational level, and political capacity at the systems level to address these gaps. Tackling capacity gaps systematically would enable bureaucracy to design and implement policy and administrative reforms with a long-term vision of adaptation and evolution instead of merely in reactive mode. The policy capacity framework presented in this article is useful in identifying the capacity gaps that inhibit bureaucracy from evolving and the remedies to address these gaps.


Public Policies: Coordination, Integration, Coherence, and Collaboration  

B. Guy Peters

Although most public sector governance depends upon specialized organizations, there is also a need to create greater coordination and policy integration. Improving coordination can overcome problems of duplication, waste, and turf-fighting. Producing coordination is not easy, but there are a number of mechanisms available to would-be coordinators to make governments more coherent. Most of these mechanisms depend on hierarchy, but others depend more on ideas or networks. Although coordination is important for governance, it is not a panacea, and coordination may produce problems as well as solving them. Therefore, the choice between higher levels of specialization and coordination depends upon numerous political and administrative variables.


The Anthropology of Bureaucracy and Public Administration  

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.”


Interviewing in Public Administration  

Philippe Zittoun

Qualitative interview is one of the most important methods used to understand how public administration and the policy process work. It essentially involves questioning actors to obtain exclusive data about their day-to-day activities, their production of knowledge, the arguments they use, their relationships, the discrete meetings they participate in, their struggles, their strategies, and so on. Privileging “how” over “why,” it allows researchers to consider interviewees as witnesses of their own activities, enabling them to access the daily happenings within the administration, rather than as analysts from whom “good” and “acceptable” reasons are sought to justify their actions. These interviews must be analyzed exclusively by the interviewer, which supposes an epistemological analysis of the discourse and also requires researchers to bear in mind that any interview is a social relationship between the interviewer and the interviewee and necessarily leads to data bias, even though experience and several tips can help limit these biases.


Transnational Administration of Regional and Global Policies  

Kim Moloney and Diane Stone

Transnational administration is the routinization and bureaucratization of global governance. Concepts of transnational administration move beyond methodological nationalism and absolutist understandings of administrative sovereignty vested solely with nation-state authorities to articulate various administrative arenas of global policy. Transnational administration is a new “third scale” of public administration. The first two scales of public administration are national administration, and its internationalization due to globalization, and the international public administration located in the secretariats of international organizations. Transnational administration incorporates nonstate actors in decentralized, devolved, or delegated interactions within and between policy communities operating in global and regional spheres. Organizations such as the Bank of International Settlements, the Kimberley Process, the Global Health and Partnership Model, and Transparency International highlight the actions of transnational administrative actors. Critiques of these and other organizations have raised new concerns about accountability, representation, and transparency.


Agenda Setting and the Policy Process: Focusing Events  

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.


Centralization and Decentralization: Compatible Governance Concepts and Practices  

Eva M. Witesman

The extent to which governance structures are centralized or decentralized is a key consideration for public administrators. While centralization and decentralization seem to represent opposite approaches to the structure of public organizations, the two frequently co-exist simultaneously in what is alternately deemed a comfortable coexistence or a paradoxical tension. Public institution reform efforts may call for increased centralizing forces (such as hierarchy, unification, and governance) or decentralizing ones (such as marketization, devolution of power, deconcentration, and diversification). Public administrators calling for structural reform are often driven toward either centralization or decentralization by particular sets of public values. Values such as accountability, power, and efficiency favor centralized governance, while values such as responsiveness, engagement, and innovation favor decentralization. Thus, the design of public administration structures and processes frequently exist as an expression of value-based norms. Both centralization and decentralization are associated with distinct advantages for achieving specific public value goals. Conversely, each approach has unique weaknesses that create opportunities for corruption. The pursuit of public value goals and the avoidance of corruption are two primary drivers that motivate structural reform. While structural reforms may be viewed as swings of a pendulum between two extreme ideal states (fully centralized or fully decentralized), a growing consensus in the scholarship suggests that centralized and decentralized structures are internally compatible and complementary. In other words, both centralized and decentralized structures frequently co-exist within the same institutions, often creating a dynamic tension between values. This creates an increasingly complex structural paradigm for the expression of public values. The result is that many governance structures appear to be evolving toward new models in which elements of both centralized and decentralized control are observed simultaneously.


Latin American Public Administration  

Mariana Chudnovsky

The reality of Latin American public administrations has surpassed many of the categories that could be derived theoretically. In fact, a common feature of most public administrations in the region is, precisely, their internal heterogeneity. The alternation of “fashions and models” has left various (and at times contradictory) organizational remnants: accumulated “geological layers” of different instruments (and modes) of management—replaced by other “prettier and better” ones before concluding their cycle; frustrated and/or interrupted reforms that generate daily confusion as a result of the tensions caused between management systems; and half-implemented regulations patched up with new laws that seek to resolve the failures of the previous ones, causing complex regulatory mosaics for the future implementers of the new reforms. The difficulty of professionalizing the civil service in the region is a good indicator of the (continued) absence of consolidated Weberian administrative bureaucracies and a clear expression of the coexistence of different public administration models and development strategies.


Regulatory Governance: History, Theories, Strategies, and Challenges  

David Levi-Faur, Yael Kariv-Teitelbaum, and Rotem Medzini

Regulation, that is, rulemaking, rule monitoring, and rule enforcement, is both a key policy and legal instrument and a pillar of the institutions that demarcate political, social, and economic lives. It is commonly defined as a sustained and focused control mechanism over valuable activities using direct and indirect rules. Most frequently, regulation is associated with the activity of public independent regulatory agencies, designed to promote economic, social, risk-management, integrity, or moral goals. Since the 1990s, more and more states worldwide are establishing such agencies and placing more emphasis on the use of authority, rules, and standard-setting, thus partially displacing earlier emphasis on public ownerships and directly provided services. Alongside this rise of the “regulatory state,” the expansion of regulation is also reflected in the rapidly growing variety of regulatory regimes that involves nonstate actors, such as private regulation, self-regulation, and civil regulation. Regulatory regimes can be explained and assessed from three theoretical perspectives: public-interest theories, private-interest theories, and institutional theories. Each perspective shines a different light on the motivations of the five regulatory actors: rule-makers, rule intermediaries, rule-takers, rule beneficiaries, and citizens. Over the years, diverse regulatory strategies evolved, including: prescriptive strategies that attempt to mandate adherence in precise terms what is required from the rule-takers; performance-based strategies that set in advance only the required outcomes; and process-based strategies that attempt to influence the internal incentives and norms of rule-takers. Although it appears that regulation is here to stay as a keystone of society, it still faces fundamental challenges of effectiveness, democratic control, and fairness.


Economic Crisis and Public Administration  

Denita Cepiku and Filippo Giordano

The last global financial and economic crisis started in 2007–2008; it had serious effects on public sectors of OECD countries and was still affecting some of them when the COVID-19 pandemic began. Different streams of literature contribute to understanding the public management and governance challenges emerging from economic crises: the public administration literature on cutback management of the late 1970s and 1980s, the contemporary literature on managing austerity, and the more generic management literature on organizational decline. Although public administrations are reacting to the same global crisis, they are expected to adopt a variety of approaches when designing policy and managerial responses, including strategic approaches, across-the-board approaches (cheese-slicing or piecemeal incremental shifts), or rhetoric and inertia, avoiding real change and manipulating discursive frames. A strategic approach is based on systematic, selective, or targeted measures, and it includes different reactions to the crisis, such as a directive, hollow, or communitarian approach. In light of the different approaches available to public administrations for addressing an economic crisis, attention turns to the factors that determine such a choice. Public administrations’ responses to austerity are shaped by external and internal determinants. The external drivers make the crisis faced by each public administration longer or more severe and shape the way public managers react. External forces include economic and social features of the environment in which the public administration operates as well as national austerity policies. According to the literature, the harsher the fiscal stress, the more likely it is that targeted cuts will be adopted, instead of an across-the-board approach that doesn’t take into account the different levels of efficiency of public administrations or the strategic priority of different policy areas. Internal forces influencing crisis management approaches are financial and fiscal dimensions, such as financial autonomy (reliance on central government for revenue), spending autonomy and flexibility, degree of fiscal stress, and financial vulnerability. All these forces influence a proactive response to the crisis. Another key factor is leadership: the literature is excessively focused on incentives faced by political leaders, and few studies examine the role of administrative leadership. Finally, the crisis management approach matters in terms of impact; the literature developed after the 1970s and 2007–2008 global economic crises all agrees on this. Such a link, however, is difficult to assess. Strategic and longer-term approaches seem to favor the strengthening of trust, resilience, and avoidance of electoral costs, whereas shorter-term changes lower employee morale, create recruitment and retention problems, cause loss of managerial expertise, cause distraction from the core purpose of the service, and increase costs.


East Asian Models of Public Administration: Issues, Challenges, and Prospects  

Akira Nakamura

Is the Asian model of public administration (AMPA) plausible as a concept or discipline? This is one of the topics that many Asian specialists and especially those in East Asia have been interested to explore. One of the opinions considers that the idea of AMPA is difficult to ascertain because Asia is not a unified region. The area is culturally and traditionally so diverse that a single model, AMPA, would be implausible. There are, however, several leading scholars in Asia who have argued that the Asian experience in public administration has been rich in achievements and is generalizable to many other countries. In their view, the rise of Asia’s economic presence in general and China in particular highlights the importance of AMPA, which has increasingly become distinct and worthy of attention. The nature and content of AMPA would become crystalized once the characteristics of the study of public administration in the United States are juxtaposed to the Asian experience and more specifically that of the East Asian countries. AMPA stands distinct and looks salient when it is compared to the U.S. model from three essential features: the separation of administration from politics, the relationships between public and business administrations, and the inductive or deductive approaches to the study of public management. In the context of these three characteristics, AMPA essentially differs from the feature that has been studied and practiced in the United States.


African Public Administration  

Goran Hyden

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.


Administrative Culture  

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.


Central Agencies and Control in Public Administration  

Donald J. Savoie

The concentration of power at the center of government transcends both political systems and geography. Heads of government everywhere are dealing with powerful forces from permanent election campaigns, social media, 24-hour news channels, the requirement to provide a government-wide perspective on virtually all policy issues, and the need to manage the blame game at a time when transparency requirements are becoming more demanding. They need help to deal with these powerful forces, to manage the policy process, and to direct the work of their government. They can turn to both partisan political advisors and central agencies to assist them in governing from the center. Central agencies stand at the apex of power linking the political with the administrative. They have grown in size and influence in both parliamentary and presidential systems and, in the process, helped heads of government to concentrate more and more power in their own hands. They have grown in size and influence because heads of government have allowed it, if not encouraged it. Central agencies play a leading role in generating policy advice, in allocating financial and human resources, in shaping human resources policies, in monitoring the performance of line departments and agencies, and in establishing regulatory policies that apply both inside and outside government. They have proven to be helpful in helping heads of government to define new measures, to coordinate activities to pursue overarching goals and to make certain that line departments and agencies run on their tracks. It is necessary to explore the capacity of the center of government from several different national settings and from several perspectives to exercise direction on policy and control over the rest of government.


Judicial Controls Over the Bureaucracy  

Calliope Spanou

Judicial control over the bureaucracy is a means to defend the rule of law and important principles of democratic governance. It refers to the power of the courts to consider whether the actions of public authorities respect the limits prescribed by law. Regimes of judicial control vary in legal and administrative systems. Two major traditions can be mainly distinguished. The first characterizes continental Europe. It assigns judicial review to specialized administrative courts and involves a special branch of law, that is, administrative law. The second relies on ordinary courts and characterizes the Anglo-American system of common law. The two traditions also differ regarding the role of the courts and particularly their possibility to shape rules (common law tradition) or to apply rules (continental tradition). The expansion of state activities, including economic and social regulation and welfare service provision, has blurred the old politics–administration distinction since more and more decisions are delegated by parliaments to the administration, endowing it with wide discretionary powers. These developments have added a new meaning to the implementation of the rule of law. When the content of decisions is bound by a legal rule, legal compliance is more straightforward than when there is a margin of appreciation and choice. Circumscribing administrative discretion passes first and foremost from regulating the process of decision-making. Procedural standards have indeed been an area of primary concern for courts. Increasingly, nevertheless, substantive aspects of the administrative decision-making process and even service provision come under judicial scrutiny. Its extent inevitably differs from one legal system to another. The intensity of judicial review and its impact on (a) administrative operation and (b) policy decisions raise critical questions: how is it possible to achieve a balance between managerial flexibility, efficiency, and responsibility on the one hand and legal accountability on the other? To what extent may the courts substitute their own judgment for that of policymakers and the administrative or expert opinion underlying the decision under examination? How far do they go in scrutinizing policymaking and implementation? Judicial control involves constraining as well as constructive effects on the administration. It may contribute to an institution-building process (e.g., strengthening of Weberian-type features, increasing formalization, etc.) and to the agenda-building process, and it may influence policymaking. In certain contexts, courts even tend to become political actors. The reverse side is that they may step into matters of management and policymaking for which they are not prepared or institutionally responsible. This points to potential tensions between the administration (the executive) and the judiciary but also underlines the limitations of judicial control. Delicate issues regarding the separation of powers may emerge. Furthermore, cost, delays, the degree of administrative compliance with judicial decisions, and the ability of courts to integrate into their reasoning issues of efficiency and effectiveness constitute growing challenges to judicial control.


The Principal–Agent Approach and Public Administration  

Jan-Erik Lane

In the years since Ross published the article “The Economic Theory of Agency: The Principal’s Problem” in 1973, many publications have established the principal–agent framework as an interesting paradigm for the analysis of incentives in contracting, both short-term and long-term. The practice of public administration can be conceptualized from a principal–agent approach. New light can be shed on established arguments in the discipline of public administration by the key concepts of principal–agent interaction. In this context principal is used to describe the government responsible for legislation and policymaking in well-ordered societies, whereas the set of agents includes all organizations and people engaged in policy implementation: traditional departments, bureaus, public trading departments/public enterprises (using the vocabulary of New Public Management (NPM)), executive agencies, boards, quangos, and public joint stock corporations.


Competing Values in Public Administration  

Zeger van der Wal

Public administration theory and practice are been rife with competing values, and 21st-century trends and challenges create new value dilemmas. Values—standards and qualities that guide behavior and decision making—can compete for attention because they may be of equal importance to the larger public interest that administrative actors are aiming to realize yet adhering to each of them at once is not feasible or possible. Examples are transparency, accountability, equity, effectiveness, efficiency, and legality. Hence, administrative actors have to find ways to manage competing values at an individual and institutional level.