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Development Administration
"This page is Intentionally Left Blank"

Dr. (Mrs.) S.L. Das


DELHI (India)
First Published 2010
ISBN-978-93-80 1~8-1 0-7

[No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a

retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any
means, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise,
without prior written permission of the publisher.)

Published in India by
31, Gali No. 1,A-Block, Pocket-5,
eRP Water Tank, Sonia Vihar
Delhi-l 10094 (India)

Printed at: Deepak Offset Press, Delhi.


Bureaucracy represents political organisation, reflecting its

very system and its philosophy. It might well be one of the
most important if not the most important criteria against
which examination of the political organisation could be
made. Also, it could serve to examine "politics in action"
or in other words political change. While some of the
inherent characteristics of bureaucracy would be its political
orientation, it does not automatically go the other way
around. That is, it would not be necessary that bureaucratic
phenomena should characterise every political organisation.
It seems, however, highly likely that they would play an
important role in political change. In many cases they would
reflect the motivational drives of the political organisation
and its structural restraints.
Most bureaucracy promises new forms of strategic action
which will assume a more creative and open form.
Comment on hybrid political regimes and democratic
hierarchies is centred on the long-standing question of how
organisations combine centralised control and co-ordination
of resources with the need for more flexible forms. The
notion of organisational hybridity has a particular relevance
for public sector organisations, where calls to reduce
bureaucracy have been manifested in attempts to simulate
market disciplines within the organisation. Two aspects of
the post bureaucracy debate are of particular significance
for the present study.
Bureaucracy is not as many critics assume a simple
singularity. Rather, whatever singularity it is deemed to
possess is multiple, not monolithic to be more precise
bureaucracy has turned out to be less a hard and fast
transhistorical model, but rather what we may describe as
a many sided, evolving, diversified organizational device.

-Dr. (Mrs.) S.L. Das


Preface v
1. Bureaucracy, Organisation & Political Change 1
2. The Management of Change at the Bureaucracy 25
3. The Great Wall of Bureaucracy 41
4. Political Culture, Development Administration 45
5. The Bureaucracy and Governance in
Developing Countries 50
6. Leading the Future of the Public Sector 80
7. The Challenge of Governance in a
Large Bureaucracy 103
8. Governance and Public Bureaucracy 107
9. Coercive and Enabling Bureaucracy 123
10. The Mother of All Bureaucracy 138
11. Perfection of Meritocracy or Ritual of
Bureaucracy 150
12. Bureaucrats or Politicians 190
13. The Future of Bureaucracy 217
14. The Revolution is Today:
Bureaucracy is Forever 257
Bibliography 261
Index 263
"This page is Intentionally Left Blank"

Bureaucracy, Organisation &

Political Change: A Critical

It is of rather common agreement that organisation, at least

originally, was formed in order to pursue the common
interests of specific groups. It is far from being agreed,
however, what roles are played by various sorts of internal
organisational structures, especially when somehow related
to political change.
Weber, for example, perceived politics in terms of
dispositions over weapons and over means of
administration. This implies the existence of overt or covert
political classification. The key to such a classification would
be a certain formula by which organisational structure
would be determined. It might resemble the supposed
Marxist classifi,cation of economic epochs and the
"economic" classes that feature in this type of classification.
A question thus might arise. Why would Weber have to
follow Marx in essence but still differ in as much as he chose
to change the keys for classification.
One, perhaps oversimplified, possible answer is that
Weber simply does not see anything attractive in socialism.
This is what Gerth and Mills had suggested, maybe because
it was them who found socialism so unattractive. But as it
2 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

were, the difference between Marx and Weber goes beyond

this level of argumentation. It indicates their profoundly
different concepts of what is politics. Both of them perceived
and understood politics as a process that reveals itself and
is reflected through organisation. But it was not the same
organisation for these two thinkers. The difference was
mainly in the way they viewed the structure of this process.
Bureaucracy represents political organisation, reflecting
its very system ru;ld its philosophy. It might well be one of
the most important (if not the most important) criteria
against which examination of the political organisation
could be made. Also, it could serve to examine "politics in
action" or in other words political change. While some of
the inherent characteristics of bureaucracy would be its
political orientation, it does not automatically go the other
way around. That is, it would not be necessary that
bureaucratic phenomena should characterise every political
organisation. It seems, however, highly likely that they
would play an important role in political change. In many
cases they would reflect the motivational drives of the
political organisation and its structural restraints.
Within the political organisation, bureaucracy not only
reflects these drives but it also possibly even more sharply
indicates situational structures. It may thus be that
organisations such as a revolutionary movement would tend
to place limits on trends towards the development of
bureaucracy, or even eliminate them altogether; at least
during the time of struggle to change or purge incumbent
regime. The shift would come, however, with the actual
take over of political power and the establishment of this
movement as the sovereign regime. It would be then, almost
without fail that development of the new bureaucratic
structure begins. The course of development of the new
bureaucratic structure would indicate the direction of the
political change. More precisely, it would indicate the
Bureaucracy, Organisation & Political Change 3

interests pushed forward by this change. This observation

may point at one of the significant differences between Marx
and Weber. It is rather outstanding that the former examined
bureaucracy - and organisation - mainly as they functioned
in and related to economic interests. The latter placed much
more stress on the judicial and administrative aspects of
bureaucracy. These, for Marx, were means to the end of
promoting economic interests. For Weber, they constituted
the very end in itself.
Yet, organisational inner structure may be viewed
somewhat differently. It could well represent the result of
an equation, the components of which are the different
interest groups within the organisation. Certain roles within
it would be especially sensitive because they could influence
its development. For once, they might be able to determine
the type of bureaucracy that would develop. Or they even
might become themselves bureaucratic. In particular, the
ability to exercise control over information and
communications system seems to be crucial. This is so
because those who control sources of information might
be- even in a fully-fledged democracy the only ones who
really have the accurate picture of the situation. If this were
to be the case, they would be in a much better position
than anyone else and retain a distinct advantage in the
political game that takes place within the organisation.
This factor, like other such factors pertaining to the inner
composition of a given organisation would have direct
influence on the prospects of political change. Moreover,
as the process of change takes place, the inner structure
may determine to a great extent the character and direction
of the change. .
The Cultural Revolution of China was possible because
of the special inner structure that enabled Mao to "go to
the people" while circumventing the regular procedures of
mass mobilisation that normally practised in China. Liu
4 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

Shaoqi, Peng Chen and others may have controlled the

bureaucratic apparatus of the Party. They could manipulate
the people only through the regular channels of operation
that were available to them. These channels required certain
complicated preparatory work in order to be effective. Mao,
on the other hand, dissociated himself from the bureaucratic
formation. He managed to establish himself as having" over-
bureaucratic" status. This allowed him an unmitigated
access to the people and enabled him to mobilise them
directly. This difference, between the tools that Mao had
and those of his opponents, was the determinant factor
that shaped the mode of the Revolution and, in fact, its
Role distribution, value structure, authority and other
components of political organisation may differ not only
from one society to another. They can also change from
time to time in the same society due to either internal or
external reasons. Yet all of these phenomena, while placed
in the timeless and space-less framework, compose a
theoretical setting. in which generalisation of the relationship
between the different factors can be observed. This is what
Talcott Parsons called "total society."
It might be very tempting to deal with generalisations of
this sort. Due to their "theoretical level" they can afford to
disregard "details" such as background, special socio-
economic realities and environment, religious pressures and
so forth. But we must be aware of some essential and lingual
restraints that have to be placed on such a procedure of
investigation. These are not at all like mathematical models
that so many social scientists favour maybe because they
should be based on "closed sets." Here, in social and
behavioural sciences the basic presupposition is open-ended
since by definition it may assume unpredictable and
constant changes. In this sense, attempts "to fill in gaps in
different aspects of the total field which any future attempt
Bureaucracy, Organisation & Political Change 5

to deal with a complex society as a whole" can never be

satisfactory. It may be merely of a situational value within
a certain unit of space and time. It is only with this in mind
that the examination of the relations between bureaucracy
and organisation and political change in their general
aspects can be done.
Organisation, we have seen, is really a function at least
as much as it is a structure. Its existence depends on its
participants and on a common goal they wish to pursue. It
might be valid in some cases to argue that "the output of
the organisation is, for some other system, an input." But it
is not necessary that in its mere being, "organisation is a
system, which as the attainment of its goal 'produces' an
identifiable something which can be utilised in some way
bay another system." Thus, it is not necessarily true that
description of analysis of an organisation can only be done
from "the cultural-institutional point of view." However,
these two approaches to the examination of a given
organisation are, presumably, very convenient and enable
analytical coverage of the whole scope.
The point of necessity, or the consistency of such a
necessity, is further debatable. It was Parsons himself who
questioned the internal consistency of Weber's ideal type
of organisation (in regard to authority and obedience within
organisations). His arguments repeated above tend to suffer
the same sort of disadvantages.
For Parsons, values of organisation function to legitimise
its existence as a system and its main functional mode of
operation. These, In Parsons' opinion, are necessary for the
implementation of values. Such a legitimisation, he
maintain, enables the organisation to determine the codes
of loyalty to be demanded of members of the organisation.
Yet, no solution is offered for cases where membership can
be actively engaged in more than just one organisation.
Organisations, according to Parsons, in their very existence,
6 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

set obligations and demands. They are deduced from the

values and goals (that are, as such, embedded in the values)
of each organisation. These demands and obligations define
and set limits for loyalty and attempt to direct it towards
the organisation. But what if the organisation in question
is a part of a larger one? Or, as may happen also, what if
the organisation favours or prefers interests of another
organisation to its own, as far as loyalty is concerned?
The direct ratio loyalty value organisation cannot,
therefore, be "total" and must be changed to an indirect
one. Such a change could violate the placement of loyalty
in the set of values by detaching the goals from these values.
Then there will be room for arguing that values are related
to the structure and the inner functions. Or logically, there
will be rules for deduction and operation while goals are
the presuppositions or the axioms of the system. Only when
this consistency is attained and only in such an order can
changes in goals precede structural changes of an
organisation. The logical order makes the difference in the
analysis of political change. It indicates the effect of
processes on each other. The Parsonian "logic" enables
merely a cause-effect" system in which the cause is

structural change and the effect is the political change. This

is unlike the philosophical-mathematical logic that begins
in the change of goals as the indicator for political change.
Here there is a process in which political change might have
_an impact on the mode, direction and intensity of the entire
social process; certainly as it pertains to organisational
Another poirit in Parsons that should be noted is
associated with his approach to the problem of division of
labour and its relat~d aspects. Parsons states: "In a complex
division of labour, both the resources necessary for
performing technical functions and the relation to the
population elements on whose behalf the functions are
Bureaucracy, Organisation & Political Change 7

performed have become problematical. Resources are made

available by special arrangements, they are not simply
'given' in the nature of the context of the function. And
who shall be the beneficiary of what 'product' or 'services'
on what terms is problematical; this becomes focus of
organisational arrangement of many different kinds.
The core of the problems, according to Parsons, lies in
the fact that beyond Ita certain point" of the progress of
division of labour, decisions which determine the mode of
this division are concerned more with the relations of the
beneficiaries than with the technical employment of
resources. The process of decision-making would be one of
the essential modifiers of the organisation. It would thus be
technically motivated and the organisational capacity to
control the involved population would become the supreme
criterion for distribution of goods or social amenities. But,
distribution of goods is a function of the distribution of
labour. Yet, the Parsonian formula, although perceiving
this, detaches it from the VC! lues of the organisation of which
the distribution of lapour is an inherent constituent. There
is here a gross inconsistency, as the dependency is not
Adopting Parsons' approach, one can logically draw a
situation where distribution of work, which is a political
reality, leads to a situational, non-politically motivated
distribution of goods. This is a contradictory description
and it is both logically and practically invalid. If such-a
detachment of distribution of goods from values is assumed,
then, an actual given division of labour could be treated as
a value of the organisation. Its result, that is, distribution of
goods, would also remain within the set. Both might thus
be subject to modifications and re-modifications by virtue
of them being situational variables. This, while the concept
of division of labour is one of the constituents of the
organisational goals. Employment of resources, preferences
8 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

and technical functions as well as manipulation (mode

and context) of population by the system are, in this view,
reflections and expressions of both the given structural
mode and ideological stage of the organisation. They are
also a direct function of values and at the same time, indirect
function of goals. In this sense, the former presentation [16]
is inconsistent but there are examples that can be explained
logically. Such are China's payment of interest to former
capitalists as a compensation for their investment in
enterprises prior to the take over of the CCP or the Israeli
preference of non-developed and developing areas in
erecting industry.
The analysed relations are of vital importance for the
understanding of the kind of organisations that develop
(bureaucracy, in our case) and for the understanding of
this development. S. N. Eisenstadt discusses several
conditions that he considers necessary for the development
of a bureaucratic organisation. These conditions basically
represent differentiation in the social system. The
bureaucratic organisation develops in relation to such
differentiation because it can help coping with some of

the problems arising out of such differentiation," especially

hose whose main concern is the co-ordination of large-scale
activities. Some of the conditions required for the
development of a bureaucracy pertain to the differentiation
between roles and institutional spheres. Allocation of roles
not in accordance with natural groups (like kin and familial
cells) but rather in accordance with artificial ones (like
religious, professional and national groups) is an example
of these types of differentiation. It could also result from
the existence of many functionally specific groups" that do
not operate within the 'natural' organisations. The common
ground for these conditions lies in that they represent gaps
between the two types of organisations. On the one hand,
there is some kind of "natural" organisation (that can be
described in biological terms, e.g., the blood relationships).
Bureaucracy, Organisation & Political Change 9

On the other, the "artificial" organisation in which the ties

are based on specific interests that mayor may not be in
contrast with those of the "natural" organisation. This sort
of gap can be, in fact must be viewed as basically qualitative
one. The other conditions brought by Eisenstadt seem to
create gaps whose main characteristics are more of
quantitative nature. In this range appear the differences
between scopes of "natural" groups and cultural, social or
national ones; of number and complexity of functions of
these two kinds of groups and the complexity of ties that
should be maintained by different groups.
The last cond,ition, however, seems to involve both
qualitative and quantitative characteristics. It is related to
the extent of "free-floating" resources like manpower,
economic resources, commitments and so forth.
The development of these conditions, maintains Eisenstadt,
may very well result in the development of a bureaucratic
system. This sort of organisation is likely to be initiated as
an attempt by role (and power) holders to mobilise resources
and to resolve various problems that they may face.
But it is not an isolated process that brings about the
creation and development of a bureaucratic system. These
things take place in a particular social organisation. For
this reason, they would always also include conscious efforts
to achieve equilibrium within this organisation. Equilibrium
is needed not only to stabilise the organisation but also
because it is a primary condition for the bureaucracy to II

maintain its autonomy and distinctiveness" as Eisenstadt

puts it.
Yet, according to Eisenstadt, there is also another process
that may take place in such a situation: that is, de-
bureaucratisation. He claims, and it appears to be a rather
solid argument, that the tendencies toward
bureaucratisation and de-bureaucratisation may, in fact,
develop side by side. This is because the process of refining
10 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

and definitions ~de by the bureaucracy as to its autonomy

and goals may very well lead to the taking over of some of
its very functions and activities by "other groups of
organisation." This could happen "when some organisation
(Le., a parents' association or a religious or political group)
attempts to direct the rules and working of a bureaucratic
organisation (school, economic agency and so forth) for its
own use or according to its own values and goals.
This approach towards the phenomenon of bureaucracy
may seem contradictory. But given the conditions for the
evolution of bureaucracy, it is in fact consistent one. The
bureaucratic organisation in itself consists of well-defined
groups of role holders. So constituted, any given
bureaucracy seeks to refine the definitions for each role
within itself. This contributes to further isolation of groups
of role holders. Although this isolation is initially a
functional one, it ,may extend itself to other spheres of life.
Moreover, such a process that leads to isolation not only
can be seen in itself as a process of de-bureaucratisation. It
can also be perceived as a source of tacit or even open
competition for power. During the stage of inception of the
bureaucracy, there are attempts to make definitions of
functions and group as accurate as the can be. The
motivation behind this is the aspiration to increase and
improve the co-operation and effectiveness of the different
branches so they all would contribute to the consolidation
of the bureaucracy in question. But now, once it is
established and secure, the motivations change. The mere
fact of progress along time span changes conditions. Gaps
that could be ignored at the initial stages slowly enter the
focus of the debate (either the internal one or even the publk
discourse;. What previously had been regarded as
organisational and or functional relations may now become
political relations and struggle for power. On the other
harld, the more the bureaucracy has been able to establish
itself as a complex system, the greater would be the power
Bureaucracy, Organisation & Political Change II

required to operate and control this system. The intensity

of the struggle for power also becomes greater and certain
roles that involve functions of control and power could be
used (and normally they are indeed being used) against or
over opponents and or supporters in such areas as
education, communications, information, etc. Accordingly,
they also become. more and more important.
The holders of such roles recognise the increasing
importance of their roles. It would only be expected,
therefore, that they would try to further promote such a
definition of their role's that would help them to perpetuate
their hold on this role. This would, in turn, increase the
important of the role even further. But other role holders
would do the same, at the same time and within the same
bureaucratic framework. This creates an internal
competition within the bureaucracy that paradoxically
would create forces of disunity. Stress on competence and
de-centralisation of power would be likely to follow and
would contribute to the undermining of the entire system.
At this stage it could be expected that various pivotal forces
or it could be frustrated ones that would attempt to break
the framework of the bureaucracy.
Amongst those that would be likely to participate in this
process we could find not only those in power, but also
role holders whose roles are less important or under threat.
The members of this last group wish, of course, to promote
their position and the best way to do so would be to elevate
the importance of their role. This creates tension because in
effect, such a process is nothing less than a clear attempt to
break the monopoly of the important roles and to actually
neutralise them. The struggle might be focused on the issue
of "what should replace the existing format of
bureaucracy." Each contesting group would come up with
quite different solutions, naturally.
In light of this discussion, it seems that the presentation
12 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

offered by Eisenstdt's would be not only useful but also

consistent and valid. There might be an inference from this
to the arena of political change. Political change, it might
be argued, should be regarded simultaneously as input and
an output of the process of bureaucratisation and de-
bureaucratisation as described above. When analysing an
organisation, it could be attached to the set as one of the
essential values of the bureaucratic organisation. Not only
philosophically to support logical validity but also
This attitude differs significantly from Weber's view of
the ideal bureaucracy. Moreover, Weber stated that "when
those subject to bureaucratic control seek to escape the
influence of the existing bureaucratic apparatus, this is
normally possible only by creating an organisation of their
own which is equally subject to the process of
bureaucratisation. That is to say, according to the approach
presented, that Weber really failed to see the entire picture.
While it may well be true that such a tendency (of
bureaucratisation of the group) could exist, it is precisely
this process that indicates the de-bureaucratisation of the
roof organisation (of which this group has been or still is a
part). Bureaucratisation of a sub-system implies a tendency
to organisational and many times also ideological
detachment from the system. The weakening of the
bureaucratic system by one or more of its sub-systems
cannot but result in the de-bureaucratisation of the system.
Only in this way could a sub-system aspire and may achieve
autonomy and 'create an independent bureaucratic
structure. Equally, only by becoming more and more
bureaucratic, can such a sub-system establish its autonomy
and weaken the parent system to which it previously
Another important difference lies in the possible answer
to the question of "who controls the existing bureaucratic
Bureaucracy, Organisation & Political Change 13

machinery. Weber maintains that such control is possible

only to a very limited degree for persons who are not
technical specialists." The other approach, that to great
extent views bureaucracy as a reflection of political reality,
tolerates the existence of non-specialist power and control.
Weber maintains that "bureaucratic administration
means fundamentally the exercise of control on the basis of
knowledge." Here, he mainly mean technical knowledge
or more accurately, professional knowledge that was
acquired through previous training. His model might be
best fit the professional military. But bureaucracy could exist
also in other organisations formal or informal certainly if
perceived within a political context and even if modified
by various changes. If we would stick to the model drawn
by Weber, then no political change could result from the
operation of the bureaucracy. This is because in his model
the role holders can never control in a complete manner
the apparatus, without which political changes could not
happen. Theoretically, Weber's ideal bureaucracy is thus
very static and as such tends to be practically impossible. It
may seem permissible to say that political change would
bring about bureaucratisation. But the opposite which is in
fact what happens left, right and centre is not logically valid
if we follow Weber's pattern and apply to it the sar~le rules
of deduction that operate in his own theoretical system.
According to the same theoretical process, struggle of
role holders of different professions cannot exist once
control has been established and practised. Moreover, use
of roles by other role holders would be logically impossible.
In this sense, most of Weber's followers, who may have
suggested that such a possibility is implied in Weber's
system, cOllllPitted a logical error, even if their argument
as such proved to' be practically true. Indeed, as March and
Simon have indicated, in many respects "Weber's essential
14 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

proposition that bureaucratises are more efficient (with

respect to the goals of the formal hierarchy) than are
alternative forms of organisation" is as a matter of fact
The main logical and philosophical troubles with the
Weberian perceptions are anchored not so much in his
descriptive model as in the deterministic approach and the
inflexibility of the model. While it might be in situational
terms an accurate description of a given system, analysis of
the bureaucratic phenomena in general should have rather
focused itself on the process of change. A. Etzioni says:
"Modern society is to a large degree a bureaucratic society
Not only does modern society as a whole tend to be
bureaucratic, but the most powerful social units of modern
society are also bureaucratic. Yet, the Weber's approach
and to a great extent also Etzioni's approach treat the social
complex within a static framework and fail to capture its
inherent element of dynamism and change. Thus, in light
of these deSCriptions, it would be impossible to analyse quite
a few political events as phenomena that belong in the
framework of organisation and bureaucracy. For example,
the Chinese protracted warfare prior to the 1949 take over,
the Cultural Revolution or the Israeli Protest Movement that
followed the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Furthermore, if the
methodologies adopted by Weber, Etzioni and their like were
to be followed, it would also be impossible to analyse, on
their own terms, such phenomena as inner struggles within
bureaucratic systems, like say the Soviet Communist Party
to name but one.
Etzioni points out the allocation of means and social
integration as other "functional requirements" of society
that are carried out and controlled by complex
organisations. To him, this is the very bureaucratisation of
society. It is true that many functions or roles in almost all
societies are characterised by bureaucratic processes. But it
would be false both methodologically and logically, as well
Bureaucracy, Organisation & Political Change 15

as a practical error, to ignore the inter-relations of the

different agencies between and among themselves and
between these agencies and that centre that at least
theoretically represents the source of power and control
within society.
An argument was put forward to "justify" or at least
explain this type of false. Arguably, it stems from the fact
that at the time when the main theories of bureaucracy
and organisation were first formulated, such important
factors (or means) as the mass media and mass
communications did not exist or were not as central as they
are today. Only when, in time, these factors grew more
important and significant, could they also enter the
theoretical setting as functional agencies rather than mere
isolated factors. Factually, this is very true. But these factors
must still be considered as independent factors at least as
far as the interplay between the factors themselves takes
place. There is no doubt that even in societies where the
media are operated and controlled by the state they still
influence significantly the system itself and ever, the entire
society. If this is ignored, no real analysis can be offered
that would be able to consider political changes particularly
if and when these are somehow related to changes that the
organisational system might be undergoing. Such omission
is not unavoidable if the Weber-inspired methodology is
employed certainly if without a measure of criticism.
Indeed, it is not really surprising that the definitions of
complex organisations tend to be somewhat fluid. We may
find,forexample,thefollowing. The unit organisation exists
at a point in time. It remains in existence and is operative
only as long as the co-ordinated activity of which it is
composed is continuous. Many unit organisations do come
into existence, engage in activity and accomplish some unit
objective, but they do so within the framework of a total
pattern of activity and toward a common goal. Individuals
16 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

also may engage mindividual activity that has as its purpose

a fraction of some common purpose rather than a personal
goal of the individual. This hierarchy of unit organisations
and individual activity, all a part of some common design,
may be said to constitute a complex organisation. The latter
entity is not continuous and it may be seen as a time-lapse
photograph of unit organisations and individual activity,
all structured under some common purpose and
contributing activity toward some common goal.
Such a definition cannot hold philosophical validity from
its very beginning. Firstly, limitation of time could not be
detached from that of space. Secondly, a deterministic, total
approach as taken here (It remains only as long as etc.)
may easily be countered and upset by examples of deviation
(e.g., when part or all of the constituents are changed or
cease to operate while the framework of the organisation
remains in existence). And once deviation occurs, a set of
arguments could not be considered as a complete theory
with a closed set of provable theorems based on agreed
axioms and rules of deduction. At best, it might be a
collection of suggestive arguments that mayor may not be
true for a given and particular private case. If this is the
case, emphasis should be placed on the causality of the
arguments stipulated. It must also be noted that any
particular description cannot be but a fairly loose
proposition. Most of the arguments discussed above
attribute some sort of "necessity" to their content. But this
cannot be, of course, logical. In fact, it is not even relevant.
The entire discussion could only remain within the
boundaries of descriptive themes. Any attempt to claim
otherwise defies logic and is thus misleading.
Entirely differ~nt is the approach offered by G. L. Lippitt
in his Organisational Renewal. Lippitt tries to examine
organisations and behaviour of both organisations and their
particles from a psychological point of view that weighs
Bureaucracy, Organisation & Political Change 17

aspects that benefit the individual and group in the

organisation. He maintains that the "normal" situation of
a system is some sort of a status quo and that change is
really a deviation from this status quo. He does not draw
the limits or boundaries of this status quo and he refrains
from a strict definition of the range of the possible changes
and from a clear reference to such changes.
The organisational world of Lippitt can thus be viewed
as either being in total and perennial stability or as subject
to total and constant change. Both are permitted if plain
logic is applied to the drawn models of Lippitt. Definition
of particles, or constituents and their roles cannot be found
in his long book. The same is true as to possible indications
of internal or external relations of organisational systems.
Even his annotated bibliography that holds additional 9
pages and contains some 52 works seems to be one-sided
and heavily biased and hardly usefuL
The following short passage is a typical statement of this
work: "Frustration is experienced by those who think
success in mobilising human resources, or in initiating
organisation renewal, is simply a matter of education and,
perhaps, of using persuasive stimuli reinforced by annual
picnics, newsletters and adequate coffee-breaks.
This is so because Organisation renewal is the process
of initiating, creating and confronting needed changes so
as to make it possible for organisations to become or remain
viable, to adapt to new conditions, to solve problems, to
learn from experience and to move toward greater
organisational maturity. Not only is the definition itself
empty and of no use at all, in terms of the argument or for
the examination of theorems (for example, what is
"organisational maturity. The argument itself, that begins
as highly deterministic one, fades and loosens so as to end
as a rather simplistic" saloon talk" that cannot be taken
18 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

Indeed, the Chinese situation under Mao is a clear blow

to Lippitt's statement There, the system was anchored in
the belief that success in mobilising human resources is
simply a matter of education and the Chinese leadership
who thought so did not seem to have been frustrated. But
there is a crucial point that lies beyond this level. It must be
referred to the logical structure of both definitions. These
would serve in a logical model as the axioms while the
argument would be, for all practical matters, the theorem.
Lack of accuracy is not only a matter of aesthetics. It is
precisely what determines the framework of the entire
discussion. If any component of either the definition or the
argument were to be removed nothing would happen.
There is no close definition, nor any solid argument could
be found that together might lead to any possible range of
strongly based conclusions. This pulls away the ground from
underneath Lippitt's structure, leaving him with no model
what so ever. The tendency to observe the organisational
phenomena from the viewpoint of a behavioural pattern
is, however, interesting. It must be, of course, limited to
either individual participants or to particular mechanisms
(that are operated by individuals). Under the limit of this
condition it might be interesting to examine possible relations
between role holders and functions of the system, between
and among role holders themselves, etc.
Indeed, within this sort of framework, a discussion
concerning the internal communications within
organisations could be useful. The question of whether or
not some undefined individual is frustrated or why could
not be traced and answered in general terms. On the other
hand, it would be certainly possible to observe the
behavioural patterns that result from a specific position of
individual within the system. Questions that seek answers
as regard to the extent or mode of change that results from
the exercising of a particular role in the system that enable
Bureaucracy, Organisation & Political Change 19

its holder to manipulate other people are certainly legitimate.

But such questions cannot be found in Lippitt's work. Also,
open-ended or multi-ended answers could be useful, but
not if they fail to be within any logical context. A mere
collection of statements without foundations and directions
cannot replace a serious discussion and analysis.
Organisations are important as they appear to be
because as March and Simon say "people spend so much
of their time in them." This is rather a superficial answer,
as they admit themselves. But the importance of
organisations or the understanding of them is embedded
in the fact that distribution of wealth, labour and power,
as well as the well being of each of us and the prospects of
change are all related functions of organisational patterns.
This in itself means that limitations are placed on the
possibility to understand and or to describe the core of the
organisational activity. This is because the means to do so,
that is language, is by itself a related function of organised
patterns. Hence, the only open field of understanding is
that by which we try to describe through definitions and
deductive rules some of the mechanisms of organisational
activity. We cannot break out of the framework by merely
providing suggestive formulas that can only refer to
situational realities.
In this sense, the attempt made by March ~nd Simon to
seek explanations that could correspond to the most basic
and simple questions arising from the observation of the
organisational phenomena, is fruitful. It is so because in
this way a methodology for such an observation can be
developed. Albeit it is still more inductive than deductive,
this type of observation is a key for the understanding of
the processes that take place within a given organisation.
Furthermore, it serves as a basis for correlating such
processes to political change or other activities that are
associated with the observed organisation, even if they are
20 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

not an integrated part of it. Adopting this policy of

observation, March and Simon can cover a relatively large
number of viewpoints while not slipping too much to the
absolutist approach" that characterise quite a few other
works in the fie!d of organisation. An important aspect
covered by them is that of the relations between the
motivational setting of an organisation and the alternatives
open to it. This is a question that, as they rightly mention,
"has not been examined in any detail in the literature.
The way in which they bring forward this issue is typical
of their work and it is certainly worthy of praise. First they
suggest a hypothesis while using theorems based on a set
of previously formulated definitions. They refrain from
falling into the trap of the determinist and absolutist
approach and thus they keep from merely offering baseless
suggestions. They put forward a series of examples taken
from different private cases and make sure to comment on
each of these. Only then they attempt to draw a framework
for conclusions, while not ignoring that these could only be
suggestive in their nature. When dwelling on the questions
of motivations an,d alternatives they suggest the following:
"In general, the greater the objective availability of external
alternative, the more likely that such alternatives will be
evoked. The terms are well defined and the problem of the
intentions" of the authors is avoided.
These relations seem to be crucial. They correspond to
the previously mentioned inter-relations between the
components of the bureaucratic system. They also have
much to do with the source of political change that may
occur within, or in connection with, a certain bureaucracy.
Availability of alternatives, as March and Simon indicate
points at two kinds of ranges. One is the objective range of
The other range is that of what seem to be as alternatives
to various participants within the system. Considering the
Bureaucracy, Organisation & Political Change 21

interplay of groups of interest within a bureaucratic set,

the distinction between the two ranges tend to be associated
with and influenced by the structure of the set. This is also
true for the attempts made by the set or its leadership to
materialise such alternatives in the least disharmonious
manner. The motivational factor must therefore be closely
associated with the identity of the players. It would be so
both in the realm of individual-group relations and in the
realm of inter-group relations.
There seems to be an identification mechanism" that
works within the system. Also, even in the absence of
positive identification, the strength of group pressures as
the uniformity of group opinion increases. It therefore seems
to be valid to assume that "the perceived consequences of
alternatives are, at least partly, a function of the strength
of group pressures and the direction of these pressures that
stem from sub groups and extra-organisational groups."
The structural organisation of a given set of groups is
influenced by the alternaHves both real and imaginary.
Simultaneously, it influences the range of possible and
desirable alternatives. It is impossible to determine exactly
where the starting point lies. But it is quite obvious that this
complex of factors, namely, group identity and pressures,
the nature of the structural organisation and the existence
of several ranges of alternatives, are all, in fact and when
they interact the <;ore of any possible political change. This
basic assumption must be acknowledged when dealing
with any of these factors. Otherwise, the analysis will be
incomplete and rather arbitrary.
There is an inherent essential difficulty that attempts to
analyse bureaucracy or even organisations in general face.
Such attempts could basically be either descriptive or
theoretical. Yet, a descriptive attempt, particularly if it
would also try to be accurate, must refer to particular
phenomenon (or phenomena) that only exist in exact and
22 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

particular frame of time and space. It would then be

confined to inductive suggestions that may only concern
some aspects of the general phenomena. It cannot state
absolutely proven theorem and remains logical at the same
time. Moreover, if accuracy is to be maintained, it should
also refer at least to the previously mentioned factors. At
the same time, it cannot confine itself merely to the structural
aspects. Motivations, alternatives, technical operation of the
system, definitions of power for the various levels of
hierarchy and other such factors must also be referred to.
The theoretical type of attempt is even harder to pursue.
For once, it has to cover all of these aspects that must be
included in the theoretical setting. The main factor,
however, is the theoretical "backbone" on which the entire
movement within the suggested system depends. It must
remain open-ended and in a constant flux so as to enable
changes in the forms and or essence to enter the set, either
as new givens or as renewed or unchanged ones. These act
and perceived in accordance with the changing conditions.
The effort here must include, therefore, a logically closed
theory of dynamics as well as techniques that allow the
work in several levels of definition that may vary according
to different natures of the qualitatively different
components of stich a theoretical setting.
In order to deal with the complexity and to study the
phenomena of bureaucracy, organisation, political change
and their like, some of the logical and philosophical strict
limitations must be sacrificed. Thus, some of the
observations and theoretical relations between components
of a given theoretical setting would be treated out of the
frame of the formal logic. Yet the demand for examination
of such relations must not e neglected altogether. It is still
of great importance.
Albrow in his Bureaucracy reveals many of these. He
also tries to analyse them and to seek justification for them.
Bureaucracy, Organisation & Political Change 23

Thus, when touching the relations between bureaucracy

and ideology he suggests that" some justification for paying
even slight attention to the concept of bureaucracy in
ideological contexts appears to be necessary." There are
three reasons for this. Firstly, while ideologies are designed
to incite men to action, this does not mean that their content
is wholly emotive. On the contrary, it is a feature of modern
ideologies that they purport to be based upon an objective
view of the nature of man and society. Secondly, it is
notoriously difficult for the social scientist to remove all
traces of ideological commitment from his or her work and
it is therefore important to be aware of the nature of the
ideological concepts of bureaucracy.
Thirdly, Marxist or self-proclaimed Marxist) and to a
lesser degree also Fascist ideologies claim to erase the
distinction between ideological and scientific thought at
least as far as their own doctrines are concerned. Political
leaders set themselves up as arbiters of scientific truth and
academicians avowedly direct their work to political ends.
That the scientific element in this conflict of ideology and
knowledge cannot be lightly disregarded is obvious when
we consider the high prestige as a political scientist that
Karl Marx, the most successful ideologist of all time, has in
non-Marxist circles.
Albrow's approach is highly advantageous. Not only
do~s he lack the absolutisttendency that characterises many
of the writers dealing with the discussed phenomena. While
examining some of the literature, he tries to gain access to
pieces of information that could be consulted when
pursuing the study of related subjects. In this he uniquely
achieves a degree of reliability that many works fail to
maintain because they do not concede the possibility of
open-ended changing relations.
Adhering only to a one-way solution, as is the case with
many of the works in the field (and most of those mentioned
24 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

here) tend to culminate in the construction of static models

and limited understanding not only of bureaucracy and of
organisation in general. But also, it confines and limits the
discussion of political change and only allows for a static
model and formulas to be presented. This is inadequate
logically and academically but even more so it is entirely
unrealistic and untrue. It must be noted, however, that such
works can still benefit their readers even though they suffer
from such important shortcomings. If not with insight, they
can at least still provide us with information pertaining to
bureaucracy, organisation and political change and to their
inner and inter relations.

The Management of Change

at the Bureaucracy

Comment on the end of bureaucracy is derived from
the view that bureaucratic rationalisation can no longer
provide a viable basis for organising in the current context
of radical uncertainty and turbulent change. Advocates of
post bureaucracy argue that organisations are becoming
more decentralised, loosely coupled and likely to foster the
empowerment of employees. The overview provided by
shows that there is a very considerable overlap between
the "post bureaucratic turn" and "the new public
management" (NPM). The latter emphasises cost control,
financial transparency, the atomisation of organizational
sub-units, the decentralisation of management autonomy,
the creation of market and quasi-market mechanisms
andthe creation of performance indicators.
Post bureaucracy promises new forms of strategic action
which will assume a more creative and open form.
Comment on "hybrid political regimes" and "democratic
hierarchies" is centred on the long-standing question of how
organisations combine centralised control and co-ordination
of resources with the need for more flexible forms. The
notion of organisational hybridity has a particular relevance
26 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

for public sector organisations, where calls to "reduce

bureaucracy" have been manifested in attempts to simulate
market disciplines within the organisation. Two aspects of
the post bureaucracy debate are of particular significance
for the present study. The first concerns the large volume
of comment which has challenged the substantive claims
made for post bureaucracy and NPM. The second relates
to the idea that the post bureaucratic turn is embedded in
an over arching "discourse of endings" whose leitmotiv is
that the advanced industrial societies have now entered a
definitively new epoch. Thus, as has argued:
a neo-liberalist economist such as Schumpeter, a
social democrat such as Schumacher, a neo-
corporatist such as Elias, a technological determinist
such as Bell or Castells, and a theorist of radical
participatory democracy such as Illich, can all agree
that the underlying currents of history, will,
eventually make bureaucracy an obsolete form of
administrative power and organisation.
Whilst the "permanent structure of anti-bureaucratic
thought" continues to exert a pervasive influence on
organisational analysis, recent empirical work paints a
much more complex picture than would be implied by the
binary oppositions which appear in many accounts of the
post bureaucratic organisation. Some scholars working in
the Foucauldian tradition of organisational analysis have
argued that market-oriented policies and managerial
discourses may act to "capture" and fix the ways in which
the world is seen by public sector professionals. But there is
now a very substantial body of work which shows the ways
in which these discourses have been contested and
"displaced" by public sector professionals. A recurrent
theme in these critiques is that the new forms reflect not
the "end" of bureaucracy but a complex, and often highly
unstable, bifurcation of the bureaucratic form which
The Management of Change at the Bureaucracy 27

devolves operational responsibility whilst attempting to

extend the controls exercised by senior management. A
growing number of scholars have argued that the
epochalism" promulgated by the anti-bureaucratic turn

has produced a' highly restricted, caricatured and an

historical view which detaches analysis from the relevant
organisational contexts, interests and social choices has
Bureaucracy is not as many critics assume a simple
singularity. Rather, whatever singularity it is deemed to
possess is multiple, not monolithic to be more precise
bureaucracy has turned out to be less a hard and fast
transhistorical model, but rather what we may describe as
a many sided, evolving, diversified organizational device.
In the analysis which follows we question epochalist
assumptions of the post bureaucratic organisation.
Following the recent historiographical turn in organization
analysis, we present an organisational counter-narrative
which highlights key elements of reflexivity and cultural
continuity in the 'bureaucratic form. The substantive basis
for this is provided by our work on the putative "fall" and
subsequent "reinvention" of the BBC during the 1990s. Our
analysis is based on both primary data gathering and the
use of selected secondary sources particularly seminal
account The BBC: Public Institution and Private World, but
also Uncertain Vision: Birt, Dyke and the Reinvention of the
The BBC and the anti-bureaucratic turn
Founded in 1926, the BBC is funded by a licence fee
levied on all UK households in possession of terrestrial
television receivers. A Royal Charter, reviewed by the
government every ten years, specifies the corporation's
public sector responsibilities, functions and financial
operations. The corporation is formally self-regulated and
28 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

independent of government controls. Successive

governments have, however, succeeded in using the charter
renewal procedures as a way of exercising political control
over the content of BBC broadcasts, particularly in news
and current affairs. Once revered as the apotheosis of the
public service tradition, the BBC has also been described as
a "cultural dictatorship" and it has long been noted for its
elitism, financial mismanagement and quasi-monopolistic
hold on the UK broadcasting industries Home Office.
Burns depicted a deeply segmented organisation which
separated "creative workers" such as TV and radio
producers from "managerialist" administrators. Burns also
noted the "quasi-tribalist" rivalry between the various
production departments or "baronies as they competed for
status and programming resources. The BBC retained many
of its "bureaucratic" features as late as the early 1990s. By
the mid-1980s, however, the belief that markets were
replacing hierarchies as the fundamental principle of
economic management had come to dominate public sector
reform in the UK. The Thatcher government, seeking to
encourage liberalisation, market competition and media
convergence, found an obvious target in the BBC. One
government commission considered the possibility of
outright privatisation, but this was averted when the 1990
Broadcasting Act ruled that 25 per cent of BBC output
should be sourced from independent producers. In the
White Paper "Serving the Nation, Competing World-wide",
John Major's government indicated that the BBC should
enter the competitive market, whilst retaining its public
The BBC response to these developments was to initiate
an extensive programme of organisational change. The
highly bureaucratised "command economy" was to he
replaced by an internal market which would eventually
separate purchasers (commissioning executives) from
The Management oj Change at the Bureaucracy 29

providers (television producers and technicians). As noted

in the introduction, these features are cognate with both
post-bureaucracy and the NPM.
The BBC and the "end" of bureaucracy: the case of
producer choice
. Producer choice was the title given to the trading system,
designed around an internal market, which was first
introduced in 1991. Described as a "new way of managing
resources" the term "producer choice" refers to both
procedural changes, and to changes in professional norms
which would deliver a more decentralised BBe. As in other
public sector settings, managerial rhetorics of
transformation featured as a strategic resource deployed
in support of institutional change. Producer choice placed
a key emphasis on external accountability, continuous
monitoring, and institutional auditing but the political
rationale for the initiative was that the process of self-reform
would secure the renewal of the Royal Charter in 1996,
thus ensuring the continued existence of a publicly funded
Producer choice was often described in terms of detailed
operational changes but its dominant rhetoric drew heavily
.on two mutually reinforcing manifestations of the
"epochalism" which has dominated comment and debate
on post-bureaucracy. The first relates to the notion that the
BBC had to shake off the bureaucratic excesses of the past
and redeem itself as a worthy recipient of public funding.
The other was a pervasive sense that UK broadcasters were
entering a radically new technological future.
Producer choice was framed around the notion of
organisational salvation the belief that the had to be saved
from the threats posed by the onset of technological and
regulatory change. Key features of this new environment
were that there would be a convergence of previously
30 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

separate broadcasting, computing and telecommunications

industries; a globalisation of "infotainment" industries;
increasing reliance on joint ventures, and more flexible
forms of digital production. Phrases summing up the new
environment included "the status quo is not an option"
and we must get lean and fit for the new world of digital
convergence. The producer choice initiative was introduced
by John Birt then Deputy Director General in Autumn
Staff guidelines promised new freedoms and
responsibilities for television producers. Funding for
programmes was, however, to be earned by bidding to
deliver an agreed strategy. When Birt became Director
General in January 1993, he described producer choice as
akin to a powerful locomotive shining a searchlight into
every area of our activities.
Statements of this kind stru.:k many our respondents as
inconsistent with the culture of segmentation and quasi-
tribalist rivalry noted above. The engineering metaphor was,
however, an apt one not only was Birt himself a trained
engineer, but also producer choice had been heavily
influenced by the doctrine of reengineering and the belief
that the organisation could be treated as a tabula rasa which
could be reinscribed without regard for history or legacies
of the past. Birt repeatedly described the "old" BBC as a
"command economy" thus powerfully scapegoating the
BBC's past, promising to create an institution: in which
baronialism and bureaucracy are dirty words, ""here fudge
and fix-it, hostile leaking and secretive and manipuiative
behaviour become techniques and tactics of the past.
In a statement which attacked the long established
practices surrounding the funding of new programme ideas,
~stated that decisions in the "new BBC" would be made
on the basis of high quality management information, and
not on: "the skills of supplicants at some Byzantine court
The Management of Change at the Bureaucracy 31

where no-one knew what anything actually cost. The

analysis of producer choice which follows refers to two key
elements of change management which are relevant to our
earlier discussion of post bureaucracy. First, the
implementation of the internal market via the new trading
system; and second, the managerial controls imposed on
the previously devolved process of programme
Implementing the producer choice trading system
Under the command economy, BBC production units
had no means of charging for their technical and craft
services. The intention of the new trading system was that
production resources, once allocated to particular
programmes, could be transacted in ways which
reproduced market conditions. As the internal market was
established across the five output directorates of the BBC
(network television, network radio, news and current
affairs, regions, external services), the idea of "a single BBC"
was displaced by notions of fragmentation, competition and
diversity. Trading negotiations now took place between
production units located within the BBC and between BBC
facilities and external purchasers. Nearly 500 separate profit
centres were created between 1991 and 1993. Far from
clarifying the use of resources, the volume of transactions
was such that management subsequently cut the number
of trading units to approximately 200. Our original
fieldwork shows that a small number of BBC producers
adopted the calculative norms and enterprising attitudes
associated with internal markets. However, the broad thrust
of our findings is that the initiative was much more effective
in achieving what one senior manager described as a one-II

off hit on capacity" than enduring changes in the buying

and selling behaviour of producers. Resources were used
in ways which consistently undermined the market
rationality of "spot pricing". Both the supply and demand
32 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

for production resources were biased in favour of bulk

purchasing from preferred sources.
One producer stated that. No one gives a stuff whether
the producer is theoretically free to appoint the wardrobe
mistress and catering company he wants, when the truth
is that the system is so inefficient, he can't contract them
until a fortnight before the shoot, and so he has to take
whoever happens to be both available and cheap.
The centralisation of programme commissioning
Criticisms of the producer choice trading system were
by no means restricted to "creative workers" such as TV
producers. Senior management were also concerned about
the effect of internal trading on the creativity of in-house
departments. The head of finance at the engineering (later
resources) directorate took an equally sceptical view.
Resources had to be reduced because of the 25 per cent
quota and the mechanism chosen to do this was Producer
Choice. It's easier to control resource provision than idea
creation in the old days the resources were there to develop
the ideas, now you have to make a case to use them, and
they won't be there if they have to earn return on capital
Some of our respondents acknowledged the political
necessity of producer choice, assuming that the point of
showing transparency of costs was to focus the
corporation's efforts to secure Charter renewal on the
overall value and quality of the BBC's programme output.
But others argued that the initiative was only peripherally
concerned with business procedures, its actual purpose was
the recentralisation of programming strategy and an end
to the practice of devolving the process of programme
commissioning. Some key insights on programme
commissioning emerge if we return briefly to account of
the BBC during the early 1970s.
The Management of Change at the Bureaucracy 33

Burns highlighted the growing scale and sophistication

of BBC programming at a time when successive increases
in license fee revenues allowed the rapid expansion of the
various output departments. Producers' demands-for ever
more elaborate and expensive programming led BBC senior
management to develop a new two year" planning cycle"
which sought to fill schedules by means of continuous
production lines (known as programming" strands"), whose
costs could be predicted and controlled. Resource allocation
was organised around biannnual" offers" meetings in which
channel controllers, administrators, and accountants would
determine which programmes should be funded.
These meetings were concerned not so much with the
conventions of "resource allocation" as with negotiating
the ways in which the BBC's public service tradition should
be maintained: channel controllers arbitrated the rival
claims of particular genres and programme ideas, each
which had a particular ethical and aesthetic claim on the
public service tradition. Crucially, and in spite of the
centralising tendencies 1nherent in the new planning cycle,
these meetings w~re managed "by people who claimed the
same professional identity and interests of producers
themselves". In one key passage cites a channel controller
who characterised the "offers" system as "a combination
of authoritarianism and permissiveness". This system was
still in place in 1996, when John Birt announced that the
BBC's broadcasting and production functions were to be
split into separate directorates. One result of this split was
that controllers located in the newly established Broadcast
Directorate could now commission programme ideas from
independent producers. The split was accompanied by a
"tariff-based funding model" designed to harness the output
of the BBC television and radio networks to the centralising
logic of financial planning and market research.
As Born remarks, Henceforth, responsibility for
34 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

commissions lay solely with the controllers, marketing

executives and corporate strategists. The result was a less
distributed and devolved structure of decision making, with
little space for the particular expertise of genre production
to flow up the hierarchy and be nurtured through dialogue
The BBC now acted as a broadcaster not a programme
maker, with channel controllers abandoning their former
role as creative arbiters. One of our interviewees observed
that. Creativity has been marginalised. Amateurish but
enjoyable collegiate discussions no longer happen. An
underclass of jobbing producers, or even totally casualised
researchers doing the hunting and gathering, are hired at
short notice to deliver to a brief using their own recording
equipment it's a new type of alienation in the production
process. The goal is for the BBC to be a global software
house based on strong relationships with the gateways, not
the workers.
Post bureaucracy and digital broadcasting
Greg Dyke, appointed as Director General in 2000,
inherited a BBC whose public funding had been secured
for the statutory ten-year period of Charter renewal in 1996.
However, the terms of the Charter settlement left
unanswered fundamental questions about the role of the
BBC in the emerging" digital environment" . As noted above,
the early 1990s were dominated by the view that the
technological future of UK broadcasting would be assured
by a strong commitment to deregulation and free markets.
The BBC rejected the dominant pay TV model of Rupert
Murdoch's BSkyB, arguing that digital programming should
be delivered on a non-commercial, free to air basis. The late
1990s saw a shift in the doctrine of consumer sovereignty
in UK broadcast policy. In 1999, the Department of Culture,
Media and Sport published a White Paper which reflected
a quintessentially "hybridised" commitment to free markets,
coupled with a strong sense of their limitations (for a full
The Management of Change at the Bureaucracy 35

account of this shift. The White Paper argued the need for
UK broadcasters to embrace the cultural and economic
opportunities provided by digital technologies but it also
stated that public service broadcasting should be central to
the UK's digital economy. The BBC response was predicated
on the view that there was a need to provide increasingly
fragmented and pluralised UK audiences with access to a
range of formats in digital television (DTV) and other new
media. The cost savings produced by the Birt reforms had
helped to fund the earliest digital services but the cost of
establishing a more comprehensive range of complementary
digital channels was such that Birt and his senior executives
sought an increase in the level of the licence fee in their
submissions to the Davies Committee of 1998. Born notes
that three factors distinguished the BBC's approach to DTV
first, that all digital channels would be free to air and
without advertising; second that a high proportion of
material would be originated in the UK, with programme
budgets higher than the norm for DTV; third, that each of
the new channels would contain a range of genres in
contrast to the niche broadcasting favoured by pay-
television operators.
Dyke and the demise of producer choice
Greg Dyke continued the Birtist policy of lobbying the
Blair government to support the BBC's digital ambitions,
whilst amending or reversing many of the organisational
changes imposed during the Birt period. The internal
market was curtailed, with approximately 200 trading units
reduced to around 50. Dyke rejected the doctrine of internal
markets, reasserted the strategic importance of in house
production and increased spending on programming by
450M between 2000 and 2002. Dyke stated in 2000 that
his intention was to.
Take out internal trading look again at how much money
we're spending hiring outside resources when we've got
36 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

resources lying idle inside give our programme makers more

security and make the BBC less internally competitive and
more focused on the outside world.
Dyke also revised the commissioning process which had
been centralised under Birt by appointing senior producers
to act as creative experts whose job was to maintain an
overview of production in each genre. These "genre
commissioners" held the budgets in drama, factual,
entertainment and arts programming. However, Born has
also shown that: all commissions had to be agreed by a
controller making a "dual tick" system. The precise balance
of forces in each genre was decided pragmatically; in some
areas such as Current Affairs and Drama Serials the same
person acted as both head of production and genre
commissioner, restoring the putative conflict of interest that
the Birt reforms had been elaborately and expensively
desigr.ed to avoid.
The revalidation of in-house production under Dyke thus
appears to have been accompanied by the emergence of a
new hybrid organisational form which combines central
control of programme commissioning with a substantial
measure of producer autonomy. This is in line with recent
critical thinking on organisational hybridity but this "new"
form, based on a "conflict of interest" between the expertise
of producers and managerial control of resources is also
redolent of the authoritarian permissiveness" noted by

Burns almost 30 years previously. This suggests that there

is a need for the changing dynamics of organisational
control within the BBC to be located in a wider historical
perspective, and it is to this that we now turn.
An historical reading of producer choice and anti
The paper has examined the putative "fall" and
subsequent reinvention" of the BBC during the 1990s,
The Management of Change at the Bureaucracy 37

showing the ways in which "epochalist" public policies

affected the BBC and its place in the wider UK broadcasting
industry. We have also highlighted the managerial rhetorics
of transformation which pervaded the Birt reforms,
contrasting these with the broader institutional tensions and
dilemmas which beset the BBC as it sought to redefine its
role as a public provider in the context of deregulation and
digital broadcasting. Producer choice resonates with the
idea that managerial discourses of marketisation may act
to "capture" and "fix" the ways in which the world is seen
by public sector professionals.
However, efforts to impose the producer choice trading
system failed to secure a cultural shift in the buying and
selling behaviour of producers. The initiative did not
displace the "tribalist" loyalties which segmented the BBC,
and nor did it usurp the ritualised "supplicancy" of the
commissioning process. This is consistent with the view that
"heterogeneous, rivalrous and recalcitrant" public sector
professionals have successfully resisted the discursive

capture" associated with thp. doctrines of enterprise and

marketisation. However, the longer term view developed
in this paper points to a more fundamental contradiction
that management themselves (or more specifically, BBC senior
executives) turned away from internal markets and
centralised control of programme planning towards the end
of the 1990s. .
The main power effect of producer choice was not "the
reduction of bureaucracy" but the need to build the broader
political case for the 1996 Charter renewal. Anthony Smith,
an ex-BBC producer and former head of the British Film
Institute, told us that: Producer Choice was a very ingenious
device of change similar to that which happened in
Hungarian State Television, where getting rid of the old
communists involved exploiting the tool of the marketplace.
But as with the McKinsey reforms of the 1970s, the BBC
38 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

continued to operate as a well-run bureaucracy, adjusting

itself, as it has always done, to prevailing enterprise
These comments have been corroborated by archival
research carried out by Wegg-Prosser, who has shown that
producer choice was anticipated by a much earlier series
of organisational changes known as "the McKinsey
reforms". Producer choice was redolent of these reforms in
a number of specific ways, "change management" was
initiated in response to the political and fiscal uncertainties
associated with the ten-year cycle of Charter renewal;
production departments were scrutinised by external
change agents who sought to clarify financial information,
and "organisational change" was implemented on a highly
centralised top down basis, with highly equivocal results.
As in the 1970s, the Birt "reforms" created a plethora of
new controls in the run-up to the 1996 Charter renewal,
only for these to be relinquished at a later date.
Taken together, these features point to the idea that
managerial discourses of enterprise and marketisation were
undermined, as it were, "from within" an inherently
bureaucra tic BBC but it can also be argued that the "counter
reformation" which occurred under Greg Dyke was rooted
in a much broader reflexive shift away from the doctrines
of consumer sovereignty, debureaucratisation and internal
markets. Virtually all of our respondents agreed that the
centralisation of programme planning had undermined the
creative assets of the BBCs in house output departments
the reversal of these policies indicates that senior
management viewed the centralisation of programme
commissioning as a pyrrhic victory.
However, the reversal of centralised planning reflects
not just a revalidation of "producer power" but also a more
general process of rethinking UK public sector broadcasting.
This latter aspect suggests that the "hegemonic sway" of
The Management of Change at the Bureaucracy 39

marketisation may be contested and displaced in ways

which reflect the broader "conditioning structures"
operating outside the organisation. The BBC's raison d'etre
was threatened by the new context of deregulation and
technological change in the early 1990s but subsequent
events showed that the BBC retained its critical mass of
production capacity, whilst the discourse of public sector
broadcasting moved on from relatively simplistic notions
of consumer sovereignty to more pluralized and diverse
notions of public broadcasting.
Producer choice can be understood as a strategic change
narrative which drew heavily on rhetorics of marketisation
and disaggregation, whilst centralising programming
strategy .. The epochalist rhetoric of transformation
promulgated by the Birt regime drew heavily on the notion
of organisational salvation the belief that the BBC had to be
saved from the threats posed by the onset of technological
and regulatory c}:tange. These features are consistent with
the idea that large-scale organisational change may be
framed within a utopian "politics of forgetting" whose main
purpose is to delegitimate the institutional past. The rapid
technological and regulatory changes of the 1990s signalled
a radicaIJy new, discontinuous future for the BBC. The
changes which occurred within the organisation were,
however, conditioned by key elements of cultural continuity
and by a recursive tendency for old struggles to be
periodically revisited as evidenced, for example, by the
changing dynamics of control in programme
commissioning. As in the 1970s, BBC senior management
imposed a plethora of new controls in the years prior to the
1996 Charter renewal, only for these to be relinquished at
a later date.
Taken together, these features suggest that the
historiography of the BBC should be understood not in
40 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

terms of decisive organizational changes" or transitions,


but with respect to recurrent surges" of managerial control


which are interspersed with periods of creative autonomy.

The BBC is currently experiencing a renewed phase of
managerial control triggered by the Blair government's
manipulation of foreign news coverage in the wake of the
Gilligan affair. The years since the appointment of a new
Director General in 2004 have seen renewed efforts to
manage change on a top-down basis, indicating that the
long-standing cultural antinomies noted by this paper are
likely to pervade the BBC for some time to come.

The Great Wall of


The problem is one of attitudes, attitudes like Wu Ming's. I

think we all understand now that politics is the enemy of
economics. Unfortunately, politics is the very essence of
Chinese life at every leve1. There is hardly anything else. In
particular, Chinese culture is profoundly hostile to all forms
of enterprise except the politica1. The simplest principles of
rational economics for example, the notion that one might
get ahead by hard work seem, to ordinary Chinese people,
as bizarre as the tenets of some Polynesian cargo cult. To
get ahead in ChiJ;lese society you cultivate "connections",
trade favors and suck up to the Party mafiosi. In short, you
play politics. Hard work has nothing to do with it.
In China, wealth and success have always been
inseparable from politics. Tsai Shen, the Chinese God of
Wealth (whose picture can be seen pasted to doors in
Hongkong at Lunar New Year) wears the uniform of an
Imperial bureaucrat. Message the only proper path to
wealth lies through power. I know a number of capable
and ambitious young citizens of the People's Republic. They
fall into two groups those trying to get into the Party, and
those trying to get out of the country.
A reader familiar with the Far East may object that these
remarks do not at all describe the Chinese he has met in
42 Bureaucracy and Dev,e[opment Administration

Hongkong and Taiwan. That is quite right; but Hongkong

and Taiwan are very peculiar places. In both of them a
large part of the population was long excluded from politics.
In Hongkong there has never been any point in politics
at all. In Taiwan, for most or the past 40 years power has
been a monopoly of Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist Party,
which recovered the island in 1945. The native Taiwanese
(85 per cent of the population), having no advantage to
hope for from politics, turned their energies to making
money. Meanwhile the power of the ruling Nationalists was
itself much qualified by social reforms forced upon Chiang
at the point of a United States aid budget.
There is another difference, too, between the mainland
Chinese and their offshore cousins. Even before their
economic triumphs, these other Chinese had been de-
programmed (so to speak) by foreign rule, the Taiwanese
by 50 years as a colony of Japan, the Hongkongers by a
century under the Crown.
Even Chiang's Nationalists, though they would not have
won any prizes for parliamentary democracy, had been
softened somewhat by contact with the West. Chiang,
himself, for example, was a Christian.
None of this has any equivalent on the mainland. Mao's
Communists were an entirely Chinese phenomenon.
Whatever Western influence existed in China when they
came to power was expunged with terrible ferocity over
the following quarter-century. Looking back at the tumult
of those years, it is hard not to think that it was all done
with the deliberate aim of re-Sinifying the Chinese, of
restoring them to their ancient condition: a race of apathetic
serfs, ruled over by an infallible bureaucracy.
To think that China might "do a Taiwan" is
preposterous. The people of Taiwan are free to come and
go, to buy and sell, to pray and publish. Mainland China
The Great Wall of Bureaucracy 43

might be on another planet. There, a citizen may not even

change his place of work or residence. these are, in fact,
usually the same place. A Chinese factory is essentially a
sort of open prison.
Is this one of the things Teng wants to reform? It is not.
He wants the Chinese richer, but he does not want them
freer. Rather the contrary. One of his new measures will
halve food subsidies. The authorities seem well aware that
the resulting price increases might cause great discontent.
It would be wildly out of character for them not to anticipate
this unrest by tightening social control.
The main instrument of control is, of course, the Party.
The Party is most of China's problem. What Teng is seeking
is economic vitality; but that can only exist when people
are left to their own devices in matters of work, movement
and property. Leaving people to their own devices is, to
put it very mildly indeed, not the Chinese Communist
Party's strong point.
I hope that Teng's goulash communism will make the
Chinese better off and I believe there's a good chance it
will. But no, China is not going capitalist; for an essential
component of capitalism is liberty.
Compounding Teng's difficulties is the fact that he cannot
sell his reforms direct to the masses. Between China's leaders
and China's people stands the biggest shock absorber known
to man, China's bureaucracy.
People who live in free countries have quite the wrong
idea about totalitarianism. Confusing absolute authority
with absolute power, they imagine that the autocrat has
only to stamp his foot to set the whole nation a-tremble. In
fact Chinese history is rife with examples of emperors who
stamped their Celestial feet until the cows came home, to
no effect at all.
44 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

Every society has its own equilibrium state. China is in

equilibrium when the people are getting along well enough
with the bureaucracy. Once that state has been reached it
was reached by about 1980 in Communist China real change
is exceedingly difficult.
Let Teng huff and puff as he will; in a hundred thousand
dozing towns and muddy hamlets the people of China will
come to their own arrangements with the local despot and
the factory Party secretary. "Heaven is high, the Emperor
far away, sighed the Chinese of old. I happened to be in
China last year when a new set of regulations on the hiring
and firing of workers was announced in Peking. These
reforms were not as drastic as those now being mooted,
but they seemed to me quite daring. I asked a colleague, a
low-level cadre, what he thought their effect would be. He
shrugged. "Oh, you know, it's just another policy."
There is the obstacle in Teng's path. For us in the West it
seems astonishing to hear leaders in Peking speaking
warmly of "capitalism". To the shell-shocked, enervated
workers of China, snug now in their quilted winter jackets,
secure with their siestas and "iron rice bowls" and familiar
poverty, it may, after all, be just another policy.

Political Culture,
Development Administration

The Vantage Point

In the past half century and more Southeast Asia has
experienced radical change. The watershed decade 1940-
50 saw the change from colonialism to Japanese wartime
occupation to independence. From about 1950 a pervasive
aim of Southeast Asian governments and people has been
for economic development and welfare, raising human
productivity and along with that human welfare, or the
quality of life.
The ensuing half century has seen some remarkable
movements toward those general aims. It has also seen great
variance in both the extent and character of that mcvement.
Some states .have done very well in promoting
development and welfare, a few have done very badly, and
others are somewhere in between. With a half century of
variance we are now at a useful vantage point from which
to survey the process of economic development and welfare
to ask the two basic question, how has the quality of life
changed in Southeast Asia? And what are some of the
conditions responsible for that change?
Let me start with the outcome: the changing quality of
life. From there I shall go backwards to ask what seems to
46 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

have caused the variance. And from my title, you will know
I shall pay special attention to the varying political cultures
and to the varying performance of the development
administrations that all countries have attempted to build.
There are, of course, many complex conditions that have
interacted to produce the varying outcomes of the quality
of life that we see in the region. Initial resource endowments
are important and the varying patterns of intrusion of the
outside world have also played a critical role. I shall note
some of these as we go along. Yet, important as these things
are, I have the sense that something underlying each society,
which I shall refer to as the political culture, has been of
especial importance. And one of the ways this condition
has been manifested and worked itself out is through the
specific organizations that each society has created to
promote economic development and social welfare. These
organizations are what we collectively refer to as the
development administration.
Changing Quality of Life I: The Population
Here we can best begin with a view of population
changes in the region, since these show us some
fundamental aspects of both the quality of life and how it
is affected. Population has grown rapidly from 178 million
in 1950 to 522 million in 2000, and is projected to grow to
661 million by the year 2020. In this, the region is similar to
the entire Less Developed Regions, which showed rapid
population growth in the past half century, and led to fears
of a "population bomb."
As is well known, and illustrated in the two lower panels
of Figure I, the rapid population growth resulted from a
dramatic decline in mortality. Mortality fell quickly, while
fertility remained at higher traditional levels, giving rise to
a great increase in the growth rate of the population. At its
highest in 1965-70, Southeast Asia's popUlation was
growing at a rate of 2.5 percent per year, implying a
Political Culture, Development Administration 47

doubling time of a mere 28 years. Then fertility began to

fall after 1970 to approach the mortality levels by the year
2000; and fertility is expected to continue falling. This is
what is kn<tlfn as the De~graphic Transition, experienced
over the 19 and early 20 centuries by all of the industrial
world, and currently being experienced by the Less
Developed Regions.
This transition is remarkable for its illustration of the
rising quality of life. The total population has increased
because the death rate has declined, dramatically. This
implies a great increase in the quality of life for all people.
Next fertility declined rapidly after 1970. This also implies
a great increase in the quality of life, especially for women
and children. And it is precisely here, in this new
demographic transition, that we can find an important
intersection between political culture and development
We have discussed this transition earlier Ness, pointing
to two critical characteristics of the current demographic
transition. First, mortality declined because the world had
developed a new medical technology, chemicals (especially
antibiotics and pesticides) that could produce extremely
rapid reductions in infectious diseases. Next, fertility
declined because the world had developed a new
technology, non-coitally specific contraceptives, that could
limit fertility rapidly. Perhaps most important is that both
new technologies were what we have called
bureaucratically portable. That is, they were technologies
that did not require widespread changes in human
behavior. Rather, they could be put into large scale modern
organizations and applied in relatively uniform ways, across
broad ranges of human communities. They were
technologies well suited to modern development
Let me take a moment to pursue and defend this
48 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

argument of the organizational implications of the new

technology. Think of DDT and Malaria eradication. Here
was a new chemical that could kill mosquitoes in large
numbers, precisely where they did the most damage, in
human habitation. The WHO launched a world wide
campaign against Malaria, a well known killer of children,
transmitted by the now vulnerable mosquito.
Governments created new armies of eradicators,
organized in the fashion of modern military bureaucracies.
Their foot soldiers marched through the country-side,
guided precisely by statistically determined pathways to
cover all households throughout the country. No military
campaign was better directed or more successful. Houses
were numbered, mapped, and sprayed. The mosquito vector
was reduced dramatically and consequently malaria and
infant mortality fell with it. This was all on the
organizational blueprint of a modern bureaucracy. The
same kind of approach was used with Smallpox, Yaws,
Diarrehal diseases and a host of other infectious diseases.
In effect, the technology of mortality control was
bureaucratically portable.
The same was true of the new contraceptive technology,
generally available only after about 1965. The Intrauterine
Contraceptive Device (IUCD), Oral Contraceptive Pills
(OCP), Deproprovera injections, new condoms, subdermal
implants, safe surgical sterilization for both men and
women, and finally new and very safe abortion techniques
became widely available in the decade after 1965. Like the
mortality controlling technology, this fertility controlling
technology was bureaucratically portable. It could be set in
large-scale bureaucratic type organizations and applied in
a relatively non-personal manner to very large numbers of
people. Like the mortality controlling technology it did not
require widespread changes in human behavior. It could
be applied more or less impersonally.
Political Culture, Development Administration 49

This takes us to the critical issue of Political Culture and

Development Administration. Here we have two modern
technologies to control both mortality and fertility. Each
can improve the quality of life immeasurably. Moreover,
each can placed in, and carried by, modern development
organizations. Finally, those modern organizations are
created and controlled by the state, which reflects the
underlying political culture of the society. This is where we
establish the link between political culture, development
administration, and the quality of life.
Where the political culture values the welfare of its
people, it should be expected to create organizations that
will produce a rapid decline in both mortality and fertility.
Where a politic culture values other things, for example,
the wealth and power of the wealthy, or of the "politically
correct," or the conquest of others, we should not expect it
to place high priority on creating organizations that can
spread the new mortality and fertility reducing technologies.
To use this argument to judge both the political culture and
development administration of the countries of SE Asia.
How do the states differ on their increases in the quality of
life, or on the rates of mortality and fertility decline? And
what does this say about their political cultures and
development administration.

The Bureaucracy and

Governance in Developing

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has stated that good
governance is perhaps the single most important factor in
eradicating poverty and promoting development. If
governance matters, so does the need for more reliable and
valid data on key governance processes. Many analysts
believe, however, that current indicators provide
inadequate measures of key governance processes. Based
on the perceptions of experts within each country,
governance assessments were undertaken in 16 developing
and transitional societies, representing 51 per cent of the
world.s population. The aim of the World Governance
Survey (WGS) was to generate new, systematic data on
governance processes.
To facilitate cohesive data collection and analysis, the
governance realm was disaggregated into six arenas:
(i) Civil Society, or the way citizens become aware of
and raise political issues;
(ii) Political Society, or the way societal interests are
aggregated in politics;
(iii) Executive, or the rules for stewardship of the system
The Bureaucracy and Governance in Developing Countries 51

as a whole;
(iv) Bureaucracy, or the rules guiding how policies are
(v) Economic Society, or how state-market relations are
structured; and,
(vi) Judiciary, or the rules for how disputes are settled.
The project identified 30 indicators based on widely held
principles of good governance, participation, fairness,
decency, accountability, transparency and efficiency with
five indicators in each arena. In each country, a national
coordinator selected a small panel of experts 35-40
wellinformed persons (WIPs) to complete the assessment.
The panel included, amongst others, government officials,
parliamentarians, entrepreneurs, researchers, NGO
representatives, lawyers and civil servants. Respondents
were asked to rank each answer on a scale from 1 to 5; the
higher the score, the better.
In addition, respondents were invited to provide
qualitative comments. The total governance scores have a
very robust correlation with the country scores in Kaufmann
et al.s aggregate governance indicators, indicating the
validity of the results. Previous discussion papers looked at
the issues of Governance and Development and Assessing
Governance: Methodological Challenges. This paper focuses
on the bureaucracy arena.
Bureaucracy Arena
The bureaucratic arena refers to all state organizations
engaged in formulating and implementing policy as well
as in regulating and delivering services. While issues of
bureaucratic governance are not constitutive of
development per se, they are seen as crucial determinants
of the degree to which a country makes social and economic
progress or fails to do so. This set of issues has been of
52 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

concern since the advent of centralized administration, but

they have taken on particular significance to academics and
practitioners alike since the work of Max Weber some
hundred years ago. In recent years, there has been increasing
evidence, from case studies and cross-country empirical
analysis, that bureaucratic performance is important for
development performance. The literature on the role of the
bureaucracy during the period of rapid growth in East Asia
supports the view that the bureaucracy was a key ingredient
of the miracle.
At the same time, a substantial literature argues that
the weakness of bureaucracy in Africa helps explain the
poor development performance of many countries on the
continent. Governance issues in the bureaucratic arena take
on special significance given the massive pressures that have
been placed on public agencies in recent years to become
leaner, more efficient and bring services closer to the people.
In many developing countries, in particular often as part
of structural adjustment programs there have been pressures
to dramatically reduce the role of the state in relation to the
market and cut the size of the civil service (the numbers of
employees and wage bill).
Lack of economic and social progress in these countries
has also led to many calls for improving the managerial
efficiency of bureaucracies. The bureaucracy, however,
should not only be studied in the context of implementation
of individual policies, but also in terms of governance. The
rules that determine procedures in the bureaucracy,
whether formal or informal, are especially important for
public perceptions of how the state operates. As we know,
many contacts that citizens have with government are with
first-level bureaucrats responsible for processing requests
for services and assistance. The recent Voices of the Poor
study provides a demonstration of the importance of this
set of issues the poor highlighting that their experiences
The Bureaucracy and Governance in Developing Countries 53

with bureaucrats are often unpleasant, unfair and corrupt.

The implication is that the way countries organize relations
within the bureaucracy and between the bureaucracy and
Evans and J.E. Rauch, Bureaucratic Structure and
Bureaucratic Performance in Less Developed Countries.,
other arenas in the public realm . may make a substantial
difference when it comes to policy outcomes as well as the
legitimacy of the regime.
But, what rules matter? Following the work of Weber,
the view that bureaucratic rules must be legal-rational has
dominated. Others, however, have perceived bureaucracies
in negative terms, highlighting the problems of combining
formal rules and procedures with positive substantive
outcomes. Much of the evidence has been limited to case
studies and exploratory survey work. The lack of systematic
data, both over time within countries and between countries
around the world, means we remain uncertain as to what
kind of bureaucratic structures and processes in different
contexts lead to better bureaucratic performance.
What rules matter most for efficiency and legitimacy?
Are there tradeoffs involved? Are certain issues more
important at different levels of development? Our study
cannot provide full answers to these questions, but is meant
to offer insights into the importance of the rules that guide
policy implementation. The paper is set out as follows. It
begins by providing a literature review around the key issues
relating to the bureaucracy and development. It focuses
primarily on the links between bureaucratic rules and
bureaucratic performance, but sets it in the context of
development performance as well. Following the analysis
of the aggregate findings, we continue, as in previous
papers, with a discussion of the findings in relation to each
individual indicator. The concluding section discusses the
implications for research and practice.
54 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

Main Themes in the Literature

There is a growing literature in the field of public
administration that deals with governance. Much of it, as
indicated in Working Paper One, is focused on the specifics
of inter-agency cooperation given that problem issues are
perceived as increasingly cutting across administrative
jurisdictions. While that section of the literature is important,
we will not engage it here, but rather focus on writings
that bear directly on the issues facing developing countries,
notably how bureaucratic performance can be improved
and how such performance relates to development
outcomes. We will begin with the latter.
Bureaucratic Rules, Performance and Outcomes
The relationship between bureaucratic performance and
economic growth and development outcomes has been a
subject of interest to the international development
community as well as scholars for quite some time. Some
forty years ago, it centered on the role of development
administration., an approach to public administration that
was meant to differ from a more conventional bureaucratic
approach. More recently, some of the same assumption has
reappeared with the additional insight that the quality of
bureaucratic rules is essential for understanding how
bureaucratic performance relates to developmental
The current assumptions may be summarized, as follows:
Bureaucratic Rules ! Bureaucratic Performance ! Socio-
Economic Development For instance, t."'1e current focus on
governance in institutions like the World Bank and the
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
(OECD) is almost exclusively on finding the links between
improved government performance and development
outcomes. Using the tool of regression analysis and a
conception of governance that is primarily associated with
The Bureaucracy and Governance in Developing Countries 55

qualities of state institutions, Kaufmann and his colleagues

have created six scores for six dimensions of governance,
of which the dimension.
Government Effectiveness is particularly relevant to the
discussion in this paper. This dimension includes ratings
on such issues as the quality of the bureaucracy, the quality
of service provision and the competence of civil servants.
They find that government effectiveness is positively
associated with per capita incomes and adult literacy and
negatively associated with infant mortality.
Kaufmann argues that the evidence suggests that the
level of economic development does not necessarily lead to
better governance and that the causality runs from good
governance to better growth and development performance.
The team at the World Bank is not alone. In recent years, a
growing number of other actors have begun to rate the
degree of bureaucratic performance in different ways (as
part of broader assessments of country risk). For example,
the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) provides ratings on
various aspects of regulatory quality, rule of law, and
corruption (among other issues) from a global network of
national information gatherers reviewed by regional panels.
The International Country Risk Guide, produced by
Political Risk Services in New York, provides a direct
measure of bureaucratic quality using a variety of
indicators. Transparency International issues its annual
Perception of Corruption Index. In sum, these agencies
provide subjective assessments on some of the key issues of
bureaucratic performance including government efficacy,
red tape, and corruption among public officials.
There have been a number of important studies that
have used these data sets in empirical work investigating
the importance of different aspects of bureaucratic quality
for development outcomes. For example, using EIU data,
56 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

Mauro found that the efficiency of the bureaucracy was

associated with better rates of investment and growth
whereas corruption was negatively related. Relying on
ICRG data, Knack and Keefer found that bureaucratic
quality, being used as part of a broader governance index,
was positively associated with improved investment and
growth rates. Chong and Calderon have reported a similar
positive relationship between institutional quality and
economic growth, although they also conclude that the
reverse is true economic growth leads to better institutional
In going through the contemporary literature and also
look at the contributions made in the past by others, who
have studied the role of government in development, a
theme that goes all the way back to Max Weber and his
contemporaries, we were of the opinion when designing
this study that it was necessary to go beyond the limits of
cross-sectional studies using regression analysis. We
commend the important work that Kaufmann's group
makes in aggregating data and developing a stronger
statistical basis for further analysis, but we also believe that
their kind of data should be allowed to be only source of
judging the role of governance in development.
For instance, differences with regard to such key
functions as (i) collecting revenues, (ii) providing public
services, and (iii) regulating the economy cannot be
measured only in statistical terms, especially if the objective
is to identify ways of improving performance. The answers
to such questions lie in the more qualitative sphere of data.
As Evans and Rauch have put it, while the cross-country
statistical evidence reinforces the idea that differential
governmental performance may have an impact on
economic growth, it tells us little about what kind of
institutional characteristics are associated with lower levels
of corruption or red tape. It is to this set of issues that we
now turn.
The Bureaucracy and Governance in Developing Countries 57

What Rules Matter for Bureaucratic Performance

There are a number of ways in which bureaucratic
incentives and structures are thought to affect bureaucratic
performance again with much of the theoretical support
from the classic work of Weber.
The main argument, articulated most clearly in Evans
and Rauch, is that replacing patronage systems for state
officials by a professional bureaucracy is a necessary
(though not sufficient) condition for a state to be
developmental. Public servants should act in the public
interest. Weber argued that a key aspect was the distinction
between public moneys and equipment and the private
property of the official. Evidence from the miracle era in
East Asia highlights meritocratic recruitment and deep
bureaucratic traditions as crucial to their development
In contrast, it has been a standard theme in the literature
on African states that public officials serve their own
interests rather than that of the public. Much of the
literature on how bureaucracies perform, centers on this
fundamental issue. More specifically it deals with themes
such as merit in recruitment and promotion, adequate
incentives, rule orientation, and accountability.
The need to have objective entry requirements or an
independent body on public service employment is a key
concern. Competence, and thus better performance, is seen
as stemming from competition based on merit rather than
personal contacts or illicit payments. Governments e.g. in
Africa, have been accused of being more preoccupied with
securing public employment than promoting the quality of
the civil service. Even in the face of fiscal pressure, public
employment has often been maintained and even expanded
at lower skill levels. The World Bank has put it quite starkly.
African governments have become employers of last
58 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

resort and dispensers of political patronage, offering jobs

to family, friends and supporters. This is not necessarily
exclusive African problem, so we decided to focus on this
issue in our study. Paying reasonable wages should
encourage talented people to enter and remain in the civil
service. In East Asia, adequate compensation of civil
servants has been used as one means of attracting and
retaining competent staff. It is not clear, however, how far
better pay makes a difference when it comes to better
performance and less corruption. For instance, most studies
conclude that there is no positive link between higher
salaries and lower levels of corruption, one exception being
a study by Van Rijckeghem and Weder.
Another important issue in the bureaucratic arena is the
extent to which officials follow rules. Gear rules relating to
how decisions are made and how civil servants conduct
themselves are important for performance. Although the
existence of clear rules is often related to how the public
views the bureaucracy, it is also linked to how efficient it is.
Clear decision-making rules are typically seen as enhancing
efficiency. The risk of misuse of public office and poor
decisions is seen as higher, the less clear rules are. Probing
how our respondents experience the decision-making rules
in the bureaucracy, therefore, is another indicator in our
survey. Rules are also important for holding officials
accountable. Rules internal to the bureaucracy may not be
enforced unless there are control mechanisms and watchdog
organizations. Audits, ombudsman institutions, anti-
corruption commissions, public censure or courts are
mechanisms that have been used to hold civil servants
accountable. Given the significance attached to the
accountability issue, it is also included as an indicator in
the WGS.
Policy issues in society are typically complex and multi-
dimensional requiring the insights of civil servants with
The Bureaucracy and Governance in Developing Countries 59

professional and specialized competence. Structuring the

policy formulation and implementation process such that
government operations can benefit from the advice of
professionals is seen to be an important issue affecting
bureaucratic performance. The extent to which authority
is given to specialized agencies to formulate policy indicates
a strong role for bureaucrats. The existence of deep layers
of political appointments in the bureaucracy would indicate
a lesser role.
The finding that the depth of political appointments was
low in East Asia has been cited as one important reason for
that region's economic success. We have opted to include
the issue of professional influence in public policy-making
as yet another indicator in this arena. Although there are
varied opinions about the extent to which participatory
'approaches can be accommodated with bureaucratic
decision-making, bureaucracies need a definite measure of
autonomy from both politicians and the public. It cannot
afford to be responsive to every demand placed upon it.
A degree of autonomy, therefore, seems to be helpful
when it comes to formulating and implementing
development strategies. On the other hand, links to certain
groups in society are common and sometimes
institutionalized, as, for example in Japan and Korea, where
relations between bureaucrats and business people have
for a long time been quite close. On a .Weberianness. scale,
such as the one produced by Rauch and Evans, these two
countries would not score high on the autonomy measure,
but they do have other qualities that place them high on
such a scale.
Comparing 35 countries largely from Asia and Latin
America, they concluded that Weberian characteristics of
the bureaucracy are positively correlated with economic
growth even when controlling for level of development and
human capital. They also found that the bureaucracies of
60 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

Asia are more in an additional twenty countries in Africa

and compared with the original data set from Rauch and
Evans study. The original results were confirmed, better
bureaucratic performance is associated with greater power
and autonomy of agencies to formulate policies, good career
opportunities in the public sector and good pay of public
Countries with a merit-based bureaucracy perform
better, have lower corruption and higher efficiency in their
service delivery, and provide a better framework for the
private sector. A final issue for discussion here concerns
public access to the bureaucracy. While autonomy may be
important for its functions, it must be tempered by som-:!
degree of accessibility. Without the latter, the legitimacy of
the rules guiding this arena may be in question. This is
particularly the case since some groups in society are more
powerful than others. In our survey, we were interested to
know to what extent efforts were made by state officials to
ensure equal access to public services.
WGS Data on the Bureaucracy: Aggregate Findings
The framework for implementing policy is very
important. Day-to-day management of government
operations affects the impression citizens have not only of
individual departments but often the regime as a whole. In
other words, how policy-implementation is structured
constitutes an important aspect of governance. The specific
questions we used in the WGS were:
1. To what extent are higher civil servants a part of
the policy-making process?
2. To what extent is there a merit-based system for
recruitment into the civil service?
3. To what extent are civil servants accountable for
their actions?
The Bureaucracy and Governance in Developing Countries 61

4. To what extent are there clear decision-making

processes in the civil service?
5. To what extent is there equal access to public
As reported in Working Paper 3, there is clearly much
discontent about the bureaucracy in many countries. The
aggregate scores are among the lowest of all the different
arenas. The bureaucracy also records relatively modest
improvement over time. There are plenty of references in
the commentaries that nepotism and various forms of
corruption continue to affect the civil services in many
countries. This section looks at two issues: (i) the aggregate
scores for the countries, and (ii) the changes over time and
some of the reasons behind these changes.
Aggregate Findings
The most important aggregate finding about the
bureaucratic arena is that respondents rate performance
considerably lower than in other arenas, especially civil
society and the executive. Also interesting is the diversity
of the top-scoring group of countries. It includes for year
2000, long-democratic India, Southeast Asian tiger
Thailand, very poor Tanzania, Islamic Jordan and middle-
income Chile.
It suggests that bureaucratic performance is not
necessarily dependent on level of GDP, type of regime or a
particular culture. It can make a difference to the better in
different economic or cultural settings. The five countries
that score particularly low on this dimension. Togo,
Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia, Philippines and Argentina are
perceived to suffer from prevalent political patronage and
the lack of transparency and accountability. It is worth
looking at some of these high and low scoring countries in
more detail.
62 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

The reputation of the Indian civil service being the

backbone of the country's government is generally
confirmed. Indian respondents do recognize the
bureaucracy's input into policy and its recruitment on the
basis of merit criteria (although the overall rating fell
marginally between 1996 and 2000). Both in international
comparison and compared to the ratings for other arenas
within India, the bureaucracy scores relatively well.
In Mongolia respondents indicate that the power given
to specialised agencies to formulate policy is very limited.
The excessive role of political parties in bureaucratic
appointments at all level of public administration
contradicts the principles of a merit-based system of
recruitment and equal access to public service. Since the
structure of accountability at all institutional levels is
underdeveloped, 'the transparency and responsiveness of
the public administration is low.
Bulgaria provides an interesting case of the challenges
of reforming the bureaucratic arena after the shift to a
market economy. Commentators noted that this was the
most difficult arena to reform in the years of transition and
the low average scores reflect these difficulties. The small
improvement witnessed is attributed to the Law on Public
Officials, elaborated and enacted by the government in
power in 2000. This new legislation has reduced the number
of political appointees and defined in no uncertain terms
what the rights and obligations of civil servants are. Some
parts of the old Communist order, however, are ')till present.
Corruption is seen as widespread and accountability is still
almost completely absent.
Given that the survey was conducted before the financial
crisis in Argentina, it is a little surprising that its scores in
this arena are so low. The country has been undergoing
public sector reform for quite some time with support from
the international finance institutions. Our respondents
The Bureaucracy and Governance in Developing Countries 63

indicate that there is little evidence of improvement in spite

of these hefty investments in reform. They are very critical
of the rules relating to good governance within the
bureaucracy. i.e. with regard to hiring, transparency, and
accountability. .
Another surprise is Pakistan, but for the opposite reason.
While governance in Pakistan is generally rated low,
respondents are more appreciative of the rules applying to
the bureaucratic arena. This seems to reflect the decline in
other arenas. Party politics in the late 1990s was both chaotic
and corrupt, eventually causing the military to step in and
take over power. In this situation, the civil service has looked
like a strong backbone, capable of getting the things done
that other institutions have failed to do.
While the civil service has appeared in increasingly
favourable light in Pakistan, the opposite applies to Togo.
President Eyadema.s long-standing rule himself a military
officer has politicized public policy-making to a point where
professional expertise is no longer valued as much as before.
As one commentator put it, policies are implemented in
compliance with the interests of the ruling group in power.
Since civil servants are seen as essentially incompetent and
corrupt, the low score is no surprise.
The reasons for the low scores in Indonesia seem to vary
from 1996 and 2000. In 1996, the main concern was the
hold that President Suharto and his immediate associates
had over the public service. Corruption was seen as
widespread and even if it functioned, it did so in an
arbitrary fashion that left large segments of the public
dissatisfied. In 2000, it was the uncertainty associated with
the transition from the Suharto era that explains the low
Our respondents indicated that the situation after
Suharto's resignation was characterized by confusion. Old
64 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

rules continued to exist, but many of them had lost their

credibility. New ones had yet to be agreed upon.
Management of public affairs had suffered in quality.
Changes over Time
Five countries are rated considerably higher in 2000 than
in 1996: Peru, China, Thailand, Tanzania and Indonesia.
The reasons behind these perceived improvements differ.
In Indonesia and Peru, they seem to be spillover effects of
the regime change that took place as Presidents Suharto
and Fujimori were forced out of power. In the other three,
however, ratings seem to reflect a genuine satisfaction with
improved public sector performance.
That Thailand scores well in this arena is not a surprise.
The bureaucracy in that country has generally been viewed
as a key contributor to its economic growth and tiger status.
However, more specifically, Thailand experienced
significant institutional changes over the five-year period
with the aim of balancing the power between the legislative,
administrative and judicial sectors. Although these reforms
do not explain everything behind the high scores in
Thailand, they are an integral part of the sense among our
respondents that governance in this arena has improved
For those who have studied Tanzania, the scores in this
arena may at first be a surprise. It has not been known for
an effective or efficient public sector. The noticeable
improvement in scoring, however, is a genuine reflection
of the appreciation that respondents have of the
implementation of public sector reforms since President
Mkapa took over as head of state in 1995. This progress is
now broadly acknowledged in the international
community. In recent years, Tanzania has often been held
up as a success story when it comes to getting public
finances and operations in order. Among a range of
The Bureaucracy and Governance in Developing Countries 65

governance reforms that have taken place in Tanzania are

five major components, organization and efficiency reform,
personnel control and management reform, capacity
building, local government and regional administration
reform, and rationalization of government employment
The successful implementation of these reforms is evident
in our data: although still short of target, accountability
and transparency are on the increase in Tanzania; greater
equality of access is noted; appointments are increasingly
based on merit and, expertise is now more appreciated.
That pressures from the international community have
played their part in this process should not overshadow
the appreciation that the Tanzanian respondents have with
the progress that'their country has made in this arena.
Like Tanzania, China has long suffered from a
bureaucracy with little autonomy of its own. During the
heyday of Maoist rule in the 1960s and 1970s, party leaders
made all decisions of importance with little regard for costs
and benefits or feasibility. Professional expertise was
scorned. This has changed subsequently, but to this day,
the Communist Party of China has remained the principal
policy-making organ. Nonetheless, with economic reform
since 1978 has come an incremental change in the way
civil servants contribute to the country,s development.
Several public organs, not just enterprises, have received
a greater degree of autonomy. Our respondents
acknowledge that China has a long way to go with regard
to opening up its bureaucracy to greater public scrutiny,
but they also note ,that reforms keep occurring. In their view,
changes in the governance of this arena are in the right
We cannot rule out the possibility that the marked
improvement in Peru is a reflection of the euphoria that
66 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

the end of the Fujimori regime brought to large segments of

the population in that country. Our respondents note that
the bureaucracy had little, if any, input into policy-making
in the Fujimori days. Moreover, civil servants were hired,
fired or promoted with little respect for the rules that are
supposed to guide public employment.
Even though, things remained somewhat uncertain in
2000, respondents reported significant improvements in
public sector institutions and regulatory agencies. Especially
appreciated is the rising level of professionalism. Another
important improvement is the increased bureaucratic
accountability. Holding the public service accountable was
in the Fujimori days under the control of the government.
It now lies with an independent judicial authority.
Among countries registering a decline between 1996 and
2000, the Philippines exhibited the biggest fall. Respondents
attributed this primarily to the corrupt and clientelistic rule
of former president Estrada. His patronage system diluted
the accountability of civil servants and transparency of
bureaucratic processes. As one respondent put it, One good
indicator of the strength of accountability mechanisms is
the number of top public servants who have been sent to
jail. There has been none in the Philippines. All these issues
negatively affected the effectiveness of the system.
In Kyrgyzstan, the bureaucracy received the lowest
average score of all arenas and there was a noticeable
overall decrease of the aggregate scores since 1996. This
decline was present in all indicators, although it was
especially noticeable with regard to meritocratic recruitment
and equality of access to public services. One reason for
this may be that administrative authority is so highly
decentralized that civil servants easily end up in the hands
of local political patrons. Reform of the civil service system
is being attempted, aimed at increasing central direction
and control, while also strengthening its transparency and
The Bureaucracy and Governance in Developing Countries 67

the professional competence of individual government

employees, but it seems that conflicts within the government
about how the reform should be implemented have
prevented much progress.
Analysis of Individual Indicators
As suggested above, each indicator included in the WGS
reflects a major focus in the vast literature on bureaucracy,
but also a contemporary concern with how public services
should perform. It is possible that additional relevant
indicators could have been included, but we believe that
we have captured the most significant determinants of
bureaucratic performance: (1) Influence, (2) Meritocracy,
(3) Accountability, (4) Transparency, and (5) Access. We
shall now examine each one of them more closely.
We were interested here in the extent to which higher
civil servants were part of the policymaking process. Three
main issues deserve attention. The first is the broad
agreement among respondents across countries that higher-
level civil servants have influence on policy, albeit not just
as experts. Pakistan and India stand out in this regard. In
both countries, respondents quite strongly point out that
civil servants are an important part of the policy making
process. The same is true for some other countries, including
Russia, but respondents there mention that only some top
bureaucrats, notably those in the President's Office are really
influential. Higher civil servants in sectoral ministries are
much less influential.
The second observation is that many respondents see
politicization of top positions in the bureaucracy as
inevitable and not necessarily harmful. The point that
respondents are making in e.g. Chile and Thailand is that
reliance on public servants who are first and foremost
technocrats may make the bureaucracy less sensitive to
68 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

public interests and, by extension, less concerned about

issues such as accountability and transparency in the service.
There is also a question of where to draw the line of
responsibility between elected and appointed officials. In
countries with relatively stable bureaucratic structures, such
as Chile, there is a tendency among respondents to argue
for more input by elected political officials. Respondents in
the Philippines, however, harbor the opposite view. As one
of them noted, The more personalized and populist the
leadership, the more diminished the role of technocrats and
professional civil servants.
Indonesia provides an interesting case of change and
complexity. By the end of the Suharto regime, the policy
making process was highly centralized. Some higher civil
servants had a significant influence on policy, but only those
advisers who formed the inner circle of his government.
On other issues such as public finance, technology, and
public health, Suharto was more dependent on his ministers.
Thus, even though higher civil servants in some policy
areas, their ability to influence policy-making was not
universal, nor guaranteed.
It depended on personal loyalty to the president. It is
interesting that, according to our respondents, Suharto's
departure has not increased the influence of civil servants.
On the contrary, because of the introduction of a more
genuine multi-party democracy than in the past, elected
politicians demand to have more influence than the experts
in the puhlic service. The third issue that emerges is that
respondents acro~s countries believed that bureaucrats were
more influential in the implementation rather than the
formulation of policy.
Interestingly, this issue came out most repeatedly and
strongly for China. Respondents noted that the influence
varies from one sector to another. For instance, local
The Bureaucracy and Governance in Developing Countries 69

bureaucrats often have enough discretion to twist central

government policy in directions other than those originally
intended. Comments by respondents also in other countries
tend to confirm Lipsky's point that policy implementation
in the end boils down to what street-level bureaucrats
decide to do. The conclusion to be drawn is that top
bureaucrats do not always have as much influence of what
really happens in the end as is often implied in the analysis
of the role that this group plays in the policy-making
The rules guiding recruitment have long been regarded
as a key issue for successful policy implementation,
regulation and provision of services. We refer not only to
formal issues such as the existence of an exam. but also the
ways that they operate in practice. Our survey, and
comments by our respondents accompanying it, makes it
clear that very fe~ countries have a merit-based system for
recruitment. India stands out as the main exception.
Merit recruitment prevails in India, although
respondents indicate that scheduled castes and tribes are
not able to compete with other groups in society. None of
the other countries scored above 3 for this indicator except
for Tanzania, which reflects, as indicated above, its
improvement in recent years. For most countries,
commentators seem to agree that recruitment is done
arbitrarily, with little or no reference made to merit.
Qualifications are not taken into account in an objective
way in choosing bureaucrats. Many commentators point
to the lack of a proper exam or that exams are seen as a
sham. In Togo, there used to be an exam, but it has now
been stopped. In Jordan, one commentator lamented that
the main problem is that government agencies are
overstaffed and that employment rules in the public sector
70 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

needs improvement, giving priority to qualifications.

The most commonly used reference is to political
interference in civil service appointments. Having the right
personal connections is important, as the respondents in
the Philippines suggested. Nepotism is an issue also in
countries like Indonesia and Togo. The situation in Latin
American countries also seems problematic. In Argentina,
most experts noted that there is no merit-based system for
recruitment into the civil service. This means that family
members and friends are recruited into the government.
Suggestions for bureaucracy reform included the
introduction of a more competitive recruitment system in
order to increase the number of professionals in the civil
Even in Chile, which is a country generally scoring quite
high, the ratings of the bureaucratic arena is lower than
the country average. Our respondents complain about the
immobility of the civil service and need for new statutes to
reduce politicization of appointments and to attract more
professional staff. In Russia too, recruitment of bureaucrats
is a major problem. One respondent after another noted
that there is little use of merit criteria. Recruitment depends
on personal ties. The result is that people without training
or experience often get to fill high posts.
Although merit-based recruitment to the bureaucracy
is only one of five indicators, our survey suggests that the
lack of it in most countries is a serious shortcoming. Not
only does it affect performance, but it also calls into question
the role that government plays in development. The sense
of unfairness and discontent that it breeds, adversely affects
the whole regime on which governance rests.
Civil servants often have a degree of discretion in their
work and the way they implement rules and provide
The Bureaucracy and Governance in Developing Countries 71

services can have significant impact on citizens. Therefore,

systems of accountability are considered important to
reduce corruption or other forms of misuse of public office.
We asked respondents to consider the degree to which
civil servants were accountable for their actions. As can be
seen, the accountability scores are generally low, indicating
that this is another problem area. The main issue here seems
to be that institutional mechanisms, although they exist,
don.t really work. The main exceptions are Thailand and,
interestingly, Pakistan under military rule. Administrative
reform in Thailand has been far reaching and has included
the establishment of a range of institutions aimed at holding
bureaucrats publicly accountable.
These include an Anti-Corruption Commission, a special
Administrative Court, and an Ombudsman institution
aimed at providing a forum for launching complaints
against administrative decisions. Implementation of these
reforms has been facilitated by the fact that all government
officials also those elected must declare their interests and
show their private assets and liabilities. These steps are quite
bold and have, as indicated by our respondents, changed
the overall perception among the pUblic of the civil service
in a positive direction.
Accountability of civil servants in Pakistan has improved
since the military took over. This is the message from our
respondents. In fact, they argue that even though they don't
know for how long this will last, accountability of the public
service has become a major priority of the military
government. Several civil servants have been dismissed and
some have been prosecuted for abuse of public office. These
steps have been in response to the soft nature of the state
apparatus during the previous democratically elected
government. Laws and institutional mechanisms for
holding public officers accountable existed but were not
systematically enforced, leaving the public with the
72 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

impression that the system was quite corrupt. Civil servants

took advantage .of the corruption at ministerial level,
allowing it to become institutionalized from top to bottom
of the government.
It is clear that behavior in the civil service is very much
dependent on how the political leadership behaves. If the
elected politicians are not corrupt, they tend to set an
example that is emulated in the bureaucracy. If, on the other
hand, they are corrupt, this tends to spread to the civil
service too. The cases of the Philippines and Russia
highlight this.
Cronyism and political patronage set the stage for
underrrining both merit-based recruitment and efforts at
holding civil servants accountable. The latter often use their
offices to get rich and promote their own interests at the
expense of the public. The conclusion that we like to draw
from this study is that holding civil servants accountable is
a complicated issue. Establishing institutional mechanisms,
such as the Ombudsman, Auditor-General's Office, or one-
time commissions aimed at curbing corruption, is only an
important first step. The real challenge is to make these
bodies use their teeth.
Our respondents in most countries indicate that these
specific institutions have been largely ineffective. Instead,
accountability has come from demands made by the media
or, as in Indonesia, pressures exercised by members of the
public. Although the media cannot really be described as
the fourth estate in the countries included in our study, we
believe that when it comes to holding officials accountable,
they are at least as effective in many countries as other
mechanisms in place.
Although transparency is a controversial issue in some
governments around the world, there is an increasingly
The Bureaucracy and Governance in Developing Countries 73

widespread view that clear rules and openness reduce the

risk of misuse of public office. Similarly, if the public is not
adequately informed about how decisions are made, this
adversely affects the image of the bureaucracy. Our survey
investigated to extent to which there are clear decision-
making processes in the civil service in the sixteen countries.
The overall results are worrying. The scores for this
indicator are generally low for each country and are among
the lowest obtained in the whole survey. Clearly, many
WIPs believe that the operations of the civil service lack
real transparency. There was some variation with Tanzania,
Thailand and Jordan scoring a bit better and Argentina,
Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia and Togo scoring more poorly. That
Argentina was the lowest rated country will raise some
eyebrows, but the respondents were extremely critical of
the situation there. Generally, however, it is interesting that
many respondents comment that they do perceive a public
demand for greater transparency.
Not surprisingly perhaps, the scores for transparency
tend to be quite close to those recorded for accountability.
One tends to go hand-in-hand with the other, the only
exception being Pakistan. While accountability improved
notably with military rule, transparency deteriorated
marginally. Commentators note that decision-making rules
became more obscure and consultation with the public less
It is worth mentioning that transparency is an issue that
cuts across regime type. We find this being a source of
disaffection in Argentina and Peru countries with a
democratic legacy. as well as in China with its long tradition
of Communist rule. This is not to imply that the issue of
transparency is the same everywhere. We find that some
countries try to introduce it, while others do not even try.
The country coordinator for Bulgaria may have stated the
problem better than anyone else when he commented that
74 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

this is definitely an issue that takes time to deal with. It

involves an attitudinal change not just among bureaucrats
but also among politicians and the public at large. The
important thing is that any measures taken, enhances the
degree of legitimacy of the regime, even if it is only
incremental at a time. Although progress is slowly being
made, not the least thanks to organizations like
Transparency International, judging from our study, much
more needs to be done to enhance the legitimacy of
bureaucracy, in particular, and the regime, in general.
The final indicator in this arena concerns equal access
to public services: This is seen as an important issue for the
legitimacy of the civil service as well as for development
outcomes. Given what has been said about the bureaucracy
already, it is no surprise that access to services is perceived
to be unequal in many of the WGS countries. The scores for
most countries are low, with the exception of Thailand,
Jordan and Chile. They are particularly low in Pakistan
and Kyrgyzstan. The reasons for the scores seem to vary
along four different lines.
The first is the recognition that a country.s size
complicates access. This comes across in comments made
by respondents both in China and Indonesia. The vast
expanses of western China are definitely handicapped
compared to the eastern coastal belt of the country. In
Indonesia, respondents point to the outlying islands as
having more difficulty of taking advantage of public
services than the main island of Java. Smaller countries like
Jordan and Togo score comparatively better on this
particular indicator than on others, confirming the thesis
that geography matters. In Jordan, for instance, the new
Civil Service Bylaw of 1998 goes quite far toward local
district control of both government services and human
resource development. The second point that comes out of
The Bureaucracy and Governance in Developing Countries 75

our study is that urban residents are favored over their rural
counterparts. This is no surprise given the cost of extending
infrastructure to' the countryside as compared to urban
areas. Respondents in the Philippines, for example, note
that residents of the metropolitan areas, especially Manila,
are much better served than other parts of the country. By
and large, therefore, these people have easier access than
those in the villages, especially on the outlying islands.
Respondents in Chile, India, and Russia also make this
point. The rural population is seen as being at a
disadvantage when it comes to access to government
services, whether welfare provisions or extension advice.
,'" The third point regards differential access and social
stratification. There are surprisingly few references to
unequal access being the result of social or economic
inequalities in society. The observation that it matters,
however, comes out in the comments provided by Indian
and Pakistani respondents, in particular. Access to public
services among the poor in these countries is low. Thus,
even if the bureaucracy is meritocratic and civil servants
have an influence on policy, this seems to make little
difference on the ground for the poorer segments of the
population. Respondents in our study also suggest that the
better off in society often have privileged access to services
as a result of being able to pay bribes. In sum, the inclusion
of the access variable has convinced us that changes in the
governance of the bureaucratic arena are difficult to achieve
from within and may be more easily facilitated by thinking
of how its relations to other arenas, notably government
and civil society, are constituted.
The fourth point concerns the fact that even if there is
officially equal access, the quality of services differs from
one area to another. As indicated above, wherever demand
is high, such as in the urban areas, quality tends to be better
than in those places where demand is low. This type of
76 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

difference may also stem from political favoritism. The

quality of public services in areas where government
ministers come from is often better.
As indicated above, the issue of access to public services
is important. Unequal access is the result of more than one
factor. Often geography, demography and social
stratification coincide to make greater equality in access to
public services a very complicated and costly issue.
Mustering the political will to achieve such a transformation
is not easy. One can expect, therefore, that overcoming the
deficiencies associated with this indicator may be more
difficult than those identified in relation to the other four
indicators in this arena.
Implications for Research and Practice
As in previous papers, we will first make our main
conclusions from the analysis in this paper. Four
observations stand out as especially important. The first is
that bureaucracy is one of the more problematic arenas of
governance. Respondents in most of the WGS countries
were little impressed with governance of this arena. Hiring
is rarely on merit, bureaucrats are seldom seen to be
accountable, and the operations of the civil service often
lack real transparency. The WIPs rated these issues lower
than most other indicators in the survey and commented
extensively on their frustrations in this arena. It is clear that
issues of bureaucratic governance affect the legitimacy of
the public realm. and that this is the case for all the indicators
we focused on.
The second point is that the relationship between rules
and structures, on the one hand, and performance, on the
other, is difficult to establish. It is not that the link is
unimportant. It is, but even disaggregated, it is hard to know
what rule has what kind of effect. Our third observation is
that reforming the bU1'ectucratic arena is really difficult. One
The Bureaucracy and Governance in Developing Countries 77

of our country coordinators summarized it well when he

This arena has proved hardest to reform in the years of
transition and the average scores are just another evidence
of these difficulties. It is clear that reforms take time to
implement and even longer to have an impact on
development outcomes. Above all, it must be recognized
that it is not merely a technical. issue. The bureaucratic
arena cannot be treated in isolation from other governance
arenas, although public sector reform efforts have tended
to do so. Our findings indicate that a pure public
administration perspective may be too narrow and technical
in many cases and fail to focus on the real problem.
The fourth observation we want to make is that
reforming the bureaucracy requires sensitivity to regime-
specific issues. Context matters, but it is encouraging that
level of development, according to our study, is not a critical
issue. It is possible for poor countries to improve
bureaucratic governance. Socio-economic conditions are not
necessarily impeding reforms in this arena. Tanzania and
Thailand are two very different countries where reforms
have been undertaken and progress has been registered.
Given the dominance in this research field of the work
done by the World Bank team, led by Daniel Kaufmann, it
may be especially appropriate that we discuss the
implications for research in conjunction with their work.
We are hesitant to make a direct comparison between our
study and theirs, given differences in conceptualization and
operationalization of the concept, but by choosing our access
indicator and comparing it with the World Bank's
Government Effectiveness measure, we find quite a high
correlation coefficient 0.658.36. When examining the
relationship between the other four indicators and
bureaucratic performance, we found that the findings are
more ambiguous as the relationships vary considerably.
78 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

Meritocracy seems to be the least significant. Although

qualitative comments by our respondents indicate that merit
criteria in appointment and promotion are important for
the credibility of the civil service, there is no clear link
between this indicator and performance. Participation by
higher civil servants in policymaking is another enigmatic
indicator. We found little evidence to suggest that
participation of higher civil servants in policymaking is
necessarily a good thing in and of itself. Our respondents
make comments to the effect that a certain degree of
politicization is not only inevitable but sometimes a good
This indicator, therefore, is highly regimedependent: the
strength of expert advice works well in some regimes but
may be less valued in comparison to other criteria, such as
political loyalty, in others. This is where we recognize that
the purely quantitative analysis of governance shows its
limitations. Additional case sbdies may be needed in order
to throw more light on the issues where there is a deviation
from the ideal model advocated by agencies in the
international development community.
In our study, transparency and accountability proved
to be the indicators where there is some evidence of a
correlation with performance. Comparing our average
scores on this indicator with the Bank's Government
Effectiveness scores for 2000/01, we found correlation co-
efficients at 0.48 and 0.49 respectively. Even if we allow for
problems with comparability, our study indicates that these
two variables seem to be more important for improving
bureaucratic performance. Given this finding, we also
carried out a simple additional piece of analysis by
comparing the two indicators with the access indicator.
What we found is that,
(a) if both transparency and accountability are low,
service performance is rated low;
The Bureaucracy and Governance in Developing Countries 79

(b) if either transparency or accountability are low and

the other is rated high, service performance is likely
to be in a medium-low range;
(c) if both transparency and accountability are medium,
service performance is also rated medium.
This gives us an additional indication that transparency
and accountability do have a potential influence on
performance. Th~ is obviously an interesting and important
finding for all those who are in the business of improving
public administration or public sector performance. Our
study suggests that these are issues that should be given
primary attention. This study also provides encouragement
for organizations like Transparency International that is in
the forefront of combating corruption by working practically
on issues such as accountability and transparency.

Leading the Future of the

Public Sector: The Third
Transatlantic Dialogue

To the best of my knowledge, this is the first paper of its

kind to analyze the gender representativeness of
bureaucrats cross-nationally. It discusses the dearth of
comparative representative bureaucracy literature and
places this paper within the context of American scholarly
literature on representative bureaucracy. After commenting
on the disconnect between these literatures and the broad-
based international developing literature, it uses panel-
corrected time series data in attempt to narrow these
scholarly divisions through representative bureaucracy
research. My analysis finds that higher levels of income per
capita are statistically significant predictors of the
percentage of female civil servants at the central government
and sub-national levels while greater fiscal decentralization
and the percentage of female parliamentarians are also
statistically significant predictors at the central government
level. It concludes by noting that the commonality
discovered across countries of women serving more
frequently at the sub-national than central government
levels requires further investigation.
The act of participation in government itself is the vehicle
for empowerment". In a 1999 article on India and South
Leading the Future of the Public Sector: The Third."" 81

Africa, Milton Esman declared that bureaucratic

representativeness is an important tool for increasing
government legitimacy. Despite this observation from one
of America's top comparative public administration
scholars, it remains empirically unexplored cross-nationally.
By analyzing the representativeness of female bureaucrats
at the national and sub-national levels, this paper begins to
bridge that gap. It asks whether proxies for the structural,
political and economic features of a country have a bearing
on the gender representativeness of female civil servants at
the national and sub-national levels.
Beginning first with an overview of what is understood
within the American representative bureaucracy literature
before attempting to link this understanding with broader
international currents, the paper will then delve into a
discussion of the variables of interest, the empirical analysis,
findings and suggestions for further research.
Representative Bureaucracy: An American Project?
There is remarkable agreement about whom to credit
the discovery of representative bureaucracy. In 1944, J.
Donald Kingsley coined the term "representative
government" in a" study of British civil servants. Observing
gender and class distinctions within the British civil service,
he noted that as British society became middle-class, its civil
service might also become inhabited by the middle-class.
Unlike later research that normatively explores both gender
and ethnic representation within the civil service, Kingsley
merely argued that "representational participation" should
lead to functional effectiveness.
Nevertheless, his observations launched a field of inquiry
intu representative bureaucracy. In 1948, Dwight Waldo's
discipline-changing argument that there was no dichotomy
between politics and administration implied that civil
servants are political creatures. As one modem-day author
82 , Bureaucracy and Development Administration

wrote, "If bureaucracy were always neutral in its values,

always obeyed elected superiors, and always limited its
activities to the enforcement of public laws and rules, then
most controversies surrounding bureaucracy would melt
away. This departure from the earlier public administration
orthodoxy made it possible for public administration
scholars to consider that the sociopolitical appearance of
civil servants also mattered. In other words, bureaucracies,
their civil services and the civil servants themselves are not
apolitical machines.
Civil servants perform inherently political tasks and
discretion is utilized in the performance of the tasks. The
idea behind representative bureaucracy research in America
was two-fold. If we encourage representative bureaucracy,
the policies that 'bureaucrats help design and then later
implement will better reflect the citizenry they serve. And
second, that it we wish to better understand the
discretionary outputs of civil servants, we should study the
sociopolitical and socioeconomic characteristics of those
who filled the civil servant shoes.
On a more theoretical level, if one allows for the fact
that representativeness matters within an administrative
structurethis implies one's agreement that civil servants are
not apolitical actors. In contrast, the belief that the Weberian
model is either normatively ideal and or is empirically most
efficient suggests that the administrative structures are
uniquely apolitical facilitators of policy; separate from the
politicized legislative or executive leadership positions.
Analysis of bureaucratic systems in other countries
indicates that among the non-politically appointed civil
servants, this assumption of American public administration
may not hold cross-nationally or even whether this
dichotomy is uniquely American. While this concept cannot
be studied in detail within this paper, we can begin to attack
this problem by looking at how gender is distributed within
Leading the Future of the Public Sector: The Third... 83

the civil services in other countries. Nevertheless, by the

1950s and 1960s public administration scholars began to
normatively argue that it mattered "which set of
bureaucrats" controlled the policy process. Intellectual
jumps were being made from the assumed political nature
of civil servant work to determining whether these
bureaucrats were themselves representative of their broader
public. Bureaucratic representativeness was pertinent since
it" provided a means of fostering equity in the policy process
by helping to ensUre that all interests are represented in the
formulation and implementation of policies and programs.
By the large, over time, scholars came to agree that
representative bureaucracy increases government
legitimacy, accountability, effectiveness, and participation.
For the purpose of this paper, it is assumed that
representative bureaucracy a priori is beneficial.
Passive and Active Representation: Civil Service and
Legislative Literatures Scholarly research has differentiated
two types of representative bureaucracy passive and active.
Using gender as an example, passive representation occurs
when the number of female civil servants mirrors the ratio
of employment-age women within society. Active
representation occurs when female civil servants use their
position to affect policy options favorable to women. While
few would argue that a civil service representative of the
gender, religious or ethnic differences of the citizenry is an
unworthy objective, disagreements exist about if and when
these civil servants become active representatives of their
sociopolitical traits.
It has been argued that a passive representation of
women can affect the public organization, but that it need
not lead to active representation. Others hypothesized that
what mattered was not which societal group the
bureaucracy represented but that what was important was
the power of the agency itself, as an entity, to influence
84 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

policy outcomes favorable to the groups represented in

society. Moving to active representation, American scholars
ask "when are female bureaucrats merely standing for
women and when might we expect them to act for women.

Keiser, argued that not only bureaucratic structures that

influence civil servants, but that the civil servants themselves
symbiotically influence the structure. The researchers found
an empirical link between passive and active
representation, in particular in relatively flat institutional
hierarchies. Furthermore, men and women react differently
to their roles as administrators and that specifically, women
"devote more time on both developing policy and garnering
public support. In a study on the impact of minority teachers
on the standardized test performance of Texas students, it
was determined that increases in minority teachers lead to
increased performance for both minority and Anglo
students. The study concludes" representative bureaucracies
are more effective at meeting their goals than non-
representative bureaucracies in similar circumstances.
Within the American legislative branch literature,
scholars have found that women seek office and are elected
to office more frequently at the sub-national level than the
national level. Once in office, female legislators often view
policy issues differently from men and are more likely "act
for" women by creating policies beneficial to this
constituency. A study of female appointees to public office
in the late 1970s and early 1980s confirmed these
observations for the highest levels of public service. The
author found that appointed women more often held
feminist views and were inspired and assisted by other
Representative Bureaucracy Cross-Nationally, Why it
N ever Became a Priority Where does representative
bureaucracy fit into broader comparative tren4s of
comparative research? The disappointing answer is that it
Leading the Future of the Public Sector: The Third... 85

is not a priority for either comparative public administration

scholars or among those international financial institutions
and aid agencies' that influence civil service development
of dozens of developing nations. This paper posits that the
reason for the first omission has been a historical lack of
data and the reason for the second is related to first along
with an acknowledgement that the neoliberal agenda and
its efficiency-first method espoused by these international
institutions overlooks the politics that drive bureaucratic
decision-making and implementation.
The fact that comparative public administration has long
suffered from deficient data is not new. The case study
movement that spearheaded the 1950s era in American
public administration would be transferred to comparative
public administration in the 1960s and 1970s by such
comparative leaders as Fred Riggs and Milton Esman. These
case studies, following the methodological trends of the
broader social science community, were predominately
qualitative with descriptive statistics included as available
and on an as-needed basis. The trend for one-country case
studies or one-country studies of aspects of administrative
system has continued today. Broad-based data gathering
objectives on public administration systems, functions, or
processes have been, and continue to not be, scholarly
Instead, comparative public administration scholars
sought to use their case studies to create administrative
typologies that modeled bureaucracy and/ or its functions
and processes. Others trained developing country public
administrators on how to Westernize their local
bureaucracy and civil service. American scholars busied
themselves listing normative reasons behind the "failures"
of public administration in the developing world, and as
importantly, repeatedly trying and failing to implement a
Weberian ideal":type bureaucratic system within the
86 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

developmental context. Conspicuously absent was an

emphasis on representative bureaucracy. Further
hampering discussion of representative bureaucracy is the
fact that the bureaucratic unit, as a whole, has been and
continues to be favored unit of analysis. As a result,
comparative investigations of even civil service systems and
much less, their. representative aspects, remain at best
"unavailable or tentative". At the same time, scholars in
the field of comparative politics were making scholarly
contributions that would change the field of focus for
internationally oriented public administration scholars.
In 1960, Walter Rostow argued that all countries could
be placed along one of five stages of economic development:
the traditional society, the pre-conditions for take-off, the
drive to economic security, and in the stage where most
. Western nations fell, the age of mass consumption. The
common policy denominator was that modernization could
be achieved through economic reform. Certain comparative
public administration scholars and political scientists who
concerned themselves with study of bureaucracy found
room for modernization theory in their studies but more
generally, the comparative politics scholars were organizing
around another trend whereby the primacy given to politics
and administration for solving problems of development
would soon become eclipsed.
Rostow's work would lead to the primacy of a new group
of social scientists the economists. And here is where the
separation between comparative public administration and
international development would see its first fissures. At
the 1968 Minnowbrook Conference at Syracuse University,
public administration scholars found themselves frustrated
observers of the political and social changes occurring in
America. Viewing the field of public administration as still
unable to build a theory of public administration, and
worse, after years of case studies, unable to predict or solve
Leading the Future of the Public Sector: The Third... 87

the then present-day social movements, the scholars sought

to create a "new" public administration. This "new" focus
asked public administrators to involve themselves in an
inherently political task improving social equity.
For these scholars, their tools included decentralization
and representative bureaucracy. Decentralization "was
viewed as one means of clarifying and strengthening the
link between the bureaucracy and the citizenry". While this
focus on decentralization as a method for improving policy-
citizen linkage would resurface years later among World
Bank economists, the field of American public
administration would tum inward and begin, in earnest, a
research agenda that considered representative bureaucracy
in greater detail.
More recently, the evolving re-interest of comparative
politics scholars in the "state" and of international donor
agencies in "governance" has led us to the early stage of
broader-based dataset development. Many of these datasets
only began their active life in the early to mid-1990s and as
such, their usefulness beyond small-year studies is not yet
upon us. Even though this study will draw from the more
established Government Finance Statistics compiled by
International Monetary Fund (IMF), this study would not
be possible without use of the newly compiled governance
database of the World Bank.
More detail will follow in the Methodology nad Data
section. Representative Bureaucracy: StiU Not an
International Priority The resulting fascination within the
development community over economic theory led to fiscal
reform, trade liberalization, and privatization policies
(implemented via "structural adjustment" packages) to
dominate international development from the early 1980s
to the mid-1990s. With many developing countries facing
high debt GNP ratios and low or inconsistent- annual
growth, structural adjustment was viewed as the cure and
88 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

necessary condition for further international assistance. By

1989, the development community had put together a list
of ten lessons learned from these development practices.
If this socalled "Washington Consensus" incentivized the
fiscal and market structures of an economy, the newly
emerging second-generation reforms of the mid-1990s
would focus on just the opposite, incentivizing and
reforming institutions.
This rediscovery of governance was brought about by
new analyses indicating that structural adjustment reforms,
while reducing inflation and overall economic uncertainty,
occurred at a cost an increase in poverty and inequality.
The primary tool for rediscovering governance and the
importance of the state and its institutions was
decentralization. According to one author, this conception
of the state and its institutions exists because international
financial institutions like the World Bank see "no solid line
connecting citizens and government appointees, only
elected officials, not bureaucrats, represent citizens. The
adherents of this interpretation seek the protection of
democratic values from an assumed influx of "bureaucratic
despotism" .
Among World Bank policymakers, decentralization is
policy tool considered capable of promoting newly-
important propoor development policies such as increasing
political legitimacy, empowering disadvantaged groups (by
ethnicity or by gender), and strengthening local community
participation. Its familiarity to scholars supportive of the
social equity movement within public administration should
recognize familiar ideas, even if they disagree with the Bank
of the proper solution.
Unlike "representative bureaucracy," there is little
agreement as to how to define decentralization. Since the
decentralization data for this study are from the IMF and
the World Bank, their definitions are utilized. Most broadly
Leading the Future of the Public Sector: The Third. .. 89

stated, decentralization is a multi-dimensional process that


involves the transfer of political, fiscal and administrative

responsibilities and powers from the central government
to intermediate and local governments".
There are three generally agreed-upon types of
decentralization political, fiscal, and administrative. Fiscal
decentralization is defined by the World Bank as the
transferring of expenditure responsibilities and revenue

assignments to lower levels of government". In practice,

the World Bank only publishes cross-national data on the
share of sub-national expenditures and tax revenues as a
percentage of national expenditures and tax revenues
without referencing the authority or ability of the sub-
national governments to collect, spend, or manage these
monies. The authority to do that task at the sub-national
level requires administrative decentralization while merely
having a jurisdictional area below the nation-state requires
political decentralization. Due to data limitations, this study
focuses only the linkage between fiscal decentralization and
civil servant gender representativeness.
Reforming the governing institutions of developing
countries has been a long-term focus of the World Bank.
The decentralization of those institutions along nea-liberal
lines is a newer occurrence. Given World Bank leadership
in international development policy and practice, its projects
are an indicator of development priorities. The World Bank
approved its first project with a decentralization component
in 1975 and 12 more projects would be approved in the
1970s and 1980s. Between 1990 and 1997, 151 projects with
a decentralization component were deployed. With the
World Bank's publication of Beyond the Washington
Consensus: Institutions Matter (WorldBank, 1997), approval
for projects with a decentralization component doubled.
Since 1998, over 300 more have been approved at a rate
of 37 projects per year and total cost of $23 billion. Even
90 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

though the World Bank relates decentralization and public

administration within the projects, civil service
representativeness is infrequently discussed. Instead, civil
servant (re) training, (re) appropriation of their functions,
creating effective processes, and improving bureaucratic
outcomes are goals. These topics are also key components
of U.s.-based public administration research. Yet, a primary
difference between u.s. research and the work of the
international development community is the inattention of
the latter to representative bureaucracy.
In conclusion of this section, we must come to this
"rediscovery" of the persistent, long-term, multi-
dimensional nature of poverty. In response to this
observation, over 190 countries agreed to eight development
goals, which they insist will reduce world poverty in half
by 2015. The third of these socalled Millennium
Development Goals is the empowerment of women and
the promotion of gender equity. The quantitative measures
for determining progress include measures of literacy, the
percentages of women serving in parliament, and shares
of wage employment.
Arguing that these measures of empowerment are
important, but not sufficient, this study goes beyond calls
for increased gender equity in the legislature to explore
gender equity within the civil service. Measuring Passive
Representation Cross-Nationally Even though the debates
on active representation are more" current" within the U.S.-
based public administration literature, this paper cannot
make the assumption that active representation of civil
servants is of sociopolitical importance cross-nationally in
part because available data do not allow individual-level
or agency-level analysis. In other words, data limitations
shunt our ability to study representative bureaucracy cross-
nationally in any form other than passive representation.
This is a similar starting point to where representative
Leading the Future of the Public Sector: The Third... 91

bureaucracy began its own research in the 1970s, that is,

only focused on passive and not active, representation. In
the 1970s, this literature frequently looked at the political
and economic backgrounds of civil servants. Able to use
individual or agency-l~vel data, variables explored included:
age of civil servant, ethnicity of civil servant, previous civil
service employment, father's occupation, political views or
political activity of civil servant, salary level, educational
specialization, region, hours worked by civil servant,
regulatory and redistributive functions of agencies or work
habits, gender of mentor, organizational factors.
It is important to note that none of these variables are
currently available cross-nationally. Several of the above
variables attemptto understand the work environment and
past experiences of the civil servants. Others, more relevant
to this study, are exploring sociopolitical and socioeconomic
perspectives. In 1976, Meier and Nigro explored the regional
origin of civil servants to see if there was a urban-rural bias.
In contrast, this paper explores geographical space quite
differently. If, in the legislative literature, women are more
likely to seek political office at the subnational (i.e. state,
province, city, town) levels, we should if they also more
likely to serve as civil servants at the sub-national level as
Looking at data from the International Labour
Organization (ILO) shows that indeed, more American
women served as civil servants at the sub-national levels
(58.7 percent) than at the national level (42.7 percent)
between 1996 and 2004. If it is true that women do serve
more frequently' at the local levels, what might be the
reasons? One option is structural. That is, due the
federalized nature of the American system, there are
opportunities available for women to serve at the local level.
These opportunities may not be available in countries either
where the central government drives policy and action and/
92 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

or there is no decentralization of policy-making,

implementation or even tax and spend authorities.
This lack of U.S. based research on this topic is primarily
due to the relatively unchanging federal nature of federal,
state and local structures as well as the fact that comparative
research has not, until recently within the international
development arena, considered a decentralized structure
as a prerequisite to greater accountability, representativeness
and government effectiveness.
With the unit of analysis for this study remaining at
country and sub-national levels, v available proxies for
measuring political and economic opportunities include
both measures of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita
(US$ 2000), a voice and accountability index, and the
percentage of female parliamentarians. The proxy variable
for understanding structural differences will be a measure
of fiscal decentralization. Each of these variables will be
discussed in greater detail in the next section on
Methodology and Data.
Two sets of panel-corrected time series model are
analyzed. The units of analysis are countries and the time
period under consideration is 1996-2004. This time period
was selected not only for where and when the data is most
complete, but as importantly so as to include the voice and
accountability index which only began data collection in
1996. The differences between the two models are its
dependent variables. The dependent variable for the central
government model is the percentage of female civil servants
within central governments while the dependent variable
for the sub-national models is the percentage of female civil
servants within sub-national governments.
Leading the Future of the Public Sector: The Third. .. 93

Each set of models includes three versions of the model

(sub-models). All six sub-models include a transformed
income variable of gross national product per capita.
Following trends elsewhere, this variable was transformed
into a log. Each model also includes a proxy for political
rights a voice and accountability index. This index required
no transformation. All models also include a version of the
key structural. variable, the percentage of fiscal
decentralization. Due to missing data, two of the three
models required that the mean level of fiscal decentralization
(averaged among available years) be included instead of
each value per year. The third sub-model within each level
of government adds a fourth variable: percentage of female
parliamentarians, which was also transformed by a log.
Dependent Variable Data
There is no singly accepted measure of representative
bureaucracy. The first widely discussed measure was the
Nachmias-Rosenbloom Measure of Integration.
This index postulates a mathematical formulation
whereby integration is the total number of social
characteristics (say, gender or ethnicity) and the frequency
of those characteristics within the group you are measuring.
This measure has been praised as having significant
measurement validity, but, in measures with just two
variables (such male female) it leads to questions over its
Another common measure is to determine the
percentage of target group in a bureaucracy (say Hispanic
women) and divide that by the percentage of Hispanic
women in the surrounding community. However, as Meier
and Stewart point out, this measure can be sensitive to
extreme values. Others measure female representation by
dividing the percentage of working age women in the
population by the percentage of female civil servants. This
94 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

latter option appears most reasonable, however, given the

paucity of data cross-nationally on the numbers of working
age women, this paper instead divides the number of
women in the civil service by the total number of civil
The resulting variable is the percentage of female civil
servants at the central government or sub-national
government levels. This measure has the advantage of being
more robust cross-nationally as it diminishes any differences
in the number of civil service positions as a percentage of
employable positions within society. A country where one-
third of all employment is in the state sector will be equalized
to a country with five percent of available employment
occurring within the civil service.
There are two dependent variables in this study percent
of female civil servants at the national and percent of female
civil servants at the The employment
data is available from the International Labor
Organization's LABORSTA database (ILO, 2004). Even
though data is available from 1985 to 2004, for this paper
the range utilized is 1996 to 2004. The data is an interval
variable with a scale of 0 to 100 percent. The closer a
percentage is to 50 percent, the more gender-equitable is
the subnational or central government under discussion.
Three notes of caution are required for the dependent
variable data. First, not every country surveyed has both
regional and local political jurisdictions. If a country has
both regional and local jurisdictions, the employment data
was added together for each gender before creating the
dependent variable. Second, none of the countries included
had dependent variable data for all years.
Independent Variable Data
Fiscal Decentralization
There are several potential measures of fiscal
Leading the Future of the Public Sector: The Third... 95

decentralization. Operationally, fiscal decentralization

involves differing expenditures and revenue-collecting
responsibilities between levels of government,
intergovernmental grant systems, and monitoring of flows
between government levels. Not all governments apply the
same operational mechanisms and some countries may
have regulatory rules on the books, but their practices may
Other scholars measure fiscal decentralization as fiscal
transfers. For this paper, the fiscal decentralization data is
from the IMF's 2001 Government Finance Statistics. It is
reported as an interval variable ranging from 0 to 100
percent where 100 percent means complete fiscal
decentralization. Fiscal decentralization is measured as sub-
national expenditures (as % of total expenditures) in order
to equalize legal and regulatory differences across countries.
The practice in other scholarly papers has been to report
expenditures as an average over the years in which data is
available. This practice is continued in two of the sub-
models (C2, C3 and SN2, SN3) for each of the central
government and sub-national models. As a point of
comparison only, the non-averaged scores are included in
models Cl and SN1.
As it turns out, the mean level of fiscal decentralization
per country versus the inclusion of each fiscal
decentralization indicators per country is highly correlated
at 0.9905. This high correlation underscores a reason behind
earlier authors only reporting this value as a mean.
However, given that one research question of this paper is
whether greater fiscal decentralization impacts gender
representation and thus, we may find differences across
years, my models reflect both calculations.
It is expected that higher levels of fiscal decentralization
(or fiscal mean) will be positively related to the number of
women employed at the sub-national level. It may be that
96 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

the more money subnational governments have to spend,

the greater the opportunity for increased civil service
employment opportunities and by extension, more
opportunities for female employment. In contrast, we expect
to find a negative relationship between fiscal
decentralization (or fiscal mean) and the percentage of
female civil servants at the central government level. This
relationship is expected for different reasons than the
subnational model.
While national governments generally have more money
to spend than sub-national governments, national
governments are located in capital cities where women have
other employment opportunities. In addition, at the sub-
national levels, women who wish to serve as public servants
can do so more easily without moving themselves and their
families to the central seat of government.
To summarize
HI: There will be a negative relationship between
percentage of female civil servants at the central government
level and higher levels of fiscal decentralization.
H2: There will be a positive relationship between
percentage of female civil servants at the sub-national
government level and higher levels of fiscal
Voice and Accountability
The Voice and Accountability Index is from the World
Bank's Aggregate Governance Indicators database (1996-
2004). The governance indicators were compiled from
nearly three-dozen sources including survey institutes, think
tanks, non-governmental organizations, and international
organizations and measures political, civil and human
rights. The index was created biennially from 1996 until
2002 and then annually thereafter. It is a continuous
Leading the Future of the Public Sector: The Third... 97

variable with each country given a value between -2.5 to

2.5. The highest value (2.5) is for countries with greatest
amount of voice and accountability while the lowest value
(-2.5) is for those with the least. This range of scores is
equivalent to z-scores where a score of 2.5 indicates that a
country is 2.5 standard deviations away from the mean
(Kaufmann, 2005).
The greater the freedom available for women to express
their opinion, the more likely they are to not only be eligible
for outside employment, but, if they chose a civil service
career, believe they can express their opinion within the
civil service environment. It is expected that countries with
greater voice and accountability will positively related to
the percentage of female civil servants at the central and
subnationallevels. To summarize:
H3: There will be a positive relationship between
percentage of female civil servants at the central government
level and higher voice and accountability scores.
H4: There will be a positive relationship between
percentage of female civil servants at the sub-national
government level and higher voice and accountability
GDP per capita (US$ 2000)
The gross domestic product (GDP), measured on a per
capita basis is our income variable. This data is from the
World Bank's World Development Indicators. All data is
in 2000 US$ and is logged, as is the custom with cross-
national income variables. Rises in income have long been
considered important drivers for international development
and gender equity. Lower-income countries tend to have
greater gender inequality while within countries, those are
the poorest are also often suffering from gender barriers.
Thus, it is expected that higher incomes will lead to societies
where not only women will enter the formal economy, but
98 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

where it is reasonable to expect that women may also feel

free choose civil servant employment opportunities. To
H5: There will be a positive relationship between
percentage of female civil servants at the central government
level and higher incomes.
H6: There will be a positive relationship between
percentage of female civil servants at the sub-national
government level and higher incomes.
Female Parliamentarians
The percentage of female parliamentarians is the final
variable. The data for this variable is from the World Bank's
World Development Indicators. It is an interval variable
reported as the percentage of parliamentarians. As far as
this author is aware, there is almost no theoretical or
empirical research linking the number of female
parliamentarians to the number of female civil servants
despite numerous articles discussing each literature
separately. While certain countries advocate that a
minimum percentage of seats are reserved for women, it is
not expected to impact whether a woman decides to run
for office or to serve in office as a public servant. This is
assumed despite the fact that others have observed limited
talent pools for female parliamentarians.
It is expected that female parliamentarians are
influenced by similar political and economic conditions as
female civil servants and therefore, we expect a positive
relationship between the number of female
parliamentarians and the number of female civil servants
at the central sub-national level. To summarize:
H7: There will be a positive relationship between
percentage of female civil servants at the central government
level and countries with higher percentages of female
Leading the Future of the Public Sector: The Third... 99

H8: There will be a positive relationship between
percentage of female civil servants at the sub-national
government level and countries with higher percentages of
female parliamentarians.
It is clear from the above findings that there remain more
questions than answers. This appears to be a reasonable
conclusion given that this is the first time any cross-national
study on representative bureaucracy has been undertaken.
From a practical standpoint, there further data collection
is required.
Data collection was hampered not by insufficient data
on my political or economic indicators, but on the fiscal
decentralization and the percentage of female civil servants.
Both of these data points require more intensive data
collection with more emphasis on record maintenance than
the other two variables. With voice and accountability
indexed based on what not just in-country, by external to
the country assessment, its reliance on local data collection
is less pronounced than the other variables. Even income
per capita is relatively simple to collect. Today, countries
have excellent notions of what their earned income was, is
and will be. Financial transactions, loans, exports, imports,
all rely on the same accounting techniques.
In contrast, fiscal decentralization requires more
complex data collection. Its primary units of data collection
occur at the sub-nationals levels where accounting
knowledge and expertise can vary widely or even, in some
cases, be little emphasized if there are few if any expenditure
or revenue responsibilities. Similar logics exist for collecting
gender data. Interestingly, this paper was originally
planned to be a discussion of ethnicity within civil services
around the world. However, to-date, I have yet to find one
reliable measure of ethnic representation and thus, turned
100 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

my attention to women where data is relatively, at least,

more plentiful. Moreover, the value that Western cultures
place on workplace diversity is written in laws and
regulations. If countries do not hold similar values, the
notion of even collecting this type of information would
not even be considered.
Beyond these practical difficulties is a much broader and
more international problem. When we look at the
Millennium Development Goals, one of the eight goals is to
improve gendet-'-equity by 2015. Rightfully, one of the
indicators for measuring progress toward this goal is
increasing the number of female parliamentarians. The
assumption that women, once in parliament, are more likely
to act for women is ingrained within this measurement.
However, there is no such priority for female representation
within the civil services. Whether this is because the
neoliberally minded policymakers stop their understanding
of the bureaucracy at Weber or if representativeness is
considered more valuable legislatively than bureaucratically
or even if the notion of diversity law is infrequently studied
crossnationally, it is uncertain. Moreover, my data indicate
that more women are serving in central government and
even sub-national government in many cases than they are
in parliaments.
The implications of these trends remain unstudied.
Despite this con:dusion, with there is no international
agreement behind an idea, there is no data collection. Just
fifteen years ago, the idea that" governance" mattered for
economic development was not broadly accepted within
development circles. Today, you cannot read an article
about international development without some mention of
a project, agency or national governance structure,
function, process or interaction. Data discussing various
aspects of governance, including its effectiveness and
efficiency are found nearly everywhere. Discussion about
Leading the Future of the Public Sector: The Third... 101

its representativeness is not. This is a problem that requires

more practical and theoretical highlighting. The paper
indicates that across countries there is a clear preference
for women to encompass a larger percentage of the sub-
national workforce than at the national levels. This
observation, while noticed within the U.S. based literature,
requires further international attention. Its parallel with
studies on the legislative branches in federalized countries
may provide an additional avenue of study. Considering
these outcomes from a social perspective, what is it about
local or state provincial civil servant positions that are more
appealing to females. Is it a question of policy impact.
Do women feel that have more impact within their home
regions as opposed to working at the national levels? Or
perhaps it is a question of family. Is it because civil service
jobs are closer to the home that women feel more able to
work within the sub-national level public services? Or
maybe it is about job stature. Are the civil service jobs within
sub-national governments more likely to have
administrative roles, roles that women are more likely to
fill? Or perhaps there is even a linkage between female
parliamentarians and job opportunities for women within
the civil service? Or that localleve! agencies tend to be more
human and social service oriented and thus, attract more
women employees.
More specific to the representative bureaucracy literature
in the United States, none of the available cross-national
data is able to even being to answer many of the questions
currently researched within representative bureaucracy.
Does the passive representation that I profiled in this paper
lead to active representation? When and where might this
linkage be made. Looking at the national and subnational
agency leadership, do we find more male agency heads at
the national level than the state or local levels and thus,
more men than women working within the national level
102 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

agencie. These questions required further in-country

research for the answers to be found.
And finally and perhaps more relevant for this paper,
do levels of representative bureaucracy vary across cultures
or over time. Does the premise that there is no politics-
administration dichotomy have to hold before
representative bureaucracy considered a valid concept on
its own? If indeed, there is a dichotomy then it may matter
little how representative our bureaucracies are or are not.
What about cultures where bureaucratic positions are held
in high regard and are given only to the very best students?
Would those countries still value representativeness over
some measure of intelligence or fit? What about the opposite
scenario? In countries where bureaucratic jobs are generally
considered the least desirable, would that impact
representativeness? Would countries where bureaucratic
jobs are given out by political leaders to ensure political
stability or support have different results from the other
type of countries ..
Looking more sf;ructurally, do societies with high ratios
of executive to legislative power view representativeness
differently from those where the legislative branches hold
significant power? These are just some of the questions that
can be raised when one undertakes cross-national research
on representative bureaucracy.

The Challenge of Governance

in a Large Bureaucracy

How do you manage governance in a large, unwieldy
bureaucracy the largest in the Philippine governmental
structure - that has been under-performing for years? How
do you manage quality outcomes in a structure that is largely
dispersed, relatively delinked, and of low-level managerial
talent? How do you ensure that standards of quality and
directions set by policy are uniformly understood and, more
importantly, implemented?
The new mantra in the Department of Education
(DepED) is "school-based management" (SBM). Yet the
way DepED is managed is largely central office-driven, not
from the ground-up (i.e. at the school and schools division
level). This is a result of decades of compliance with
centrally-mandated policy driven by centrally-provided
resources. 1bere are three contradictions that need to be
worked out given this new thinking.
The first contradiction: Structural rigidity versus a new
mandate. SBM has shown better results than centrally-
mandated policy in specific programs. Yet, there is a
structural rigidity in the bureaucracy that maintains central
control over processes despite these findings. This makes
104 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

SBM more an idea than a fact. On the other hand, there

are innovators within the bureaucracy that are working
very hard to change this mindset and to introduce a whole
new way of thinking and managing. This might be part of
a steep learning curve. But it could also be a structural divide
that isn't easily overcome.
The second contradiction: Central control versus
decentralization. Despite almost two decades of
decentralization efforts at the national level, central control
over education is still very much the norm. The national
budget is one manifestation of central control over a highly
dispersed education system. The way the national budget
is programmed, local innovators have very little room to
maneuver and manage day-to-day quality service, much
less reforms.
The third contradiction: The need for field managers to
govern a system that has very little managerial talent on
the ground. This is a function of how little focus is given to
the training of education managers in the system. The key
to change in the governance structure is embedded in the
Basic Education Law but which needs to be internalized
by the bureaucracy. This is best laid out in a schema first
introduced by the "Schools First Initiative", the fore-runner
of the current Basic Education Sector Reform Agenda
A System in Crisis
Philippine education is in crisis. This is manifest in
performance indicators that reveal high rates of drop-outs
across the system, poor performance in national and
international achievement tests, poor reading abilities and
functional literacy of older students, lack of student
preparedness for study in high school and university as
revealed in diagnostic tests and entrance exams, and the
The Challenge of Governance in a Large Bureaucracy 105

recognition by the business community of declining abilities

of Filipino workers in language proficiency, technical skill
and ability to think and solve problems.
Numerous studies of the problems in Philippine
education lead to predictable and oft-repeated conclusions:
the school system has gotten too large, too unwieldy and
too difficult to manage; shortages in classrooms, teachers,
textbooks and material resources are at the heart of the
problem; teachers are poorly trained despite having passed
a licensure examination; there is little or no in-service
training to improve teachers once hired; oversized classroom
sections, multiple shifting or both undermine student
learning to occur. The list goes on and on.
The continuing situation begs the question: Is Philippine
education being governed properly or is the system so
structured that regardless of reform it cannot change for
the better? Further, can proper governance and leadership
improve performance of the system overall as measured by
indicators? Or is the opposite true: That the poor
performance of Philippine education, as a whole, is a
reflection of poor governance (at worst) or of a governance
structure (i.e. institutional arrangements) that cannot
perform as mandated (at the very least)?
Governance Defined
Governance is the system by which organizations are
directed and controlled. The governance structure specifies
the distribution of rights and responsibilities among different
participants in the organization, such as the board of
directors, managers, shareholders and other stakeholders,
and spells out the rules and procedures for making decisions
on organizational affairs.
The World Bank applies a functional framework in
defining governance the balance between economic and
social goals and between individual and communal goals.
106 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

The govern~nce framework is there to encourage the

efficient use of resources and equally to require
accountability for the stewardship of these resources. The
aim is to align as nearly as possible the interests of
individuals, organizations and society.
For individuals, these interests are schooling,
employability, careers and family. For organizations, these
are about relevance (e.g. beyond survivability) and
valuecreation (e.g. profit for business corporations; public
service for public sector organizations and agencies). For
societies in the 21st century, the goals are increasingly about
global competitiveness, improved quality of life and political
In public education systems, all three goals matter and
are related: Educated individuals must be able to function
as active citizens and contribute to society with positive
qualities required of participation; The education system
must be able to transform young individuals into quality
human capital through schooling and education processes;
and, Society must be competitive and provide that which
can contribute to a better quality of life for its people.
One of the factors that ensures the competitiveness of a
society is an education system both public and private -
that can continually produce educated individuals and a
competent, skilled workforce.

Governance and Public


Support for reforms in the public sector has been premised

on their capacity to enhance the efficiency and the
demc .:racy of public administration. This article questions
in particular the democratic implications of reforms, even
some participatory reforms that would appear on their face
to have a significant capacity to enhance participation.
There may be more participation, but that participation is
limited to the social organisations and individuals
immediately concerned with the policy area By according
those groups enhanced control over policy, these reforms
may in fact diminish the accountability of programmes to
more general and public controls.
Governments have been the target of numerous
reorganisations and reforms during the course of their long
existence. From the perspective of public administration,
the principal target of those reforms has been the efficiency,
or lack of efficiency, of the public sector, and the perceived
inability of government to manage itself as well as other
organisations in society. As important as efficiency is for
any set of organisations providing the range of services that
contemporary governments do, the responsiveness of
108 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

government to the demands of the public is an even more

crucial value.
Thus, any number of other reforms of government,
especially in democratic regimes, have been directed at
enhancing the capacity of governments to process demands
from their citizens and to be more responsive to those
Reforms over the last two or three decades, usually
described as "new public management" (NPM), have
instititutionalised management techniques that make the
public sector function much more like the private sector,
and have stressed the role of government as a provider of
services to its customers. The reforms have stressed the
capacity of customers to make individual choices about the
specific services they will receive from government. The
good news is that in many ways the reforms have been
successful and it is difficult to argue that governments in
2004 are not more efficient than they were in 1984 or even
The Asia Pacific Journal of Public Administration
A related aspect of reform has been the attempt to involve
the public more directly in governing and in the choice of
policies. This style of governing as been long-established in
many countries, especially those of Northern Europe, but
has become a conscious reform strategy in many other
countries. For example, in the United States many of the
recommendations advanced by the National Performance
Review (1993) were directed at enhancing the capacity of
both ordinary citizens and lower echelons of the public
service itself to influence policy and the style of
administration. In Canada, a programme entitled PS 2000
(Tellier 1990) and later the Program for Citizen Engagement
have provided greater opportunities for active involvement
of the public. Even those countries of Northern Europe that
Governance and Public Bureaucracy 109

have long practiced corporatism or corporate pluralist

modes of relationships between state and society have
enhanced the opportunities for citizens to involve
themselves in governing, and also have attempted to
empower lower echelons of the public bureaucracy.
A general label for these changes in the public sector
has been governance, with other names also being
"empowerment" and "participatory governing". The basic
logic of the governance approach is that greater
participation will enhance the quality of governing. This
logic is based in part on democratic assumptions and in
part on assumptions about administrative efficiency. The
democratic assumption undergirding governance is that the
public should have greater influence over the policies being
adopted in its name. In a representative democracy there is
some influence by citizens, but that influence is indirect
and sporadic, coming primarily on election day.
Further, advocates of greater participation would argue
that public organisations themselves can be made more
democratic and that the average worker can be given greater
influence in defining both the nature of his or her own job
as well as the policy directions of the organisation as a
whole. The administrative logic undergirding the reforms
in the emerging governance tradition is not dissimilar to
the democratic lOgic. First, there has been a very long-
standing argument in the management literature that if
organisations can be made more open and participative
then the workers will be more motivated to invest their time
and energy in the organisation.
Likewise, those lower echelons of the organisation have
a great deal of information about the clients and their real
needs, and being able to tap that information resource more
readily will also improve the performance of the
organisation. Similarly, the clients of public organisations
themselves are the repositories of a great deal of information,
110 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

if nothing else about what they need and want from

government. Thus, as the governance argument goes, the
public sector will perform better if clients, and perhaps the
general public, become more involved.
The increasing involvement of the public and of members
of the organisation can also be seen as a means of developing
trust and legitimacy. There is substantial evidence that
citizens around the world have lost confidence and trust in
the public sector. The World Values Survey data, for
example, indicates a substantial average loss in the
confidence that citizens have in government in democratic
regimes, and for many governments that level of trust was
already extremely low. In part, the loss of trust has resulted
from the perceived remoteness of government from its
citizens, so that developing means of engagement and
empowerment may help to overcome that loss of trust.
Further, even within the organisation itself, the
empowerment of the street level bureaucrats will give greater
power to that part of the organisation that is closer to the
The development of legitimacy has a strong link with
the now popular conceptions of the importance of civil
society in governing. The assumption is that to be effective,
and especially to be effective in a democratic manner,
government must be supported by an active civil society.
The assumption is that having active social groups in the
society provides the means for political representation, but
more importantly perhaps, enhances levels of bocial trust
and cooperation. Governance models of public
administration require an active population that can be
mobilised and encouraged to become involved in the public
The assumption of this approach to public
administration is that administration cannot function as
well independently, in either legitimacy or effectiveness
Governance and Public Bureaucracy 111

terms, as it can by working in conjunction with actors from

civil society. As~I continue here to examine the role of
governance-style reforms in the public sector, I will first
provide a brief discussion of how the concept of governance
has been evolving in political science, and to a lesser extent
in other social sciences.
I will then examine some of the specific reforms that
have been introduced in the name of governance, and their
implications for public management. I will conclude with
a more careful and critical examination of the democratic
and effectiveness assumptions behind governance models
than is usually presented by the advocates of that emerging
approach to the public sector.
Governance and Governing
All societies require some level of governing. That is, there
must be some means of deciding upon and implementing
collective goals for the society. The root word in Greek for
government and governance implies some conception of
steering and control, and it is sensible to think about the
steering capacity of the political system when thinking about
governance. Further, as governments attempt to attain the
goals that they have set for themselves and for the society
they need to be cognisant of the consequences of their own
prior actions and to utilise feedback from each round of
policymaking as a significant part of the input into the next
The traditional pattern of governing, whether in
democratic or nondemocratic regimes, is to concentrate on
the hierarchical authority of governments and the steering
from the center of government. In democratic regimes that
authority derives from elections, while in non-democratic
regimes it may derive from control over the instruments of
force in the society, or perhaps simply from tradition. In
either the democratic or nondemocratic cases, the public
112 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

bureaucracy is conceptualised as being responsible to its

nominal political masters, and the exercise of accountability
over the civil servants is also hierarchical and largely
political. Further, this style of governing tended in practice
to locate most of the governing capacity in the central
institutions of the state, and thereby to create as much
coherence in governing as is possible, given the inherently
fragmented nature of the public sector in most countries.
The NPM reforms, and to some extent neo-liberal
approaches to governing in general, have placed greater
emphasis on the role of the manager in governing, thereby
reducing the dominant position of politicians in governing.
The public manager, often recruited from outside the career
public service in systems adopting this mode of governing,
is conceptualised as being capable not only of managing
public programmes but also of being something of a policy
entrepreneur. Further, accountability in the NPM model of
governing has become based more on performance and less
on political criteria, again devaluing the political
foundations of governing. The devolution of authority to
managers and to autonomous or quasi-autonomous
organisations has also tended to exacerbate some of the
problems of coordination and coherence found in
Governance as an alternative approach to the public
sector, and more specifically public administration,
represents an attempt to involve the society more in
governing and to reduce the hierarchical elements of the
system. The basic diagnosis of the ills of government is that
hierarchy has led to wasting the talents of people inside
government and has alienated the public. At the extreme,
some scholars have argued that there can be governance

without government" and that the networks in society are

capable of organising themselves and providing direction
to particular segments of the society.
Governance and Public Bureaucracy 113

Given that those networks involve the major actors in

the policy fields, they will have greater legitimacy than will
a more remote government. Networks are generally
conceptualised as a central component of the capacity for
governing within the governance framework. The
fundamental assumption is that surrounding every policy
area there are a set of organisation~ ilJ ttl actors, generally
including a number of government organisations, that
shape the politics within that policy area. It is assumed that
these networks are largely self-organising and are capable
of making and implementing decisions for themselves.
The networks provide a link between state and society
that is different from the familiar corporatist linkages, in
that the network linkages are not formed in reaction to the
demands of the public sector but rather are constituted more
autonomously, and exist in large part to circumvent or even
elude the state, rather than to serve it. Crucial questions
concern the nature of the networks involved and
particularly how open they are both to a variety of different
types of actors and to a variety of different views on public
policy. On the one hand, networks may be rather open
structures that will accommodate a wide range of views
and will seek to include all interested parties. On the other
hand, they can be exclusive and define membership on the
basis of having certain types of skills or knowledge, or they
may be defined more by agreement with the particular
approaches to policy that dominate the area. Obviously
these alternative forms of networks will have different
capacities to make decisions and to influence policy.
As well as varying in the extent to which they are open
to multiple viewpoints, the mode of linkage to the state and
to policy may vary. Rarely are networks quite as self-
referential and as autonomous as some of the network
theorists assume, and to be of relevance to policy they must
have some reasonably close connection to the authority of
114 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

the state. To the extent that networks are linked to

government, they are likely to be more effective in the long
run in getting what they want from government. On the
other hand, the linkages with the state may mean that the
networks lose some of the autonomy that is important for
their claims of legitimacy, and are coopted by the public
sector. Indeed, there may be some element of mutual
cooptation between public and private sector actors, with
each side of the policy equation needing the other in order
to be successful.
Although networks are the usual rubric applied when
thinking about governance, it must be remembered that
the idea in some ways is more fundamental. The need is for
some form of openness of the public sector to influences
from society, and from the lower levels within the
organisation itself. The basic idea is to alter the domination
from hierarchical superiors and to enhance opportunities
for choice. In this case, however, unlike the NPM version
of governing, the choice that is exercised is more collective
and political, rather than individual and economic. The
citizen to some extent becomes a citizen again rather than
a "customer", and is expected to be an active participant
in the political processes that determine the shape of policy.
The citizen may be involved with government as an
individual or as a member of a group that in turn is
organised into some form of network, but there is an
interaction between state and society that is more symmetric
than that characteristic of conventional', hierarchical
Given the above considerations, the governance
approach to administering the public sector and to public
policy is even more decentralised than that of NPM. NPM
advocated primarily the decentralised implementation of
policy, while governance models advocate to some extent
making policy in a more decentralised manner as well. Given
Governance and Public Bureaucracy 115

that hierarchies are to be flattened, and to some extent

almost reversed, this model of governing depends heavily
upon steering from the bottom rather than from the top of
government. Indeed, at the extreme the governance concept
can become anti-statist and almost extra-legal. Leaving aside
the normative concerns raised, the perhaps extreme
decentralisation implied by this approach to the public
sector will produce difficulties in creating coherence and
In summary, governance as an approach to the public
sector and public administration poses some fundamental
,challenges to both traditional forms of government and to
NPM. It represents an attempt to overcome hierarchy and
top-down control within the public sector itself, and
between the public sector and the society. These intentions
are, of course, laudable in any democratic context. They
should contribute to the legitimacy of the public sector, and
also may actually enhance the capacity of government to
be effective in reaching its goals. While those are all possible
positive outcomes, some questions should also be raised
concerning the real possibilities of reaching all those goals.
Further, it is necessary to question whether too high a price
might have to be paid in other ways for achieving those
goals, as important as they may be.
Governance and Democracy
The primary claim that the concept of governance in
public administration can make as an approach to steering
the fates of states and societies is that it provides a means
of enhancing the democratic content of that steering.
Associated with that greater openness is the claim that
governance approaches can promote public involvement
and trust. These claims are based in part on the perceived
failure, or at least perceived weakness, of conventional forms
of representative democracy. They are also based on the
assumption that the building of participatory structures that
116 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

are more closely related to the day to day lives of citizens

and especially their interactions with the public sector, can
improve trust, involvement and the capacity of citizens to
influence government. Democracy in this model is not
something that happens once every few years at an election
booth, but rather is an ongoing activity relating the public
to a government.
The above arguments, implicit or explicit, on behalf of
the governance approach are important for several reasons.
They tend to shift the locus of citizen involvement, and to
some extent legitimation, from the input to the output side
of the political system. Governments in the perspective of
NPM are legitimated almost entirely on the basis of their
outputs to their customers.
In governance there is a more democratic and political
element involved in legitimation, but that political
legitimation does not flow through political parties and
elected legislatures but rather is derived from more direct
citizen contacts with government, and particularly with
government bureaucracies. This conception of legitimation
may make a great deal of sense given that most interactions
citizens have with the public sector are with the bureaucracy
in its many and varied forms, rather than with elected
officials, but it does shift the terms of discussion on
legitimacy and democracy.
There is substantial evidence that the interactions that
citizens have with public bureaucracies are not as negative
as the usual negative characterisations of those public
organisations would have us believe. In many instances the
public perceive their treatment by public employees to be
as good, or often even better, than that received from private
sector firms. Thus, these contacts between citizens and their
administrators to create trust in the system of
Governance and Public Bureaucracy II7

The effects of these interactions with government as

individuals may be generalisable to the interactions of social
groups with government, so that greater involvement of
the public in any way with the public sector can be
hypothesised to promote more positive perceptions of
government and its role.
While the interactions between state and society may
help to legitimate the state, some questions must be raised
about the genuine democratic impact of these linkages. It is
not clear that the networks at the heart of much of the
governance argumentation are necessarily the solution for
the problems of democratic government. These structures
may be rather exclusive, especially when they are" epistemic
communities" based on the possession and control of a
certain type of knowledge. Communities of this sort (eg,
physicians involved in shaping health care policy) may
claim to function in the public interest, but in reality a great
deal of private interest can be involved in their actions as
well. Certainly groups of patients, or even other medical
professions such as nurses, will find it difficult to counteract
the control exercised by the closed community.
Another question about the democratic nature of the
governance approach is relevant even if the networks
involved in governance are inclusive. Even if those networks
do include all interested actors surrounding the policy area,
they can at best hope only for a solution that is acceptable
to all these actors. Such a solution will still almost certainly
exclude actors not active in that policy arena. Thus, rather
than fulfilling the aspirations of governance to set and
implement societal goals, this notion of governing provides
for solutions that may well meet the demands of particular
groups but not the society as a whole. Therefore they may
produce policy choices that would not be acceptable in a
rt'presentative assembly.
Decentralisation and devolution have become part of a
118 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

mantra of governance, but in the process some

considerations of broader social goals may be lost; and, at
the extreme, the governance solutions have the potential to
become profoundly anti-democratic. That is, by having
policy implementation and/ or policy making determined
largely by the beneficiaries of the policies, the fundamental
democratic concept of accountability may be undermined.
For public administration in particular there has been
the notion that its actions always need to be reviewed
elsewhere and some independent judgment applied, but
that separation of decision and review is not present in this
decentralised model of governing. Very much as Lowi
argued about some aspects of American government, this
manner of governing can become the appropriation of the
public sector for private interests, and a notion of the
broader public interest may be undermined.
Networks depend upon the level of organisation of social
and economic groups, and therefore the democratic success
of the governance arrangements depends on the extent to
which the universe of groups is representative of the interests
involved. A network may include all the available social
organisations, but if certain elements of society are not
adequately organised then those groups almost certainly
will not be effective in the political process. Given that
organisational skills are far from evenly distributed across
socie:ty, then the governance model may have a substantial
class bias, and will disadvantage groups such as the
unemployed and the less educated who lack organisational
These same problems arise in attempts to create more
deliberative models of democracy, and scholars such as
Hirst have argued strongly that inclusivity is a crucial
criterion in assessing movements away from representative
democracy. The social capital argument for improving
democracy through the involvement of social organisations
Governance and Public Bureaucracy 119

depends crucially on the presumed relationship between

social organisation and trust, meaning both interpersonal
trust and trust in government. rpe logic is that if people
are willing to join organisations they become more trusting
of others and hence are better democratic participants and
thus more likely' to be positive and trusting toward the
public sector. In reality, however, group memberships may
simply reinforce differences that the members feel from the
remainder of society and make cooperation among various
segments of society in solving policy problems more difficult
rather than easier.
In summary, these changes in the public sector that
empower clients and lower echelon workers appear to
democratise the public sector and to open government to a
wider range of influences than in the past. In some ways,
by emphasising the role of groups in society this emergent
model of governing legitimates direct involvement of the
society in making and implementing policy decisions. On
the other hand, however, tile type of involvement that is
created tends to be narrowly defined for the participants
in the policy area, rather than for the citizens in general.
Thus, governance paradoxically may result in a set of
programmes that are accepted by and legitimate to their
participants but also in a government as a whole that may
be no more legitimated than the representative model.
Governance and Effectiveness
Democratisation and legitimation are the principal
justifications for the governance approach to public
administration, but the literature on management and
organisation theory has also long offered an effectiveness
justification for participatory approaches to management.
Although hierarchy has been the natural reaction in most
societies when confronted with the need to manage large
numbers of people and multiple tasks, more participatory
120 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

modes of management may be as effective, or more effective.

The virtues of participation may be greater for a work force
that is educated and professional, but even for more routine
machine bureaucracy tasks involving employees at all
levels. It may increase their commitment to the goals of-
the organisation and therefore their effectiveness.
The involvement of clients and the public may also have
some positive consequences for the effectiveness of public
programmes. This effectiveness can come in large part
through the ability to off-load some tasks onto network
organisations. The idea of steering not rowing" is often

associated with the NPM approach to solving problems

within the public sector, but by using network rather than
contract devices to involve non-state actors in the public
sector governance style, reforms can accomplish the same
basic reductions in the day-to-day administrative
responsibilities of the public sector. In the case of governance
solutions the economic savings may be even greater, given
the tendency to involve voluntary and not-for-profit
organisations rather than the economically based
contracting in the NPM solution.
The contribution to effectiveness of networked
governance solutions to the effectiveness of programmes
may go beyond simple cost-savings. The private
organisations involved may have greater legitimacy than
their public counterparts, and hence be able to work more
effectively with social groups. This greater trust and
legitimacy for the private sector may be especially evident
for programmes dealing with minority and disadvantaged
groups, and even more especially when working with
groups such as immigrants who may have something to
fear from revealing too much about themselves to a public
organisation. Even when not dealing with disadvantaged
groups, the not-for-profits may have greater flexibility in
dealing with the public and be able to satisfy the public
Governance and Public Bureaucracy 121

more readily. From the perspective of management, a

central question that the governance approach raises is the
extent to which uniformity of administration is important.
Empowering lower levels of the bureaucracy to make more
of their own decisions will almost certainly result in greater
variability of the decisions made. Likewise, empowering
clients to influence those decisions will also increase
variability in the choices made, with those clients capable
of influencing their own outcomes. In some public
programmes, such variability may be desirable and will
enhance the service being delivered to citizens.
In other programmes, however, especially those
concerned with the basic rights of citizens, any substantial
variability may deny some fundamental protections to
citizens. Thus, even if the governance approach does have
substantial benefits for the public sector in general, there
may be a number of situations in which it may be
inappropriate, even on grounds of effectiveness. The
tendency in administrative reforms is often to assume that
one size fits all, but a more careful consideration of the nature
of programmes may be required. As well as the extent to
which basic rights are involved, governance models might
be more acceptable where there are multiple well organised
interests so tha t some degree of countervailing power can
be used to adjust for ceding substantial powers to non-
governmental actors. Further, such models might be
applicable when the policy areas can be made sufficiently
transparent for oversight organisations to be able to assess
the extent to which public powers may have been
It is difficult to argue against the virtues of a participatory
governance model of the public sector that has been
emerging over the past few decades. The virtues of this
model are especially evident in terms of the apparent
122 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

enhancement of democracy. In this new pattern of

governance, a great deal of the legitimation of the public
sector will derive from the quality of services and the manner
in which those s,ervices are delivered, rather than from
political parties, voting and elections. Bureaucracies may
not usually be considered the natural loci of democratic
action, but in reality they are becoming more central to that
process, especially given the declining public involvement
in traditional forms of democracy such as voting and
political parties.
The linkage of state and society that is central to a
governance approach offers a great deal to government,
but the gains available may have to be purchased at a price.
In particular, potential gains in efficiency and in legitimacy
among some groups proximate to the delivery of the services
may be purchased at the cost of some lost influence from
other segments of society. That loss of influence may be
most important from a democratic perspective, but may
also have some consequences for the effectiveness of
government. The effectiveness will not be of individual
programmes, but rather will be of government taken more
generally as a problem-solving system for society as a whole.
Thus, a governance model of the public sector may
substitute strong versions of localised democracy (more in
policy than geographical terms) for representative
democracy that may extend across broader segments of

Coercive and Enabling


No doubt this phrase is familiar to many colleagues in the

human services. For example, bureaucratic organization is
the reason for sub-optimal performance. It's the reason why
helping professionals cannot practice in accordance with
their training and professional standards. It's implicated
by helping professionals as the cause of mind-numbing
routines and meaningless paperwork. It accounts for clients'
alienation as they stand in lines, endure long waits, and
experience impersonal, client processing" procedures. It also
is invoked by human services professionals when they
lament the lack of time as well as the resources needed for
every client. Bureaucracy is the reason for avoiding
favoritism, and it means standardization in the name of
equitable, fair treatment.
In this line of thinking, bureaucracy is the primary cause
of countless problems. Many of these problems cannot be
solved because the bureaucracy cannot be changed. Just as
the sun rises daily in the East and sets in the West,
bureaucracy's constraints and problems are predictable,
inevitable, and impervious to change.
For human services workers, the implicit message may
be something like this. "If you want to do this kind of work,
124 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

you'll need to adjust to the bureaucratic system. You must

change you must adapt to the way things are done here. It
won't change, and you can't change it. So, if you're not
satisfied with the way things are done here, you may wish
to look for another job and another line of work." Obviously,
messages like this encourage workers to leave.
Moreover, these messages may convey four related
impressions. First: Nothing can be done to improve the
organization and its operations. In other words, "look
around you because this is as good as it gets." Second: The
primary responsibility of supervisors, managers, and
commissioners is to enforce rules and seek compliance with
the system (even when they may not agree with them).
Third: The pathway to promotion in the bureaucratic
hierarchy is to follow the rules and conform to the system.
In other words, once you're promoted, you're obliged to
defend the system. And fourth, front-line workers who seek
and promote changes in the organization are destined to
experience conflict with their supervisors, managers and
commissioners. Thus, for front-liners, "it's them versus us,"
and adversarial perceptions and conflict-ridden
relationships abound.
Such is the context for a fresh line of interdisciplinary
research and development. Individuals and teams of
researchers and practitioners are examining bureaucracy
anew. Here are a few examples of the kinds of questions
they are addressing. Is employee well being one of the
inevitable and unavoidable costs for the efficiency
bureaucracy provides. Are supervisors, managers, and
commissioners in effect sentenced to policing rules and
regulations, which they inherited from their predecessors?
Are people in need destined to receive rule-driven, rationed,
and impersonal services. Is it possible to change large scale,
public sector bureaucracies and the working conditions they
provide? What changes improve system performance and
Coercive and Enabling Bureaucracy 125

accountability? Which changes reduce undesirable,

preventable worker turnover?
Several lines of research and development can be traced
back to these questions. As requested, I'll sketch one line
Two Kinds of Bureaucracy
The main assumption in this line of work is that it's not
bureaucracy per se that is the main problem; the main
problem is the kind of bureaucracy that's developed and
maintained. According to this line of thinking, a
bureaucracy can be either coercive or enabling. Because
coercive bureaucracy breeds the several problems noted
above, it is the problem. An enabling bureaucracy comprises
the main solution. This latter kind fosters creative, informal
relations among workers at all levels.
The implication is that commissioners, managers,
supervisors, and caseworkers are able to exert influence
and control over the extent to which their agency is a
coercive bureaucracy or an enabling one. The more that
the agency bureaucracy is enabling, the greater the benefits
to workers and clients. Salient details follow .
. Bureaucracy's Defining Features
In the classic view, bureaucracy is the ideal form of
organization for coordinating, supervising, and managing
the work of specialists. In a bureaucracy, work roles,
functions, and flows are specified, and responsibilities are
In other words, work is formalized. Procedures are
standardized and specified, and functional differentiation
follows. Differences among front-line workers are
accompanied by differences among supervisors, managers,
and other officials in the administrative hierarchy. In the
classic view, bureaucratic organizations are hierarchical,
126 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

and a triangular shape mirrors differential power, authority,

and expertise.
Bureaucracy also offers a system of norms, and it
encourages a way of thinking and acting a so-called
"cognitive style. These norms may become behavioral rules.
Key examples of these norms a~ provided in Figure 1
(attached at the end of this brief).
Here is a key point: There is nothing inherently bad or
wrong with some, or even most, of these norms and rules.
(Anonymity and mechanistic relations are obvious
exceptions in caring-oriented, human services work.) The
main issue is how they are interpreted, implemented,
evaluated, and improved.
In fact, there is an accompanying rationale that
recommends them. This rationale emphasizes merit; it
includes fair, just, and equitable treatment of everyone,
including every employee and every client. This rationale
and the accompanying norms and rules were developed in
response to forms of organization and practice that
permitted favoritism, nepotism, greed, injustice, and "lining
one's pockets" at the public's expense.
Introducing Coercive Bureaucracy
To reiterate, in this line of thinking, the difference
between a coercive bureaucracy and an enabli...lg one lies
in how these norms and rules are interpreted, implemented,
and evaluated. It matters whether they are flexible and
amenable to adaptation. It also matters when caring
relations are not permitted.
In a coercive bureaucracy, norms and rules are not
flexible or amenable to adaptation. The adjective
"mechanistic" is applied to such a bureaucracy because
the entire organization runs, more on less, on automatic
pilot. Few, if any, people claim to be at the controls. All
Coercive and Enabling Bureaucracy 127

emphasize faithful implementation and proper procedures,

often claiming "I'm just doing my job." Everyone is expected
to conform to the norms and follow the rules.
Only the people at the top of the bureaucratic hierarchy
(the top of the triangle) are able to see lithe big picture"
regarding the work needing to be performed and its relation
to societal expectations and needs. Arguably, the central
task for the leadership hierarchy (commissioners, managers,
and supervisors) is to gain compliance from workers
through the strategic use of surveillance and sanctions,
especially punishment.
In a coercive bureaucracy, workers are viewed as entities
to be motivated, supervised, managed, and controlled. Their
superiors assume that workers show up and perform their
designated tasks to secure their salaries and benefits. Salaries
and benefits are the only incentive to work effectively.
Furthermore, in a coercive bureaucracy workers have
little expertise to offer to their superiors. They cannot be
trusted to make good, solid decisions, and they require close
supervision. Expectations and standards associated with
professionalism, especially discretion and some autonomy
in decision-making, are among the casualties in coercive
bureaucracies. Workers experience supervision and
management routines as "looking over my shoulder" and
"constantly second guessing me." In response, workers may
develop their own coping strategies. Some may do
"undercover work" (where they do things without
informing supervisors) and CYA work where workers hide
and cover problems and mistakes.
When these coping strategies are detected, and it
becomes clear to the leadership hierarchy that workers are
not following the rules, the supervisory and managerial grip
tightens. In this fashion, coercive bureaucracies become
even more so. The agency's climate deteriorates as the
128 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

quality of treabnent and interaction worsens. In the worst

case scenario, there is with little relief in sight because the
attendant processes and dynamics are self-reinforcing and
self-sealing. No one, least of all front-line workers, are able
to effect meaningful and effective improvements. This is
why a coercive bureaucracy is called "mechanistic, it
appears to run on automatic pilot.
Enabling Bureaucracy
The leadership hierarchy in an enabling bureaucracy
operates with the different assumptions about the workforce
and the priorities of commissioners, managers, and
supervisors. In this kind of bureaucracy, the workforce is
an asset or a resource to be maximized. In contrast to the
assumptions held by leaders in a coercive bureaucracy,
leaders in an enabling bureaucracy operate with a different
knowledge base about their workforce. They support and
promote norms and standards of professionalism.
For example, leaders know that workers enjoy voluntary
commitments to their jobs. They know that workers'
identities are intertwined with their jobs (i.e., who workers
are and what they do often are intertwined). Leaders know
that workers have reasons other than pay and benefits for
doing their jobs, including the fit between their personal
lives and their jobs. For this reason, leaders know that these
workers want and need their work to be enjoyable and
meaningful. Leaders also know that, with training and
supports, workers can be trusted to make good, solid
decisions. They view competent, supportive supervision as
a support system for workers. In other words, the
supervision and management system dovetails with training,
and both are designed enables the development of expertise
and mastery. Furthermore, leaders solicit workers' input
on decisions, rules, norms, and practices because they know
that working conditions (including the agency's culture and
its present climate) exert a powerful influence on workers
Coercive and Enabling Bureaucracy 129

efficacy, effectiveness, and their decisions to stay or leave.

Enabling bureaucracies, like all bureaucracies, formalize
work. Work formalization is an indispensable
organizational technology. It prevents the inefficiencies and
ineffectiveness indicators of trial and error routines and
learning systems. In other words, reasonable, justifiable
rules, norms, routines, and behavioral prescriptions are
valuable when they contribute to the achievement of
desirable outcomes and benefits.
In short, it's not a bad development when organizational
routines and rules develop, and when one way of doing
things becomes the way. To the contrary, these
developments are indicative of an organizational
technology. Technology is vital to agencies. It is the
organization and formalization of knowledge and the
organization and mobilization of people to achieve practical
purposes. Enabling bureaucracies develop technologies for
achieving practical purposes and for learning and
improving as they do.
Enabling Bureaucracy's Key Features
Drawing on the aforementioned assumptions that
leaders have about workers, enabling bureaucracies exhibit
and promote the following key features.
Global transparency. Everyone in the organization is
privy to the big picture. It's not restricted to the leaders at
the top of the organizational triangle. Furthermore,
information is public, readily available, and testable. In
contrast to coercive bureaucracy wherein some things are
not discussed and the fact that they can't be discussed is
not discussed everything can be discussed, and errors are
viewed as opportunities for learning, improvement, and
Interdependent relationships are emphasized and
130 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

rewarded. Everyone knows how the specialized parts of

the organization-jobs, functions, rules, and norms-fit
together. Everyone knows how they contribute to the
agency's missions and functions.
Clarity and unity of purpose. Thanks to an agreed upon
mission (e.g., protecting children by supporting families
and strengthening communities), everyone is lion the same
page. Everyone knows how paperwork, rules and
regulations, and other kinds of requirements are related to
the achievement of this mission.
A coherent, effective system for recruitment, training,
and organizational initiation-induction. This system is
inseparable from the working conditions provided. The
initiation-induction component is vital. It is a determinant
of the transfer and maintenance of training, and it is a driver
for the organization's culture and climate.
Voice, involvement, and genuine say so. All
organizational members are viewed as "experts" with a
valuable perspective to contribute. The search for better
ways is a constant in listening and problem-solving circles.
Some employment security. Honest, frank, and open
communications are vital to enabling bureaucracies. Staff
at all levels, especially new, front-line staff, must perceive
that their views are welcomed; and that they are able to
offer them without risking their jobs and careers.
Minimize asymmetries of power and authority. In other
words, do your best to flatten the bureaucracy, making it
less of a triangle. Equity and equitable relations are
important here, and so are impartiality, fairness, and justice.
Power and authority differences do not vanish; they take a
baCK seat to processes and dynamics that signal"we're all
in the same boat here.
Clear norms and rules, both formal and informal. These
Coercive and Enabling Bureaucracy 131

norms and rules operate in formal and informal relations

and operations. Everyone agrees to steward and help
enforce them. They are associated with positive interactions
and a high quality of treatment among workers and among
workers and clients.
Procedures and criteria for balancing workers'
discretion, autonomy, and authority with organizational-
bureaucratic accountability. According to Lipsky (1980):
"Managing discretion is the heart of the problem of street-
level bureaucracy. Furthermore. The key is to find a correct
balance between compassion and flexibility, on the one
hand, and the rigid, fair application of rules and procedures,
on the other. Where bureaucratic accountability is
concerned, Lipsky provides these specific priorities:
1. Agencies must know what they want workers to
2. Where multiple priorities exist, agencies must be able
to place them in rank order
3. Agencies must know how to measure workers'
4. Agencies must be able to compare workers to one
another to establish a standard for judgment
5. They must build shared responsibility and mutual
accountability among workers; and between
workers and clients.
6. They must encourage clients and workers to become
more effective advocates for change.
7. They must find ways to reduce worker isolation,
harassmeI).t, and resource inadequacy. (p. 205).
Other features may be added to this list. It's intended
as a starter list, one designed to facilitate additional
discussion and planning.
J32 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

Key Tensions that Won't Vanish

This selective contrast between coercive and enabling
bureaucracy is subject to misinterpretation. It's not one
versus the other. Although something can be done - fast
and effectively it is not a simple matter of initiating a process
whereby it's "out with the old" (coercive) and "in with the
new. As everyone knows, several tensions, contradictions,
and dilemmas are present. At least for the foreseeable future,
they will not disappear, and they'll weigh on workers at all
levels in agencies. Examples include:
1. Federal and, in turn, state policy requirements,
which influence and determine the contexts and
requirements for work.
2. Contradictory expectations associated with coercive
bureaucracy, professionalism, privatization
pressures and market forces (e.g., pressure to
contract and "out-source"), and civil society
networks (predicated on everyday citizens assuming
joint responsibility for protecting children,
supporting families, and strengthening
neighborhood communities).
3. The tensions and challenges posed by an incomplete
body of knowledge and insufficient research
4. The challenges and tensions of accessing knowledge,
resources, and expertise outside the realm of
bureaucracy s reach. Issues include the boundaries
for practice in relation to the co-occurring needs of
families and the agency's relations with other
systems (e.g., mental health, the courts, schools).
5. Conflicting views of the agency and the work,
starting with County Boards of Supervisors.
6. Competing financial demands brought to bear on
Commissioners and the agency, including Medicaid
Coercive and Enabling Bureaucracy 133

costs and operating costs amid proposals for tax

With these and other tensions in mind, here is the final
key feature of an enabling bureaucracy.
Due recognition of dilemmas, uncertainties,
environmental complexity. They need to be freely and
openly acknowledged and use constant adjustive
development and learning. There's a balance involved here
between efficient and routine operations in relation to needs
and problems that are fixed, predictable, known and given;
and adjustments made for "wicked problems" that perplex
everyone. Enabling bureaucracies that can reach this
balance are known, in some circles, as "ambidextrous
organizations." This challenge also is an opportunity for
developments that reduce undesirable, preventable
turnover and improve efficiency and effectiveness.
Reactions and suggestions are welcome. And, as the
saying goes, "there's more where this came from." Respond
and ask, and we'll do our best to comply.
a. specialization each unit has its own sphere of
expertise on which it is founded and against which
performance can be assessed.
b. referral since each unit is specialized, if the problem
does not fit the unit, the problem and the person
are shuttled off.
c. coverage nothing within the sphere of the
organization is left out-if something is, it is added
d. proper procedure the essence of bureaucracy is
application of rational principles to action-
systematize, formalize conduct. Efficiency of means
is accompanied by quality control and assurance
134 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

procedures (including "canned" service packages).

e. redress adjudication of improper procedure-this
is source of change in procedure as well
f. anonymity personal-social diagnoses provide
impersonal, objective data that serve as the basis
for impartial, fair treatment and interaction.,.
g. hierarchy authority and expertise are associated with
one's position in the agency, and most are vested in
a few who see the whole picture as opposed to the
many who see only its parts
h. orderliness the propensity for taxonomies - i.e.
tendency ~o classify into components and categories,
which are self-serving.
i. organizability everything in principle is organizable
and classifiable; when problems surface, they require

j. mechanistic complete, comprehensive rules and

regulations can be quickly, automatically, and
uniformly implemented by workers
k. reproducible no action is assumed to be so unique
that it cannot be done by someone else with
comparable training. Comparable training prepares
people to replicate interventions.
1. production line each person should act on
specialized parts of the product while remaining
mindful that the organization's process will deal
with the whole Invited Brief, m. componentiality
separation of work from private life; segregation of
human needs.
n. anonymity equality of treatment requires affective
neutrality (keep your distance, manage your
Coercive and Enabling Bureaucracy 13S

The anthropology of development: bureaucracy vs the

people. 'Development' is the uneven growth of capitalism
in two centuries of machine revolution, but more often it
concerns making good the damage incurred by such a
process. Since the second world war, development has been
one name for the relationship between rich and poor
countries; but the goal of improving the latter's economies
has been tacitly abandoned for more than two decades
when the income drain from debt interest has far
outweighed the value of aid. Beyond that lies the unresolved
question of bureaucracy and the people.
Ordinary lives have long been overridden by bureaucratic
planning recipes which could not accommodate the real
interests and practices of people on the ground. In a climate
of neo-liberalism this observation could be assimilated to a
critique of the state, the core of bureaucratic order.
Consequently states have often been by-passed as corrupt
and ineffective, their place taken by business corporations
and non-government organizations.
But NGOs are driven by even stronger bureaucratic
imperatives than many government agencies, because of
their dependence on public opinion back home. Aid
bureaucracies are always more accountable to head office
than to local needs and circumstances. The multilateral
agencies too, who took it on themselves to co-ordinate
development, have constantly struggled with the
contradiction between their bureaucratic nature and the
desire to stimulate self-organized human initiatives whose
impulses are inevitably stifled by remote controls. The World
Bank's devotion to concepts like 'the informal sector' and
'social capital' testifies to this need to bridge the
The anthropologists entered this scene in the 1960s and
after. They brought with them a method of long-term
immersion in fieldwork, an ideology of joining the people
136 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

where they live and a general hostility to numeracy, literate

records and all the techniques of bureaucracy. They were
asked, usually at short notice and for curtailed periods, to
fill in the human dimension of development as a
complement to the dominant work of the economists and
the engineers,. But they had the people card to play and
that was the Achilles heel of the bureaucracy. They could
always claim the authenticity of proximity to the people on
the ground. t have been there and you haven't. They soon
found out that they were in the middle of a war between
bureaucracy and the people. They could take up one of
three positions. They could inform on the people for the
benefit of the bureaucracy. They could take the people's
side as advocates for their interests. Or they could try to sit
on the fence as mediators, offering interpretations of the
people to the bureaucracy and of the bureaucracy to the
people. The last of course was the one most compatible with
the discipline's tradition of selecting adherents with a
romantic vocation for the role of lone ranger in exotic places.
As individualists, their natural position was in the gaps
between all and sundry.
A subdiscipline, the anthropology of development, arose
seeking to formalize the involvement of anthropologists in
development bureaucracies. Techniques like Rapid Rural
Appraisal were embraced as inevitable, whatever violence
they did to fieldwork traditions. At the same time some
anthropologists advanced a post-structuralist critique of
development, claiming that it was just a way of preserving
a situation where the rich got richer, while the poor got
poorer. But, rather than dismissing all bureaucracy out of
hand as a tool of the powerful, we should ask how to
incorporate the perspective of the people into what is done
on their behalf, how to make development more democratic.
Consider an earlier effort to confer the benefits of the
modern state on 'peasants'. Chayanov examined the
Coercive and Enabling Bureaucracy 137

internal organization of peasant economy in order to

develop policy prescriptions that he believed would be in
their interest. Some of these cooperatives, technical inputs,
marketing supports etc were implemented most effectively
in Scandinavian countries, notably Denmark. But the
example demonstrates that a state governing in the interests
of the people, with the help of good communications and
advice, can make bureaucracy work for their economic
benefit. After all the goal of impersonal institutions was
originally to provide equal access under the law. People
were fed up with everything being a question of who you
know. They wanted to be free of feudal mafias, to live by
rules that treated everyone the same. If the consequence of
this was another kind of despotism, we should not throw
out the baby with the bath water and go for a simple-
minded anarchism which cannot by itself address the
problems of global civilization.
There is therefore a fourth option for anthropologists
who wish to engage with development. We could participate
in attempts to make ours a less unequal world, by working
in bureaucracies of various kinds and by joining the people
where they live. In this way we might help to make rule by
office more democratic while performing public services
beyond the means of most self-help organizations on the

The Mother of All


A few years back, the New York Times ran a story about the
company I was working for. The story, based on an
interview with the president of my business unit, concerned
a change in the company's plans for developing a key
product. Employees weren't aware of the change before
the story appeared, so someone working for me made sure
to feature the article on our intranet. It was big news, and
it was already public. Where was the harm in keeping
employees informed?
As it turned out, the harm was hidden in the mind of
the unit president who was interviewed. He contended we
had always planned to pursue the development option he
had disclosed." The Times had erred in hailing his

comments as news, and he was upset my group had echoed

this viewpoint.
When I heard this, I was baffled. I knew nothing about
the change the Times had reported, nor did senior leaders
I queried on the matter.
I learned later that the president was right, in a technical
sense. The company had, in fact, disclosed the option the
Times had cited. But that disclosure amounted to a single
The Mother of All Bureaucracy 139

word in a table in the company's annual report five years

earlier. We had not discussed the option since, internally
or publicly. That's why the story was news to everyone but
the president himself.
But no matter. An aggressive fellow at corporate HQ
aware of the president's pique, devised a solution to ensure
such an awful "mistake" wouldn't happen again. He
offered to form and chair a new committee to vet all the
company's intranet postings. Eight senior people, including
me, were appointed to this committee, giving all of us yet
another hour-long conference call to clog our weekly
schedules. The meetings weren't useful, except to our
chairman, who lil<ed to confect the appearance that he was
responsible for work he neither performed nor fa~tated.
Cultures Generate Bureaucracy
There are two broad styles of management prone to
embrace "solutions" like the one just described. The OCI
Circumplex, a widely used tool for measuring corporate
cultures, refers to them as aggressive-defensive and passive-
defensive styles. One or both come to the fore in what Fr.
Robert Spitzer calls a Level 2 culture, or one dominated by
ego-driven, comparative behavior.
Aggressive-defensive managers mistrust the intentions
and competence of others, and they also desire power and
control. One way they achieve control is by building
governance structures and processes that ensure little
happens without their express approval.
Passive-defensive managers tend to lie low and protect
themselves by conformity and strict adherence to rules. They
prefer to work in committees and teams, but for much the
same reason antelopes prefer herds. It helps them avoid
standing out when the wolves come prowling.
I'm not saying committees and rules are bad; they're
often indispensable, but only as a means to an end and not
140 Bureaucracy and Development Administration .

as an end in their own right. When they become an end, or

a means divorced from the common good, the result is
Myoid company admitted that it suffered from
bureaucracy, although it preferred the term "low-value
activities." We were often exhorted to weed out such
activities, but weeding involves attacking the roots, and
the roots of the problem went deeper than we imagined.
Like most companies, we had a Level culture a culture
defined by winners and losers. The winners used
bureaucratic means to guard and expand their influence;
the losers used them to camouflage mistakes and
responsibility. I'm sure I did both myself at various times. I
wasn't above the culture, I was part of it.
For years, I thought bureaucracy was an artifact of our
size, a consequence of getting very large. I thought it was
unavoidable, but I see now I wasn't correct. It wasn't a
question of size, but a matter of culture. We were trying to
solve the problem with reorganizations and cuts, when the
real solution was moving from Level 2 to Level 3.
Aggressive-defensive managers mistrust the intentions
and competence of others, and they also desire power and
control. One way they achieve control is by building
governance structures and processes that ensure little
happens without their express approval.
The Four Levels Explained
Editor's note: While the Spitzer Center website has long
had a brief diagram to explain the Four Levels of Happiness
the same diagram that appears in the Four-Level Leader email
we realized that readers and friends of the Center might
find a fuller explanation useful. We're adding this
description below to the "Our Approach" tab on the
The Mother of All Bureaucracy 141

Happiness derived from material objects and the
pleasures they can provide.
This is the most basic level of happiness, and it can come
from eating fine chocolate, driving a sports car, a cool swim
on a hot day, or other forms of physical gratification. Level
1 happiness is good but limited. The pleasure it provides is
immediate but short-lived and intermittent. It is also shallow;
it requires no reflection, and it doesn't extend beyond the
self in any meaningful way.
Level 2
Happiness derived from personal achievement and ego
gratification. You feel Level 2 happiness when people praise
you; when they acknowledge your popularity and
authority; when you win in sports or advance in your
career. Level 2 happiness is usually comparative because
the ego measures success in terms of advantage over others.
You're happy when you're seen as smarter, more attractive,
or more important than others, and you're unhappy when
you lose the comparison game. Level 2 happiness is
shortterm and tei1.Uous. You can be happy that you won
today, and then anxious you might lose tomorrow. Level 2
is not inherently bad because we all need success, self-
esteem, and respect to accomplish good things in life.
But when Level 2 happiness - self-promotion - becomes
your only goal, it leads to self-absorption, jealousy, fear of
failure, contempt, isolation, and cynicism.
Level 3
Happiness derived from doing good for others and
making the world a better place. Level 3 happiness is more
enduring because it is directed toward the human desire
for love, truth, goodness, beauty, and unity. It is capable of
inspiring great achievements because it unites people in
142 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

pursuit of the common good, whereas Level 2 happiness

divides people. Level 3 is empathetic, not self-absorbed, and
it looks for the good in others, not their flaws. It sees life as
an opportunity and an adventure, not an endless series of
problems to overcome. Because people have limits, Level 3
happiness also has its limits. None of us are perfect, so we
can't find perfect fulfillment in other people.
Level 4
Ultimate, perfect happiness. When others fall short of
our ideals, or we fall short ourselves, we're disappointed.
This disappointment points to a universal human longing
for transcendence and perfection. We don't merely desire
love, truth, goodness, beauty, and unity; we want all of
these things in their ultimate, perfect, never-ending form.
People of faith recognize this desire as a longing for union
with God, and they recognize perfect happiness can only
come as a gift through faith in God. But even people who
don't have faith have a similar type of longing, which may
express itself through philosophy, through art, or through
scientific efforts to solve the mysteries of life and the
If you don't have these commitments firmly in place if
you talk about the win-win but you don't bring people to a
Level 3 empathy for others - the win-win is very hard to
It will sound good and it will seem to make sense, but it
won't stick. When times get tough, people will revert to a
win-lose mindset unless they have the underlying personal
identity and desires that are commensurate with the win-
win philosophy Covey promotes. You really need a Level
3, contributive identity.
By the way, the win-win is very smart approach. I use it
all the time.
The Mother of All Bureaucracy 143

The reform of the State bureaucracy

The Heads and former Heads of State and Government
agreed with the expert panel's report following three major
action principles:
State bureaucracy reform constitutes an essential
part of the efforts of Heads of State and Government
(HSGs) to consolidate democracy, making it more
participatory, accountable, honest, transparent, and
politically effective.
To transform State bureaucracy into an instrument
for democracy building, HSGs need to pursue
decentralization, strengthen coordination, and place
tighter monitoring on State bureaucratic activities.
The three should come as a package.
Decentralization requires greater policy coordination
if it is not to undermine bureaucratic effectiveness,
and a routine monitoring of the abuses of public
authority and power if it is not to degenerate into a
corrupt system of rule by 'oligarchs'.
State bureaucracy reform is a political enterprise
rather than a 'technocratic' task because it directly
affects how power is organized and operated. The
HSGs should think politically if they are to succeed
in State bureaucracy reform.
Yet, some HSGs noted two weaknesses in the experts'
report. Based on their personal experience, some HSGs
thought the report should have been more "holistic,"
explicitly and directly noting its complex interconnectedness
with reform on both the judiciary and legislative branches,
as well as civil society and party politics. This is true
especially for monitoring because corruption has many deep
causes. Fighting it only through State bureaucracy reform
is bound to fail. For monitoring to succeed, HSGs need:
144 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

A legislature willing to enact tough laws.

A 'clean' judiciary judging cases in a fair manner.
Political parties with a system of transparent
Citizens understanding why corruption is bad.
And a vibrant but egalitarian economy, which
assures individuals a secure life and reduces their
temptation to resort to corruption to 'protect'
themselves from absolute poverty.
Adopting a holistic approach to State bureaucracy
reform accordingly is to think of it as an unending' process'
and to pursue it gradually with a balanced mind. Especially
in regard to monitoring, many participants warned against
a threat of political instability and economic chaos if it is
pursued without a sense of balance. Their advice is, always
carefully navigate in between complementary and yet
competing political values, one of which is anticorruption,
and achieve a balance between stability and reform. Without
stability, everything, including one's dream to build a 'clean'
open society, may be lost.
The other weakness in the experts' report noted by HSGs
concerns its lack of attention to education and
communication. Especially for monitoring to succeed, it is
critical to educate individual citizens concerning why
corruption is bad, why HSGs are doing what they do, and
how they can make a difference. This is because without a
major change in 'popular culture, values and norms, it is
impossible to clean up corruption. Moreover, only when
society feels it 'owns' State bureaucracy reform can HSGs
mobilize it as an ally to overcome bureaucratic resistance.
The HSGs should prepare an education and communication
strategy as an integral part of State bureaucracy reform.
Without communication, everything is lost.
The Mother of All Bureaucracy 145

The HSGs agreed with the panel of experts'
recommendation to focus on decentralization for two
Decentralization, more than any other parts 9f State
bureaucracy reform, constitutes an act of democratic
consolidation because decentralization empowers
individual citizens to participate in politics, hold
politicians and State bureaucrats accountable for
their actions, and establishes a system of checks and
The HSGs should focus on decentralization also
because if it is to succeed, HSGs need to move
simultaneously on greater coordination and tighter
monitoring. Decentralization serves as a catalyst
for systematically asking oneself how to organize
coordinating powers and what to monitor.
The HSGs also strongly agreed with the recommendation
made by the panel of experts for tying in together political
and fiscal decentralization, because only then will
decentralization result in bureaucratic efficiency,
accountability and transparency. As seen by both HSGs
and the panel 'pf experts, competitive elections at
subnational levels give political parties a strong incentive
to keep an eye on each other's political actions, thus
increasing efficiency, transparency, and accountability. By
contrast, transferring some tax authority to subnational
governments forces their leadership to accurately calculate
and consider costs when raising each additional unit of tax
and, in doing so, makes it politically responsible as well as
economically efficient.
In spite of such a broad agreement, the HSGs warned
against four dangers that they thought the panel of experts
did not take into account. The dangers are as follows:
146 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

Decentralization can destroy an emerging

democracy's already existing bureaucratic
mechanism for control, superVIsIOn and
coordination, without creating any new institutions.
The HSGs need to defend' good' existing institutions
when trying to create new centers of power.
The HSGs should not think of decentralization only
in terms of devolving State power downward to
subnational levels. Equally critical, if not more
important, is preventing excessive centralization
within anyone central State bureaucracy. This
problem exists even after a substantial devolution
of State power to subnational governments. The
HSGs should try to push power and responsibility
down from minister to bureaus, divisions, and
sections in each ministry.
The empowering of society should not lead one to
assume an automatic political support from
individual citizens for decentralization. The society
is interested in receiving quality public service from
State ministries and views decentralization only as
an instrument for such a public value. Nor is it
correct to always see subnational governments as
an active supporter for decentralization. More often
they footdrag, if not oppose it, because they fear it
will burden them with additional responsibilities.
To win their support, HSGs must also transfer
powers and resources downward. Even then, HSGs
will encounter serious political risks without many
needed allies and friends when decentralizing. Only
an unwavering presidential commitment will allow
reformers to carry out decentralization.
For plural societies with sharp ethnic, linguistic, or
religious cleavages, decentralization, if timed
wrongly, organized incorrectly, and ineffectively
The Mother of All Bureaucracy 147

explained to society, will backfire and intensify

, tribal' conflicts. There is a real danger of one or
another larger ethnic group hijacking subnational
governments to exclude lesser forces from political
power and economic prosperity. In such a case,
monitoring mechanisms, however structured and
processed, will not function as planned. To prevent
decentralization from aggravating ethnic tensions
and degenerating into political rule by a larger tribe
against lesser ones, HSGs should try to make each
subnational government unit as homogeneous as
possible in ethnic terms and flexibly reflect local
conditions in one's design for decentralization, but
in ways which do not put into motion powerful
secessionist political movements. The HSGs should
adopt cohesion and identity as two major principles
governing decentralization and make each
subnational unit of political authority internally
homogeneous, but also externally capable of living
together with other units and imagining itself as an
integral part of a larger nation.
The HSGs also called for adopting subsidiarity as a central
principle when deciding what to decentralize and not
decentralize. This means that HSGs should identify what
is best achieved through decentralization and focus on only
those as priority items. Education is one promising area for
reform. For smaller emerging democracies, HSGs should
consider an option of decentralizing public services but not
necessarily State organization in order to minimize costs.
Decentralization may be a too expensive option for smaller
For new democracies located in Europe, decentralization
has an external dimension. The transfer of power and
responsibility to subnationallevels occurs with a partial
transfer of sovereignty to its supranational regionalist
148 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

organization, the EU, whose mission is to create

supranational centers of power. The HSGs in Europe should
seize such supranational regional integration processes as
an opportunity to flexibly restructure State organization.
The HSGs agreed on the experts' recommendations to
use a strong, autonomous central bank as their "last pillar"
of economic order in case all other coordinating mechanisms
fail under political pressures; to build a professional career
civil service as a principle, but recruit outside experts more
or less depending on goals, means and actor characteristics
of any given issue area; and to appoint an "honest broker"
to facilitate communication between all critical stakeholders.
However, some HSGs voiced a strong caution against
dividing up budgetary, .financial, and personnel
management responsibilities into three separate ministries,
especially if there does not exist a highly developed
professional civil service. Where restrictive rules and norms
on civil service recruitment do not exist, institutionally
separating personnel management power from budgetary
and financial responsibilities can result in a disastrous
increase of State bureaucrats, because political leaders are
always tempted to use State bureaucracy as a tool for
political patronage. For such States with a weak civil service,
HSGs recommended placing all three powers in the ministry
of treasury and delegating power to its minister. The
treasury is a source of stability in democratic transition and
All the HSGs recognized a greater need for monitoring,
but they differed significantly on how strong and
autonomous monitors should be. The HSGs were divided
into two groups, one assuming an uncompromising activist
posture against .corruption, and the other being more
The Mother of All Bureaucracy 149

cautious or conditional in supporting anticorruption drives.

This difference partly reflected how corruption-prone their
politics were. The HSGs from high corruption societies
tended to oppose setting up an autonomous, powerful
monitoring mechanism, lest anticorruption drives explode
into an uncontrollable systemic crisis. The other group
without a similar fear could, by contrast, agree more readily
with the Expert ~roup' s recommendations which included
to set up the following: an auditor separated from both the
executive and legislative branches; an anticorruption agency
with power independently to investigate and even prosecute
criminal cases a constitutional court to perform
constitutional review on both executive and legislative
branches' political actions; an administrative court to correct
abuses of power on issues involving citizens; and an
ombudsman to investigate complaints submitted by
individuals to the legislature.
Those more sceptical of monitoring mechanisms offered
deregulation as a more effective way to reduce abuses of
public authority for private gains.
Regardless of one's stand on whether to establish an
autonomous monitoring mechanism, all HSGs expressed a
grave concern on both the media's and political parties'
propensity to use rumors on corruption to hurt politicians.
The issue of corruption has corrupted political discourses,
one HSG argued.
One HSG called for international cooperation to fight
corruption. Possible measures include regulation of bank
secrecy and confidentiality, international regulation of tax
havens, and cooperation between national monitoring

Perfection of Meritocracy or
Ritual of Bureaucracy

The paper addresses HRM systems and practices in a
large multinational management consultancy company.
The company invests a lot of resources in HRM tasks, and
is frequently praised by employees for its accomplishments
in hiring, developing and promotion in practice.
HRM as a belief system and as practices then do not
harmony particularly well. The paper critically interprets
the meaning and the functions of the HRM system and the
beliefs supporting it. The paper suggests are-interpretation
of HRM systems and practices based on a culturalsymbolic
perspective. It points at a) the limits and shortcomings of
HRM systems in terms of rationality, b) the significance of
organizational symbolism in accounting for the role of HRM
systems and practices - symbolizing rationality and
commitment to people improvement as well as a highly
competent work force and c) the various effects of these
systems and practices on employee compliance.
It is common for people with an interest in people issues
in business to emphasize the crucial significance of
personnel - or human resources to use the nowadays most
Perfection of Meritocracy or Ritual of Bureaucracy 151

common label. Many researchers and practitioners stress

the human resources and partly overlapping elements such
as corporate culture, knowledge and core competence, as
universally significant (Pfeffer, 1994; Tichy et aI, 1982). This
claim can with greater confidence than in any other sector
be made about what can be referred to as the knowledge
intensive sectors. The importance of the personnel the
organizational members - in knowledgeintensive firms is a
widely emphasized. Since most, if not all, knowledge-
intensive firms lack assets, others than the competences and
capabilities of the work force, the personnel are truly these
companies most important resource. Predictably,
knowledge-intensive companies stress the importance of
securing loyalty and commitment.
Today, most thinking in this matter tends to be subsumed
under the HRM label, where the abbrevation HRM stand
for human resource management. Human resource
mandgement is a loose concept that signifies a highly diverse
set of frameworks, ideas, concepts, and practices.
HRM focuses on what broadly can be described as the
human side of enterprise recruitment, training, staffing,
career planning and development, compensation, and
labour relation. Most HRM thinking emanates from a
managerial perspective and most, but not all, takes this
perspective for granted. The common denominator lies in
the object of study, rather than in theoretical elaboration,
or methodological consistency. Many HRM authors al
argue that human resource management is a core strategic
activity, in fact as important as developing mission and
strategy, and designing organizational strategy. According
to Tichy et aI, human resource management consists of four
key activities selection, appraisal, rewards and development
that typically follows a cycle, the so-called IIhuman resource
cycle". Other HRM authors, with a normative rather than
rationalist interest, also or instead emphasise organizational
152 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

culture and managerial philosophies as important tools for

creating commitment among organizational members, which
along with competence, cost effectiveness and congruence being
the key watchwords for managing human resources.
HRM is less of a particular well developed theoretical
framework as a claim about changing corporate practices
in dealing with personnel issues. It is not entirely clear if,
and if so, to what extent, HRM represents something new
and radically different. The real difference between HRM
and PM is "not what it is but who is saying it" , according
to Fowler. There seems to be some indications on a shift in
Although HRM as a theoretical construct may be
problematic there is little of HRM theory the label seems
to have catch on in practice. Most organizations today claim
to have human resource departments and human resources
manager, thus implying that the human resources
somehow is managed .
We will investigate a case of a set of HRM practices that
can be said to extremely ambitious and of key significance
for the success of a company. In this paper we will take a
close look at the HRM system at a very large international
consultancy firm. This firm claims to have and use a very
rational and ambitious HRM system in which people are
assessed, developed and screened out so that a highly
competent, motivated and wellfunctioning work force is
Promotion decisions during certain intervals is important
here, as is more frequently carried out assessments of
performances and development needs in connection to
project work as well as various devices for developing
people. People praise this system, for its usefulness for junior
personnel and for its capacity to deliver an effective work
force, where hierarchical position and competence is an
Perfection of Meritocracy or Ritual of Bureaucracy 153

almost perfect match. However, a closer look indicates

plenty of deviations from the ideal. Even though people
stress a positive view on the company's systems and
performances in terms of HRM many also express
contradictory opinions and evaluations of HRM practices.
The paper will point at a number of cracks in the HRM
machinery, cracks indicating tendencies to breakdowns in
trust and credentials, that do not lead to such consequences
due to various efforts to prevent the cracks from fully
materializing in people's talk and consciousness.
Consequently, the paper critically interprets the meaning
and the functions of the HRM system and the beliefs
supporting it. These concern a) identity-constructing
functions building up self-confidence and feelings of
. belonging to an elite; b) the faith and pride in the company
facilitated by the symbolism of the HRM systeMS and
practices; and c) the usefulness of an ambitious HRM system
in signalling to the external world the rationality of the
company and the high quality of the personnel indicated
by its qualitysecuring set of practices for processing and
assessing the personnel. The value of the personnel on the
consultancy service as well as the labour market is thus
increased. It is argued that different actors develop different
myth-preserving logics and tactics, contingent upon
position and overview.
The paper has two ambitions. The first is to investigate
and through light on HRM in an organization where the
reasons for putting a lot of effort into optimizing the
competence of the personnel in recruitment, assessment,
development and promotion are exceptionally strong. The
difficulties of optimization or even accomplishing a high
level of rationality is explored. The second objective is to
suggest a symbolic understanding of the workings of the
HRM systems and practices. This follows fairly closely the
empirical material, but should be of more general relevance
for the understanding of HRM in an organization theory
154 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

context. The symbolism of HRM means that it is not the

functional efficiency as much as what the structures and
practices symbolize in terms of the ability and competence
development of the personnel, the company's qualities viz.
the client and the labour market, etc. that become significant.
HRM and people processing
Legge (1995) claims that HRM is in many ways a recycled
version of traditional personnel management, but with
emphasis on different aspects the rhetoric of HRM seeks to
secure new meanings and emphases compared to the
normative personnel management models. According to
Legge, the rhetoric presents HRM as:
aimed at managers and core workers, rather than a
work-force collective
connecting personnel issues with business strategy
and bottom-line results
focusing management on cultural and symbolic
means of persuasion Drawing mainly on the work
of Foucault, Townley (1993) argues that HRM
practices provide certainty and closure to the
relation between employers and employees. In
Foucauldian terms, HRM operates as a particular
field of power-knowledge, disciplining and
normalizing the employer-employee relationship. As
Townley put it.
By presenting HRM as a process of power-knowledge. I
am redirecting interest from the truth or falsity of discourse
towards its functioning. The type of questions that are
prompted in research relate to the production of knowledge
and its effects. In particular, research moves away from
the notion of practice as a technicist construct.
Recruitment, assessment and selection are typically
viewed from two radically different point of view: the
Perfection of Meritocracy or Ritual of Bureaucracy 155

scientific selection perspective and the social process

perspective. The scientific selection perspective strongly
dominates the HRM literature. It is based on the idea that
recruitment, assessment and development deals with people
that have stable sets of skills and capacities, and that these
characteristics are possible to objectivively investigate and
measure, thus making so called job performance prediction
possible. Viewed as social process recruitment, assessment,
and selection practices constitue and co-create the
One form of this social process approach simply notes
the interplay between selection events, candidates' feelings
and responses, and organizational outcomes, emphasizing
the mutual adjustments and 'negotiations' that occur. But
a more interesting and radical form sees the candidate and
the selection decision as in various ways constructed by
the process of selection and measurement. Thus assessment
centres could be seen not as discovering potential, but as
defining and constructing it.
In this paper we will look at recruitment, assessment,
and selection from a social process perspective. In this sense,
we will take an interest in both the anatomy of the HRM
system in our case and its outcomes, in terms of conduct
and frames of references.
An interpretive-cultural approach
This paper adopts an interpretive line of inquiry. Our
approach is thus not functionalistic we have now intentions
to primarily contribute to improved ways of dealing with
personnel issues through offering improved techniques and
we do not address HRM in any objectivist sense. Our version
of interpretive research draws upon a cultural
understanding of organizations. This does not necessarily
presuppose or target" corporate cultures" in the sense of
unitary and unique set of meanings, values and symbolism
156 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

corresponding to companies, but takes an interest in the

level of meaning in organizations shared by smaller or larger
groups and the significance of symbolism for how people
communicate and make sense of their shared worlds.
We use the term 'organizational culture' as a concept
for a way of thinking which takes a serious interest in
cultural and symbolic phenomena. This term directs the
spotlight in a particular direction rather than is intended
to mirror a concrete reality for possible study. We agree
with Frost et al.'s 'definition' of organizational culture:
'Talking about organizational culture seems to mean talking
about the importance for people of symbolism - of rituals,
myths, stories and legends and about the interpretation of
events, ideas, and experiences that are influenced and
shaped by the groups within which they live.' We will also,
however, take organizational culture to include values and
assumptions about social reality, but for us values are less
central and less useful than meanings and symbolism in
cultural analysis. This position is in line with the view
broadly shared by many modern anthropologists. Culture
is then understood to be a system of common symbols and
meanings. It provides' the shared rules governing cognitive
and affective aspects of membership in an organization,
and the means whereby they are shaped and expressed.
Culture is not primarily 'inside' people's heads, but
somewhere 'between' the heads of a group of people where
symbols and meanings are publicly expressed, e.g. in work
group interactions, in board meetings, in formal procedures
but also in material objects.
Culture then is central in governing the understanding
of behavior, social events, institutions and processes.
Culture is the setting in which these phenomena become
comprehensible and meaningful. A symbol can be defined
as an object a word or statement, a kind of action, a
procedure or a material phenomenon that stands
Perfection of Meritocracy or Ritual of Bureaucracy 157

ambiguously for something else and or something more

than the object itself. A symbol is rich in meaning it
condensates a more complex set of meanings in a particular
object and thus communicates meaning in an economic
way. Occasionally, the complexity of a symbol and the
meaning it expresses calls for considerable interpretation
and deciphering. People have private symbols, but in an
organizational context it is collective symbolism that is of
most interest.
Sperber interprets as symbolic 'all activity where the
means put into play seem to be clearly disproportionate to
the explicit or implicit end that is, all activity whose
rationale escapes me'. As Gusfield and Michalowicz note,
what is symbolic for one person may be non- symbolic for
another. Still, we think it is wise to use ' symbol' as a
conceptual tool for making sense of the hidden or latent
meanings of an object.
The Case
Excellence is a large consulting company and employing
over 25 000 people worldwide. We focus on the
Scandinavian subsidiary that employs approximately 700
people, but this follows the same overall philosophy and
procedures as other subsidiaries. Excellence conducts
management consultancy (broadly defined). They target
large organizations as customers. The company has double-
digit growth in sales, and has been growing at that rate for
some time. Below we will specify the parts of Excellence's
HRM system - recruitment, career structure, appraisal and
evaluation systems, and development.
Recruitment: selectivity and standardization
Almost everybody working at Excellence has an
academic degree. Consultants are mainly recruited directly
from the larger Swejish Universities. Degrees in business
administration or engineering are mandatory. Excellence
158 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

attempts to profile itself as an elitist, demanding but richly

rewarding place to work. Judging from polls among
Swedish business administration and engineering students,
the students seem to have got the message and also decided
to approve. Excellence consistently ranks high in polls over
most attractive employer.
Excellence is growing rapidly. It also has a rather high
employee turn over, something it shares with almost
everybody else in this business sector. Taken together, this
means that recruitment and retention are crucial areas for
Excellence. The recruitment process is, as a consequence of
the large number of recruitments every year, elaborate, time-
consuming and, involves to one degree or another, more or
less everybody at Excellence. All employees, and even
partners, are expected to take part in various recruitment
efforts, such as presenting the company at Universities,
interviewing job seekers, and generally looking out for
people to hire. The HR department administers recruitment,
but consultants decide upon who will be employed. The
recruitment process is organized around two basic elements:
screening and interviewing. Screening consists mainly of
an evaluation of candidates qualifications. Interviewing is
a somewhat more elaborate process where candidates are
invited to Excellence headquarters in Stockholm and
interviewed twice: once by HR personnel and once by senior
consultants. The HR department has a goal of not taking
longer than two weeks from first interview to final decision.
Our informants indicate that they seem to meet that standard
at the moment.
Excellence claims that they recruit the "best people".
They can probably mobilize back up for that claim, at least
in the Scandinavian context. However, not all
organizational members are convinced that Excellence is
capable to keep the "best people" and that they loose a
large proportion of the most competent personnel.
Perfection of Meritocracy or Ritual of Bureaucracy 159

There is a general feeling that the standardized

methodology and work procedures, and the standardized
career paths stifle creativity and make promotion a matter
of seniority rather than qualification. Excellen,ce are
currently attempting to counter this tendency. For example,
they are condu_cting general revision of the career
opportunities and career paths. They attempt to cut down
on the time that it takes to make partner. They are
developing schemes for profit-sharing. Finally, they are also
attempting to find ways to channel entrepreneurial urges
among organizational members within the firm, rather than
leaving them no space for such activities and, thus,
passively forcing them to quit.
Promotion and career structure
The Firm is generally understood to be a career company.
Initial advancement is expected to be swift for the
individual. There are four basic levels: analyst, consultant,
manager and partner. New personnel typically start as
analysts. Exceptions are made for so-called "experienced
hires", employees with work experience prior their
employment at Excellence, that theoretically can enter at
any level. In practice, most, if not all, experienced hires enter
at the consultant level. Their experience often facilitate
career advancement, but some of our informants have
hinted that lacking the 'normal' path of socialization may
slow career advancement for experienced hires. Employees
are expected to advance within 12-18 months as analyst
and within 2-4 years as consultants. They then become
"managers", i.e. they get this title and gradually are
functioning as project managers. After the manager level,
advancement becomes more difficult. After 3-6 years as
managers people are either put on "the partner track" or
not. Far from everybody on the track do become partners.
This means that only a very careful chosen few of all that
starts as junior members of the firm ever makes it to the
160 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

partner level. Many leave entirely based on their own choice.

Those not being promoted are expected to leave the
company in due course and almost everybody do. The
company then works on an up-or-out-system.
Appraisal and evaluation systems
The employees at Excellence are under constant
performance evaluation. Sometimes people in the company
talk about a "feedback culture", but evaluation and
feedback is fairly strictly formalized. Evaluation is organized
in two main processes. First, employees are evaluated in
relation to their individual development. This process is
labeled c-mapping and is carried out three to four times
every year. The employee's nearest boss, usually the project
leader of the project where the employee currently works,
here primarily evaluates the employee.
Employees are expected to propel this process themselves
to a high degree. They are expected to articulate new targets
for development, after they have received the feedback from
the project leader. The feedback, on the other hand, is
expected to be constructive and to help the employee to
identify strengths and weaknesses. The general idea is that
everybody should be evaluated in similar ways and
according to similar criteria. Thus, there are several tools
available - policy documents, forms, and standardized
software - to ensure that everybody is treated in a fair and
unbiased way.
You have the c-maps, which is our tool for formal
feedback. Ideally you start by determining the criteria,
together with your project leader. And there are five common
criterias, such as creating trust, adding value, and so on.
And then you typically have more specific criteria. Am I a
better programmer than expected? Am I better on
communicating than expected? There are standard levels.
And thats well-defined in the tool, how an analyst is
Perfection of Meritocracy or Ritual of Bureaucracy 161

expected to perform, a consultant and so on. And then you

pick three or four criterias and then you set the expectations:
in three months you should have done this and this. And
the the project leader writes a brief summary after the three
months, with your contribution. Typically it also includes
comments on your strengths and weaknesses,. This is put
together into a file that is send to HR and stored there. And
then you have the annual review, counselling, where your
development plan is developed and evaluated.
Second, employees are ranked by their superiors in a
process labeled banding. Banding occurs once a year. The
employee is ranked in category I, 2 or 3. Band 1 is reserved
for top performers. Category 2 is regarded as acceptable
performance. Band 3 is a warning signal, that you are an
under-achiever and need to get your act together. Banding
is important because it directly influence compensation:
salary influences, career development and perks. The idea
is that banding is linked to c-map information. Several good
c-maps accumulate into a good (category 1) banding. As
we will discuss later on, the picture is murkier and more
ambiguous in practice. The banding procedure is secretive:
only the employee and his or her superiors knows about
one's banding. Employees are actively discouraged to
discuss their banding with each other.
The people at Excellence have fully embraced the rather
modern idea that knowledge is scarce, important and
business critical. Thus, they invest a lot of money, time and
other resources in the development of the individual.
First, newcomers start with a three week long
introduction program which typically include a trip to the
US for a week at the corporate training facility and later
follows other forms of training.
Second, Excellence have put much effort in developing
162 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

a sophisticated system for knowledge management. Apart

from the databases and websites, the knowledge
management systems at Excellence is organized around so-
called competence groups and knowledge champions. A
competence group is roughly a group of consultants,
organized around a theme (for example ecommerce or
performance management), that gathers regularly and
exchanges knowledge and experiences about the theme.
Each consultant is encouraged to take part in at least one
of them (it is possible, even common, to participate in
several competence groups). Competence groups make sure
that the information and the cases in the databases are
updated. Knowledge champions are people who are
designated to systematize the knowledge yielded in projects.
Third, junior consultants are always paired with a senior
consultant, who operates is his or her counsellor which is
also the official title. The idea is that senior consultants shall
operate as mentors and help junior consultants in their
development. According to our informants, the counsellor
is primarily important in making sense of the intricacies of
internal politics al Excellence. In particular, the counsellor
is important in the banding process since the counsellor
speaks for the consultant under evaluation in the process.
The counsellor is also important since he or she provides a
way to shelter from exploitation from overambitious project
managers, and also to communicate to the higher echelons
of the company hierarchy.
Fourth, knowledge- and information-sharing activities
occur continuously at Excellence. There are seminars, work-
shops, information meetings, and so on almost 24/7.
Internal speakers, external speakers, customers, vendors,
university professors, think-tank analysts participate
regularly: everything one can image in our information-
soaked era. Employees are expected to participate, and they
do so willingly, since the traffic of knowledge and
Perfection of Meritocracy or Ritual of Bureaucracy 163

information emphasizes and underscores an important

assumption about working at Excellence - that this is a place
for those that value competence and has high ambitions.
The fifth, and most important ingredient, is project
manpower planning taking the developmental aspect into
account. When staffing projects, the individual's
development situation is carefully considered: getting
juniors to work with different project managers, taking new
and more deman, roles, getting options to work with
things they are not that good with, etc.
A system that works - members' perception of the HRM
The general perception among organizational members
at Excellence is that the HRM system delivers. In particular,
two aspects are highlighted. First, there is a widespread
belief that the the corporate system for selection, promotion
and ranking is reliable and that the resulting hierarchy
expresses valid differences in technical and managerial
competence. Second, it is commonly thought that the HRM
system is successful in developing individuals, someting that
is believed to validated by the fact that employment at
Excellence makes individuals more attractive in the labor
market. In other words, HRM practices and supporting
cultural orientations means quality assurence through a)
effective sorting Iflechanisms in recruitment and promotion
and b) effective people improvement. ,
Hierarchy and differentiation as mirrors of competence
and meritocracy The hierarchy at Excellence, which is fairly
elaborate to begin with, is typically further elaborated to
include how many years the individual have served at his
or her present level. This practice is generally perceived to
map competences and capacities accurately. The elaborated
formal differentiation system is seen as mirror the actual
competence of the employees.
164 . Bureaucracy and Development Administration

It should be emphasized that hierarchy is not valued

for its own sake. The authoritanian aspects inherent in
hierarchical arrangements is typically considered with
suspicision, and several of our informants voiced concern
over the hierarchy's stifling effect on creativity. However
hierarcy is valued at Excellence, not because it provides a
unitary chain of command, but because it is believed to
accurately express meritocracy. It is is the meritocratic value
of differentiation that makes hierarchy perceived as
legitimate and even necessary among organizational
The reason why it works at Excellene is because people
get promoted, not because they have been working a certain
number of years at the firm, but because they are ready to
take the responsibility. They have the experience and they
have the competence. And, usually, you create respect in
relation to the lower levels of the organization, and pay
and economic compensation come with the responsibility.
They are connected. As a consequence, I would say that a
project hierarchy is necessary if you are going to work in a
large project. It could be different if you are running a
speaking partner-consulting project. So I think that if you
take a look at this deliverance culture and our capacity to
really deliver a product, it is related to the fact that we are
good at running big projects.
It is worth noting the enormous confidence in the ability
to assess, produce and structure the ability of people in a
formal system. Little doubt is raised whether human
capacities are that well ordered and possible differentiate
along hierarchical1ines, or that the assessments and formal
differentiation structures exhibit a high degree of rationality
in dealing with these capacities.
The HRM system as quality proof of the personnel
Several of our informants pointed out, when asked why
Perfection of Meritocracy or Ritual of Bureaucracy 165

they have applied for work at Excellence, that they believed

that it would make them more attractive at the labor market
and that it, at least, would look good on their CV's to have .
worked at Excellence. Many, in particular at higher
hierarchical levels, credited the HRM system for a very good
reputation of the personnel on the labor market.
Then we have that one, at least that is what we say to
explain it to ourselves, our reputation is very good
concerning our employees. If you have five years at
Excellence on your CV, then they don't care to look at your
degree etc. They practically don't care to look at anything
at all, they just say: "Okay, here is the job if you want it".
They know that the quality of the people we hired is assured,
and that we have trained and developed them. This makes
our employees very attractive to everything from head-
hunters or ex-employees to, well, other consultancy firms
too, that know us quite well.
One interviewee compares Excellence with another,
medium-sized consultancy firm he worked for earlier, and
emphasizes the superiority of the former in its people
development and screening process, resulting in a very fine
match between level and capacity of people. At
Administrative Consulting, there is a hierarchy as such,
but there older people, so to speak, could be in the middle
of the pyramid. And there was also people who advanced
in the organization, but who lacked the respect and the
knowledge that they should have. So already by that time,
some of the credibility of this project organization was
damaged, even if there were attempts, during my time
there, to professionalize this approach. There were a couple
of seniors who didn't perform very well. These people don't
exist at Excellence, or at least they are extremely rare, they
just don't stay. There is an "up-or-out" system. It is not
brutal. People are not sacked because they fail in a project.
But over a longer period, in one way or another, these people
disappear. '
166 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

To sum up: Excellence's HRM system is based on elite

confirmation: a strong brand name and broad recognition
of belonging to 'the best and the brightest'. The idea of an
elite is justified and reinforced through up-market
recruitment, relatively long periods of training, good options
for competence development, cooperation with bright
people, high wages and career prospects (either within or
outside the company), and, perhaps most important, careful
screening procedures in recruitment and promotion. In
addition, the fact that even the most junior consultant
sometimes works not very far from the client's top
management team.
Some HRM problems at Excellence
As a direct consequence of the practice of primarily
recruiting people directly from university, a large proportion
of the work force works as underlings, with little individual
responsibility and discretion. This discrepancy is to a large
extent managed through complementary HRM practices.
The young and unexperienced people who forms the bulk
of the large-scale projects are typically willing to
subordinate themselves to the systems and structures of the
work methodology. The degree of compliance called for is
related to the initial uncertainty felt by newcomers. The
recruitment of very young and talented people is related to
hierarchy and career steps. The intake of young consultants
call for relatively well structured project management and
the monitoring of more qualified people, i.e. strongly
asymmetrical relations. Thus, a vital motive for starting and
continuing working for Excellence is the career
The HRM system at Excellence operates in a manner
that provides some instant gratification for often hard,
routine, and repetitive work sometimes carried out in a
highly formatted way and with few degrees of freedom.
However, it promises stronger rewards in due course, with
Perfection of Meritocracy or Ritual of Bureaucracy 167

a promise that eventually, if you as a member work hard

enough, is smart enough, and don't make peers, superiors
or customers uncomfortable, will be gratified lavishly later
on: both in terms of material compensation and personal
autonomy. The elite image, the campus atmosphere, and
the relatively high salaries are some important ways
Excellence furnish instant gratification, that in many ways
offers a taste of what might come. The relatively transparent
career structure provides a predictable path for the
individual, which makes it possible for he or she to create
checks and balances: hard work and subordination now,
windfall, status and autonomy later. The constant
evaluation offers possibilities for gauging how well one is
doing, both for the company and for the individual.
Competence groups and training programs alJows for
corrective action, thus making it possible for individuals to
reframe their positions when evaluations are bad or career
advancement has hit a speedbump.
Still, working at ExcelleI'ce, at least on the junior levels,
calls for quite a lot of subordination and willingness to
accept long working hours and to work in a fairly
hierarchical structure, in which a lot of systems regulate
how things should be done. According to some interviewees
this leads to a somewhat negative selectivity in terms of
who stays in the company.
If one is expressing the ambition that the company will
hire the best people, take them in and put them in a box
telling them to do so and so. Then it is not the best people
sitting in the box, but the most adaptable people.
A significant problem for Excellence is to be able to attract
and retain sufficient number of good people. The retainment
problem escalates on a hot labour market, in which the
experienced personnel are very attractive. The instrumental
motives which one has relied upon may then make people
inclined to go for attractive offers - in terms of financial
168 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

compensation - from others. This is not necessarily only a

matter of instrumental motives. As wage and other forms
of compensation is seen as closely related to status and
worth, willingness to go for the highest income may be a
tactic of confirming and strengthening one's
selfunderstanding as belonging to the elite. The HRM
procedures of Excellence then makes people focused on
external confirmation of one's value - to a high degree shown
through wages and then the symbolism of the pay level
become heightened, leading to a motivational logic around
wage maximization, undermining corporate loyalty and
intrinsic motivation.
System failures. cracks and discrepanices in the HRM
HRM practices at Excellence can be characterized as
follows: modem, coherent, ubiquitous, sophisticated, and
in many ways all-embracing. The ambitions are high and
a substantial amount of resources are put into managing it.
They are present in most work situations. As an individual,
you are frequently evaluated and asked to evaluate other
people. You are expected to help out in recruiting new
people: making interviews and participating in company-
sponsored events at business schools and universities. You
are typically engaged in one, two, or even three competence
groups, either as an organizer or as a participant. If you
are a manager or more, you are also likely to operate as a
counsellor. If you are less elevated and more junior, you
are on the receiving end of the counselorcounselee
relationship. Wherever you are and whatever you do at
Excellence, you are engaged in HRM practices or operating
in their close vincinity.
The HRM practices at Excellence may appear to be
consistent and build into a integrated framework. However,
a closer look reveals several "cracks" here defined as
Perfection of Meritocracy or Ritual of Bureaucracy 169

perceived discrepancies and inconsistencies in the

machinery that potentially threat its credibility, effectiveness
and legitimacy. A crack is a deviation from the ideal of a
robust and reliable system that is half-consciously noted
and call for repairment work. Repairment work may
address problems of the system and aim to improve it. But
arguably this is frequently difficult when it comes to
ambiguous phenomena as people processing. Repairment
may also concern the symbolic sphere the development of
meanings and lines of thinking which save people from
taking the cracks fully seriously. In this section we will
decribe and elaborate upon four deviations, possibly leading
to cracks. Two concern process, i.e. how elements in the
HRM system work. The other two relate to outcomes, i.e.
perceptions related to how the company at the end of the
day deliver what is promised in terms of optimal HR
products, i.e. right people on the right positions.
Feedback systems unreliable in delivery
HRM practices at Excellence is replete with feedback
mechanism, to the extent that it might be appropriate to
talk about a 'cult of feed-back'. Organizational members
are actively encouraged to give and seek feed-back in all
situations. Typically, organizational members praises the
feedback system, although often in a convoluted way and
not without reservations.
It's very formalized. Every project feeds a feed-back
database consisting of 20-25 preformed criteria, where you
are graded based on hierarchical level, summarized in
strengths, weaknesses, and recommendations which is
supposed to folloowed by a discussion. This is done after
the project is concluded, about sex weeks after. But you
need feed-back and guidance during the whole process.
On the whole, I think that there is a balance between
pointing out when it is not quite good and encouraging
when you are doing well.
170 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

Interestingly, the highly formalized character of the feed-

back seems to devalue its effects. Several of our informants
indicated that although they believed that feedback is
important, and that they though that Excellence excelled
in prOViding formalized feedback, the validity of the
feedback system was questionable. "We are to cautious",
one senior manager said.
Another crack in the system is evident in the way the
apparaisal and evaluation procedures actually work.
According to the norm, c-maps are written and performed
by project managers. However, we found that in practice
almost all orga~izational members write their c-maps
"I wrote my own c-map again at the Dairy-project. I
even wrote the evaluation, both contribution and summary.
Then the project manager edited it somewhat. It is not
supposed to work this way, but it does.
That consultants write their own evaluations, at least as
drafts, seems to be a common practice. In one of our
observations the project leader casually told the project
members that he wanted them to produce drafts for their
own c-maps. The request was produced in an undramatic
way, almost as an afterthought. It was recieved as trivial
and as an everyday thing. Nobody hinted anything that
resembled surprise or protest.
However undramatic as a practice, the shift from being
evaulated by another and evaluating oneself have subtle
and importants consequences. It turnS what is supposed to
be an evaluation of performance into an exercise in
articulatir.g self-knowledge. Furthermore, this exercise is
produced in a specific context and with particular linguistic
resources at hand: cmaps invites, or even forces, the
organizational members at Excellence to articulate
selfknowledge in the corporate language.
Perfection of Meritocracy or Ritual of Bureaucracy 171

One problem and a reason for the delegation of the work

with the c-maps to the individuals that these are about is
that the HRM practices are time consuming. Frequently
project managers feel that they don't have the time to spend
the several hours that may be needed to make the c-map
feedback system work. The feedback system is thus all the
time competing with other tasks and requirements and
depending on project managers devoting sufficient time to
it. At least occassionally, it is carried out in a ritualistic way
as a part of the administrative machinery.
The promotion system
The so-called banding are another example on how
practice deviate form the norm. On an ideological level
banding appears to be a textbook case of examination,
where the banding process is a simple additive process of
putting together evaluations carried out under the period,
in particular the relevant c-maps. In the banding, all project
managers of relevance should, in principle, participate. The
idea is that the decision should be as objective as possible.
As these people have written, or at least edited and put
their own evaluations on the c-maps one should anticipate
coherence between c-maps and banding. However, a closer
look at the process reveals a somewhat different dynamiCS.
For example, banding and c-maps are in practice sometimes
relatively uncoupled events, where c-maps have little direct
impact on the banding process.
I was surprised when I become involved in the banding
process, that c-maps meant so little. I though they were
important but it 'was evident that other aspects mattered
more. In practice, it is recommendations and comments from
project managers that decide. As a freshman, you think
that c-maps is the thing. A couple of good c-maps become
a good banding. But there is no clear connection between
c-maps and your banding. Rather, your banding depends
on what project managers thinks about you.
172 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

Banding as a process is hidden and kept secret for the

person who is evaluated. However, the person under
evaluation is capable, through his or her counsellor, to exert
a certain amount of influence over the banding process. In
practiCf.: the person under evaluation is expected to provide
input to the proc.ess: to suggest the persons most able to
pass judgment on his or her efforts, and through the
counsellor who will speaks for him or her raise objections
about person that might pass perceived unfair judgments.
Everybody is told to name and contact the persons who
have relevant input for ones banding. If you have a feeling
that things may go wrong anyway, you still have an
opportunity to influence the process through your
counselor. The discrepancies between the prescribed formal
procedure and the ways the various evaluation practices
loosely connect to each other may be seen as a typical
example of how organizations work and that not much
attention should be paid to it. Observation of some degree
of inconsistency is not a sufficient starting point for an
interesting study. It is, of course, difficult to assess But given
the strong claims of the company and the personnel about
the level of ambition as well as success in dealing with HRM
issues, we think reactions such as those of the interviewees
cited above are worth consideration.
Process and outcome cracks
So far, we have described some observations and
reported experiences around how HRM systems are
practiced. What does this say about the outcomes?
Inconsistencies and deviations in the performance of
practices do not necessarily lead to problems in the outcomes
of the handling of personnel issues. Even if assessments in
the context of feedback provision and the communication
of feedback in formal situations like the c-map evaluations
are not working according to the book, the company may
still, in a variety of informal ways, be good in providing
Perfection of Meritocracy or Ritual of Bureaucracy 173

feedback. Formal procedures may symbolize a corporate

commitment to feedback giving and be a reinforcing
mechanism of a feedback culture, that does the trick in a
variety of ways, including in more informal, everyday work
life situations. Promotion decisions may be done in a as far
as possible rational way, even if there is no close connection
or consistency with other parts of the HRM system.
Non-optimal functioning of formal procedures may
therefore not entirely predict outcomes, and frequently
organizational culture may compensate for the
shortcomings of formal systems, guiding informal ways of
thinking, acting and getting things straight. In addition,
the cracks mentioned only indicate that intended procedures
do not work fully, but it is difficult to assess how strong is
the discrepancy between plan and actual practice. We
therefore adress also outcomes of HRM issues, in terms of
1) whether Excellence is a highly effective feedback
machinery and the company, at the end of the day, is
experienced as promoting the right people and getting the
best to senior positions.
Clients better in delivering feedback than Excellence
Without denying the performances of Excellence is
providing feedback, it is worth noting that several people,
when not asked to focus on HRM issues, but talk more
generally about experiences in their work, emphasize the
client as an even more significant provider of feedback than
one's colleagues and superiors:
The client means a lot. Because that's where you get your
pats in the back. You rarely get that from co-workers. '"
You have to ask to get it. But the client is very good at
providing feedback.
You don't even need to hear them say it. You can feel it.
It is worth to point out that the informer in the quotation
above previously in the interview had stressed that she
174 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

thought that the feed-back system was one one of the most
attractive features at Excellence. However, as is clearly
expressed in the quotation, the feedback mechanisms - as
complete, or excessive, as they seems to be - fails to provide
sufficient "real" feedback.
Mysteries of promotion
According to our informants at junior levels, it is
sometimes difficult to see a pattern or specific criteria that
apply for promotion to the partner level. This perception is
presumably not shared by senior people and may reflect
limited insights of those not having the entire picture of
people's qualifications, but the point of interest in this paper
is this perception about the uncertainty of the promotion
process among at least a proportion of the people in the
There is even a widespread ~pinion that the meritocratic
character of the promotion structure is nullified, due to the
lack of fast advancement above the consultant level.. Several
of our informants claim, for example, that they didn't think
that it was the best people who made it to the partnership
There is a lot of people here who is extremely good and
work like dogs. But they leave the firm. Those who are
considered to be the best people here, they won't stay until
they become partners.
Thus, the promotion procedures at the higher level of
the company is both is perceived as mysterious and, to some
degree, spurios. They are considered mysterious since less
senior people sometimes have difficulties in finding a pattern
in who will be promoted and who will not. They are
considered spurious since they will not include the best
people anyway, since thay have left the company long
before they qualify for promotion to the partner level.
Perfection of Meritocracy or Ritual of Bureaucracy 175

Many people express some scepticism to the competence

of at least a proportion of the partner group. One would
anticipate that an effective system would in particular be
reliable in the screening of the people that become partners
these are the people that have passed all the people
processing improvement interventions (including all the
feedback) and all the quality tests and assessments during
more than ten years of employement. If people perceive
that more than an odd exception of those belonging to this
exclusive top group do not belong to the very best, then
some doubt of the effectiveness of the HRM system may be
an effect.
Contradictions: the highly rational HRM machinery or
something else The combination of these cracks, raise rather
strong doubts whether the employees of the company
generelly perceive its HRM practices and accomplishments
as that rational and effective. In some cases, people that
emphasize the quality checks and guarantees and the
usefulness of the promotion- and level-based categorizations
of people may well, when asked about the quality of the
personnel, have strong reservations of the outcome of all
this and express rather contradictory meanings and
assessments of the company from a HR point of view.
There are several persons here that I think was a mistake
to hire. They don't add value neither for Excellence, nor for
the client. If I left Excellence, and would have chosen ten
person to ask them to join me, I wouldn't just say" OK, line
them up". I would have been very selective, that's for sure."
(manager) The same interviewee also, like many others,
express strong reservations of the competence of some of
the partners. He thus during the interview expresses very
strong faith in the fine tuned hierarchical differentiation
system and its capacity to reflect competence and doubt
whether this has lead to a labour force of generally high
reliability and value.
176 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

Other people praise the company for its effective

feedback practices, but then indicate that there is a shortage
of feedback and that clients are better in providing this than
Excellence, as noted above in the discussion of outcome
One can see a dualism here. When talking about
employment and the company in abstract terms, it's
feedback system is praised, but when getting into work and
practice, there is a feeling of slow and little feedback from
colleagues and superiors, while the client is superior here.
Again, this does not mean that Excellence is failing
"client-orientation" may mean that the feedback from the
client, especially if it is positive carries heavy weight. But
the feeling that there is rather little and slow feedback within
the company is worth noting, as a contrast to the positive
view of the company in this respect on an abstract level.
We add a final example of a self-contradictory - or at
least incoherent account on HRM practices. The
interviewee, a senior manager, claims that hierarchy works
very well because it mirrors competence. He starts by
claiming almost perfect correspondance, but then modifies
this picture.
The reason that Excellence works is because people get
promoted, not because they have been here a couple of years
but because they are ready to handle the responsibility .
They have the experience, they have the competence. And
that often create respect among subordinates.
Previously seniority was a governing factor for
promotiom. Now maturity is even more important when
there are more differentiated career paths.
The interviewee says that the reason why it has worked
and works today is something that one perhaps did not do
previously but has done increasingly and will do even more
Perfection of Meritocracy or Ritual of Bureaucracy 1'17

in the future. The statement as a whole partly undermines

the claims about competence behind the decisive factor
behind promotion. Most of those promoted up to the present
has been done so in the past, perhaps the recent past, but
still the past and the workings of the company is an affect
of previous HRM practices, where seniority was a stronger

governing factor.
These examples highlight the incoherences and
contradictions of the meanings ascribed to the company's
HRM systems and policies on a general level and the specific
practices they seem to observe or experience closer to actual
operations. These incoherences and contradictions can thus
be located not just to different groups but also to specific
people. As they are fairly broadly shared, we can talk of
cultural manifestations rather than single, isolated
individual perceptions and sense-making processes.
Competence based ranking and promotion vs. other logics
Many of deviations from prescribed procedures and
inability to deliver all the promises of feedback provision,
people improvement and highly rational and fair screening
and promotion decisions do not come as a surprise for any,
but the most naIve believer in the perfections of
management rationality. In an complex, ambiguous world
calling for pragmatic behaviour, it makes sense that
banding and promotion may be loosely coupled to earlier
feedback and these may sometimes triggered by other
considerations than development and competence.
One reason for this is the difficulties in achieving any
high level of rationality in people issues it is difficult to
provide rich feedback due to the careful monitoring,
excellent judgement, language skills and time that this call
for. It is also diffiult to assess people and their potentials.
Other reasons concern other considerations than
competence and competence assessments as important
178 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

ingrediants in significant HR decision situations: the need

to reward people for their efforts and to give them a gocd
rating so that they feel encouraged to continue in the
Suddenly I had my own little group. So I became a project
leader of a project within the project. It was enormously
exciting and stimulating. I was partly conducting
operational work for the client, partly still working as a
consultant and thus expected to deliver manuals, sales
forecasts, and so on. You work 200 %, which have been a
bit exhausting. It has payed off. I was promoted to consultant
in less than 16 months, which is considered early. I have
really received recognition for my hard work (consultant)
Retainment issues also influence rankings and
promotions. These are to some extent used to encourage
valuable employees to stay. During a period the labour
market was very hot, and during that time some people
were promoted earlier than was common in the past.
The conventional idea that time spent means an increase
in competence also seem to enter as a strong 'rationality-
surrogate'. In the absense of exact measures, this expectation
probably affect decision-making, at least in situations that
are not clear-cut.
The great majority of the personnel strongly emphasize
the company's capacity to attract, recruit, develop and
evaluate qualified personnel. Diferentation and hierarchy
is strongly emphasized in promotion steps, titles, the kind
of work tasks and superior/subordinate relationships
people are located in. There are claims of almost perfect
meritocracy and of a dense and rationalized network of
effective cultivating of excellence. A vital element here is
feedback. At our first meeting with the company
representatives, they emphasized the "feedback culture"
Perfection of Meritocracy or Ritual of Bureaucracy 179

of the organization.
A closer look reveals many rusty parts in this machinery.
Quality checks of the outcomes are less than reassuring all
the time. The human products coming out of the production
process are sometimes not seen as up to standards. The HR
operators often is less committed to carefully scrutinize how
the machinery operates and unwilling to take the
consequences of their experiences of how things work when
assessing the company and its qualities as a whole as a
screening and people processing apparatus guaranteeing
a highly qualified workforce.
There are several interesting questions to raise here.
How to evaluate Excellence in terms of HRM practices?
Is the company performing far from "excellence" to such
an extent that its image appears to be badly supported by
substance? Or would it be unfair to claim this? Why do a
number of people hold up the view of the company as close
to perfect as an apparatus capable of gathering, improving
excellent HR products sorting away those that are not -
despite frequent instances of deviations from this. Why this
compartmentalized consciousness.
One reason is that the company, after all, is fairly
successful in attracting, selecting and keeping people that
are perceived as contributing to the effective production of
fairly reliable solutions for clients. So may be the case
irrespective of how well the HRM functions. One senior
manager, in resp~mding on a direct interviewee question,
said that it is not difficult to select those graduates suitable
for the employment, mainly based on their characters, and
the large majority, perhaps about 95 %, of these are
eventually promoted to managers, i.e. if they stay in the
company. As with all empirical material, we can't take this
at face value, but note a discrepancy between a highly
sophisticated and ambitious HRM system that far from fully
180 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

work according to what is promised and corporate practices

that seem to be broadly perceived as successful despite
deviations from the system. What role does HRM play in
the management of the company and for its result, i.e. in
addition to having some (moderate?) effects on HR issues
in a more substantive sense of securing and increasing
One of the most widely cited texts in organization studies
claim that organizations develop formal structures for
ceremonial reasons in order to adapt to the expectations to
comply with institutionalized myths. For this reason - and
not for efficiency concerns organizations develop structures
such as those associated with HRM. Meyer & Rowan
emphasize the external side of organizations legitimacy in
relationship to various external groups is a key driving force
behind the adoptation of the ceremonial structures.
Productivity is accomplished irrespective of these
structures - indeed even despite these. Organizations work
due to the uncoupling of the ceremonial structures from
efficiency-facilitating arrangements.
In the case of Excellence, the HRM structures and
practices go far beyond the requirement to follow broadly
shared myths in order to attain legitimacy. Most people in
the company would suggest that HRM guarantees high
competence and strong performances. But there are, as we
have seen, good reasons to take another path in interpreting
what this is all about that resembles the point made by.
The HRM arrangements can be seen as formal structures
somewhat loosely coupled to substantive matters, but as
carriers of "myths" about the company's competence-
guaranteeing qualities. The HRM structures signal to
external and internal audiencies that this company knows
what it is doing and that the personnel that is promoted
are thoroughly bona fide. Why buy its services. Why try to
get a job and continue in this company? Because the high
Perfection of Meritocracy or Ritual of Bureaucracy 181

level of competence that the company develops, maintains

and then offers. But how can we know this in advance?
The massive HRM arrangements indicate that so is the case.
These function as rationality-surrogates and comprise a
vital part of what impress the input (labour) as well as output
(client) markets.
Why do not people see through the problems of
delivering HRM practices and outcomes according to the
ideals? On this we can only speculate it would be to ask to
much to expect empirical inquiry to sort such tricky issues
out. Three speculations are worth mentioning.
One option is that they to some extent do, but realize
too late. The ambitious HRM arrangements are highly visible
already in recruitment situations and especially salient
during the first time in the company. When people
gradually find out of all the imperfecgions, they are less
dependent on/bother about it. After a number of years in
the company, they feel a certain selfconfidence and status
and thus independence of the quality-ensuring and
enhancing capacities of HRM. Against this speaks the
observations that also senior managers exhibit contradictory
opinions about the reliability of the HRM practices.
Employees have a strong incentive to nurture and protect
the myth. The value of the company's services and of the
individuals if they seek other jobs on the labour market are
dependent on the credibility of the company to dispose of a
highly qualified work force, and this would an interest in
communicating a strong and positive image of'the
company's management of personnel issues. Self-interest
and image management would then account for positive
views of how the HRM issues are managed at Excellence.
Against this interpretation we would claim that such image
management talk is not predominant in most of the
interviewees. All the statements include deviations from
the ideal would indicate that the image management
182 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

explanations does not tell the entire story. We think that

these points are relevant, but also that there is no single
explanation of or way to understand non-trivial
phenomena. We think that organizational participants on
the whole strongly believe in the value of the HRM
apparatus at least at many occassions - and that
experiences of the practices do not significantly undermine
this faith. They have reasons to do so partly because of the
persuasiveness of all the talk and all the arrangements
associated with assessments, feedback, promotion and
people development. There are good reasons to emphasize
the symbolism of the systems and procedures. The intensity
of HRM activities do not necessarily deliver the goods in
any rational sense a highly competent workforce. But all
the systems, procedures, acts and talk about feedback,
assessments, the frequent promotions, fine tuned
hierarchical differentiation system, and the people
improvement activities seen as closely related to these
education, selfimprovement efforts signal the presence of
an impressive apparatus for the screening of highly
competent people, the improvement of them and the re-
screening of them at frequent points at their careers. HRM
symbolizes people development and proofs on competence.
HRM systems and practices can be seen as powerful
input to what Broms & Gahmberg (1983) refer to as auto-
communication. In their analysis primary targeting strategic
management the communcation of plans and strategies do
not necessarily communicate anything instrumental, but
circulate messages organizational people themselves. The
senders are then the same group as the receivers. Something
similar can be said about the HRM system at Excellence. It
signals to all involved - and as said above the entire
organization is fairly heavily involved in various HRM
activities - the heavy commitment to and signs on an
organization capable of accomplishing meritocracy. The
HRM structures and practices thus legitimize hierarchy.
Perfection of Meritocracy or Ritual of Bureaucracy 183

Why should one obey superiors, why should one do certain

tasks and not others? Because a lot of brainpower has been
invested in building systems that make it possible to decide
the competence of people and because an enormous amount
of energy go into activities making these systems work. The
HRM apparatus then functions as a source of the
communication of the multitude of messages telling people
that they live in an organizational world where the formal
systems guarantee the competence of people and that they
should adapt to their relative positions, that the system is
fair and that it is the abilities and efforts of the employees
that account for their successes or lack thereof. HRM
systems then symbolize a kind of rationality which makes
compliance the only reasonable response.
As informants have said, there is no acceptance within
the company neither among senior actors or among one's
peer group for claims that the company is to blame for
problems. Nobody denies that in a particular assignement
or in a specific banding ranking situation, people may be
unlucky, but as a whole the company and the way it is
managing its human resources guarantees fairness and
rationality. A problem or a misfit in one assignement can
be corrected in the next one - and it is partly up to the
individual to use all the feedback, the councelor, the
assignement possibilities and the educational options to get
the career straight.
The various elements of the HRM through the
frequency, intensity and visibility - fulfill important symbolic
functions. They symbolize the rationality and the fairness
of the company the company as an effective people
improvement environment the organizational structure and
hierarchy as an expression of meritocracy and makes
compliance highly reasonable the competence and
development of the personnel, making being an
organizational member a sure sign of competence and being
184 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

a senior member a sign of even much higher competence,

as a consequence of strong people development and
screening measures.
The company like HRM in general and the contemporary
Western world at large is characterized by assumptions
about knowledge solving problems and producing certainty.
The work world and the humans populating it can be
made the targets of the rational ranking, ordering and
classification. Most likely there are great variations among
companies and different people in such beliefs. Excellence
is in this sense extremely rationalistic. But the individuals
recruited have generally been very positively evaluated by
various people-sorting assessment apparatuses if not, they
had never been employed by Excellence and are therefore
more inclined to believe in such apparatuses.
Among corporate members there is a strong basic faith
in a world capable of giving valuable feedback and thus
confirming one's worth. Being a member of this company
do confirm one's value. Being employed and promoted by
this company symbolizes something special.
They work for a company with a good reputation. It
feels a bit posh to work for Big Consulting. Eventually, one
develops a magnificient narcissist disorder, and thinks that
one is a very good person in other areas, and I think that is
a satisfying feeling for younger people. "I am successful".
And the people we recruit have always wanted to be
successful. They have always been dependent on strokes
from the environment. And they get the strokes here. They
have been A-kids since birth. We are in no way claiming
that the selfunderstanding of the people in Excellence - to
the extent that this citation says something about it - is
wrong or misleading. If pressed, we would probably agree
that the company employs able students and have far less
imperfect systems and practices for dealing with their
Perfection of Meritocracy or Ritual of Bureaucracy 185

personnel in terms of development and promotion than

most other organizations. But we are claiming that there
are considerable ambiguity in assessments and
improvements of people in this company as well as others.
The basis for employment at Excellence is primarily
characters from the university degree and we can't say that
this tell the whole story about a person's competence or
potential the fact that a person isemployed by the company
is no certain proof that he or she belongs to the best. That
most persons that-stay are promoted to the level of manager,
does not necessarily means a guarantee of their abilities.
Ambiguity is thus a significant feature and it is important
to consider how ambiguity is coped with. Symbols are vital
in this respect.
Based on this study we arrive at three conclusions. These
concern a) the limits and shortcomings of HRM systems in
terms of rationality, b) the significance of organizational
symbolism in accounting for the role of HRM systems and
practices symbolizing rationality and commitment to
people improvement as well as a highly competent work
force and c) the various effects of these systems and practices
on employee compliance.
HRM practices such as assessment, feedback provision,
development and promotion are highly difficult themes.
We have conducted a careful investigation of a very large
company that (i) has exceptionally strong reasons to give
high priority to effective HRM, (ii) does invest a lot of
resources technocratic as well as time and energy of
personnel in HRM tasks, and (iii) frequently is praised by
employees on different levels for its accomplishments.
Despite these unusually strong indications on effective
HRM, doubts can be raised about the success in this respect.
There are strong imperfections perceived deviations from
the ideals around the processes of feedback giving and
186 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

promotions. Also in assessments of the outcomes of the HRM

work, claim to have realized the ideal to a high degree do
seem to be contradicted by the experiences of people.
The strong indications of the difficulties of the HRM
systems and practices to deliver all the prescribed
ingredients and outcomes motivate that we consider an
alternative logic than the rationalistic-functionalistic one
in order to understand what goes on. If there is a lot of
ambiguity and inconsistency involved, why do not people
at Excellence acknowledge that it is difficult to assess what
people actually are doing and to provide fair and precise
feedback, that ranking and promotion decisions are tricky
and that a lot of pragmatic considerations except
Ucompetence" matter such as the need to compensate for
hard work or minimize the risk that people are leaving? As
people take seriously the finetuned hierarchy and assumes
that it almost perfectly reflects real competence, they clearly
do not acknowledge these difficulties.
Interestingly, one of Excellences most ubiquitous HRM
practices the c-map is, although on the surface appearing
to be almost a caricature on the examination, in practice
been transformed to operate in a distinctively confessional
mode. C-maps are expected to be conducted by managers
but, as noted above, almost all organizational members
write their c-maps themselves,. Thus, what appears to be
an examination is to a large extent converted into a
confession. Confessions are, as stated above, powerful tools
that provide a mean for the individual to generate self-
knowledge, articulate self-definitions, and ultimately to
engineer the self. As Townley points out.
Part of the value of the confession i~ that it produces
information that becomes part of the individual's self-
understanding. It is also important to notice that these
practices shade into other practices based not merely on
accessing individuals, but allowing or training individuals
Perfection of Meritocracy or Ritual of Bureaucracy 187

to access themselves. As noted above C-maps is constructed

in a way that makes organizational members at Excellence
to engage in an exercise to articulate self-knowledge in the
corporate language. Since c-maps also includes assessments
of strengths, weaknesses, and desired development,
organizational members are not only asked to confess who
they are, but also who they want to be: they are asked to
articulate a desired future and potential self.
Accordingly, corporate influence is subtly extended to
available forms of self-expression and -definition.
Ironically, what appears to be cracks in the system can
be interpreted as side-effects of a particular system of
governmentality: side-effects that enhance rather than
decrease the degree of control provide through the system.
Although banding and c-maps deviate from the norm, they
still take part in providing govemmentality - here in the
form of participating in the production of the professional
consultant subjectivity. In this way the system may be
effective in producing personnel, despite the deviations from
The procedures around c-maps and rankings may,
despite the best of intentions, be arbitrary and at random
or suffer from the lack of time and interest of superiors to
devote sufficient attention to them, but the ritualistic
qualities expressing certain assumptions, values and
meanings are, apparantly, convincing. Producing a career
map, going through all the issues, getting the feedback from
the superior, direct attention at imperfections and strong
sides of the subject, and indicate areas and paths of
improvement. Not that good on programming,
communication or leadership. Take a course or try to get a
new assignements were this can be practised! Not only the
detailed list of issues to consider and the criteria for getting
the verdicts need improvement", average" and"
1/ 1/

superior", but also the large amount of people improvement

188 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

options circling around in the company strongly

communicates cultural meanings such as that: a) people
need feedback (in a systematic-procedural form, delivered
by a superior), b) a lot of feedback is provided, c) the
company values this heavily, d) there are wealth of options
that can be used to improve, and e) people can improve in
this company ....The bombardment of this kind of
organizational symbolism - closely resembling but strongly
heightening meritocratic beliefs common in society but in
particular the people in this company (and to some extent
the industry at large) lead to a particular kind of mentality.
Radical questioning even in the face of contradictory
experiences is then not an option. At least not an easy one.
The amount of symbolism counteracts the tendencies to
strong doubt.
The impact of the HRM systems and practices is not
necessarily only or even mainly about making people with
potential, but imperfect in various ways, taking the
straightest path to perfection, carefully monitoring them
and through a sophisticated surveillance system locating
them exactly where they are at a specific time on this
journey. The impact may be as much in terms of affecting
motivation and accomplishing compliance. Competence is
vague and hard to assess. The same goes for motivation,
but interviewee reporting and also our direct observation
indicate very long working weeks, 60-70 hours is not
uncommon. The HRM systems provide a fairly strong sense
of fairness, of a trustworthy exchange relationship.
Assessment and promotion depend on people's capacity
and in particular their efforts to improve themselves. There
is little space for people to rationalize failures. The
elaborated HRM systems make you get what you deserve,
it is assumed. Your place in the hierarchy is a reflection of
your competence, nothing else. You get as far as your abilities
and efforts allow you. In other companies promotion is
depending on seniority, limited options (there is perhaps
Perfection of Meritocracy or Ritual of Bureaucracy 189

only one managerial job in a particular department or

function), laissez-fair, etc, but in Excellence it is different.
All this means that people connect their selfesteem and
ambitions closely to the HRM systems and the
organizational hierarchy. They are more inclined to accept
hierarchy and comply with it than in situations where it is
not made credible by the HRM apparatus and the
meritocratic ideology it simultanously draws upon and
reinforces. The HRM systems and practices then are vital
for accomplishing a highly committed and compliant work
force. Excellence mayor may be not effective in producing
a high level of competence. The company is definitely able
to produce a compliant and highly motivated personnel.
This is, as we have seen, not necessarily an effect of the
HRM system to function according to the plan - in a rational
and objective way. Through symbolizing meritocracy and
encouraging a workplace culture in which the belief and
value placed on meritocracy is heavily pronounced, the
HRM systems and practices may well be a strong element
behind the success of the company on the labour as well as
client markets.

Bureaucrats or Politicians

Policies are typically chosen by politicians and
bureaucrats. This paper investigates the normative criteria
with which to allocate policy tasks to elected policymakers
(politicians) or non elected bureaucrats. Politicians are
preferable if abili~ is less important than effort or there is ,
little uncertainty about whether the policymakers has the
required abilities; if there IS uncertainty about social
preferences and flexibility is valuable; if time inconsistency
is not an issue; if vested interests do not have large stakes in
the policy outcome; if policy complementarities and
compensation of losers is important.
Policies are chosen and implemented by both elected
representatives (politicians) and non elected bureaucrats.
The view that politicians .For useful comments we thank
an anonymous referee, Philippe Aghion, Timothy Besley,
Alessandro Lizzeri, Oliver Hart, Tom Romer, Andrei
Shleifer, Charles Wyplosz and participants in seminars at
Harvard, Princeton, Geneva, the CIAR meeting in Toronto,
March 2003, and the Wallis Conference in Rochester in
October 2003. This project was initiated while Alesina was
visiting IGIER at Bocconi University; he is very grateful for
the hospitality. Tabellini thanks CIAR for financial support.
Bureaucrats or Politicians 191

choose policies and bureaucrats implement them is too

simplistic; the boundaries between decision and execution
are a grey area and in many cases bureaucrats do much
more than executing either de jure or de facto. For instance,
in most countries non elected central bankers conduct
monetary policy, with much independence. Regulatory
policies are normally the result of both political and
bureaucratic intervention, but the rise of the regulatory state
has made the bureaucracy a key player in both the decisions
and the execution of a large amount of legislation.
Fiscal policy is by and large chosen by elected
representatives (governments and legislatures): bureaucrats
are involved in important aspects of auditing and
implementation, but they do not choose tax rates or the
amount of spending for their department. Foreign policy
decisions are made by politicians.
Is this division of tasks appropriate? More generally,
what criteria should guide the allocation of responsibilities
amongst politicians and bureaucrats? We explore this
question from a normative perspective by asking what is
the socially optimal allocation of tasks between these two
types of policymakers.
Economists have emphasized one specific argument in
favor of delegation of policy to a non elected bureaucrat:
time inconsistency in monetary policy pointed out that an
independent and inflation averse central banker not subject
to ex post democratic control would improve social welfare.
But there is more to it. For instance, fiscal policy too is
marred with a host of time inconsistency problems, but
societies seem reluctant to allocate this policy prerogative
to independent bureaucrats. An interesting question is why
this never happens, and whether it is justified by normative
criteria. An ability to commit to a course of action may even
be desirable in foreign policy, which however is always the
prerogative of appointed politicians, at least in the more
192 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

relevant phase of choosing the general strategy.

We focus the analysis on the individuals at the top (party
leaders or high level bureaucrats such as central bank
governors). Our premise is that the main difference between
top level politicians and top level bureaucrats lies in how
they are held accountable. Politicians are held accountable
at the elections, for how they have pleased the voters. Top
level bureaucrats are accountable to their professional peers
or to the public at large, for how they have fulfilled the
goals of their organization.
These different accountability mechanisms induce
different incentives. Politicians are motivated by the goal
of pleasing the voters and hence winning the elections. Top
bureaucrats want to fulfill the goals of their organization,
either because of a career concern they want to appear

competent to improve their external professional prospects

in the public or private sector - or because they draw internal
satisfatiction from doing well whatever they are expected
to do. Armed with this premise, we analyze a model of
task allocation in which a social planner exploits the
different incentives of bureaucrats and politicians and
assigns tasks to maximize social welfare.
We analyze many different types of policies. From a
normative perspective, politicians are preferable for tasks
that have the following features:
(i) good performance is due to effort more than to
ability, and the required abilities are standard in
the sense that there is little uncertainty about the
politician's ability to perform his task.
(ii) flexibility is valuable, because social preferences are
unstable and uncertain, or be- cause the policy
environment can change rapidly;
(iii) time inconsistency is unlikely to be a relevant issue
Bureaucrats or Politicians 193

and intertemporal trade-offs are not important;

iv) side payments to compensate the losers are
desirable and relevant, or bundling of different
aspects of policy management and a
comprehensive approach is important; iv) the
stakes for organized interest groups are small, or
law enforcement is weak so that corruption is
A recent literature on principal-agent models addresses
related issues in career concerns models. Dewatripont,
Jewitt and Tirole discuss the foundations of this approach
and apply it to study the behavior of government agencies.
They focus on some issues related to ours, namely how the
nature and "fuzziness" of the agencies mission shapes
bureaucratic incentives, but they do not contrast
bureaucratic and political accountability. Maskin and Tirole
investigate the attribution of responsibilities between
accountable and non accountable agents. The latter have
intrinsic motivations, while the former seek to please their
principals because of implicit rewards (career concerns).
In our set up, instead, we neglect the role of intrinsic
motivations: both bureaucrats and politicians need to be
kept accountable with implicit incentives; but the implicit
incentive schemes can be of two kinds those that define a
politician (striving for re-election), and those that define a
bureaucrat (career concerns). Schultz contrasts direct
democracy, representative democracy and bureaucratic
delegation. Like Maskin and Tirole, he views bureaucrats
as unaccountable and focuses on the trade-off between
ideological polarization and accountability: bureaucrats are
less polarized than partisan politicians, but are more
inflexible since they are unaccountable and cannot be
removed after -shocks to the voters' policy preferences.
Besley and Ghatak also study intrinsically motivated
agents, and focus on how to combine intrinsic motivation
194 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

with implicit rewards. Besley and Coate (2003) contrast

appointed and elected regulators of public utilities; both
policymakers' types are intrinsically motivated, but direct
election allows the voters to unbundle policy issues. In a
related context Hart, Shleifer and Vishny discuss when it
is preferable to delegate the provision of public goods to
private enterprises and when to keep it under control of
Issues regarding incompleteness of the contract between
politicians and private providers have close analogies with
some of the questions we address below.
The paper is organized as follows. Section 2 describes
the simplest case of our model and justifies its assumptions.
Sections 3 and 4 discuss cases of policies with a "public
good" nature and with no redistribution.
The Model
Consider a society that has to decide whether to assign
a policy task to an elected officer or to a bureaucrat. With
the generic term" policymaker" we indicate who chooses
policy, either a politician or a bureaucrat. In the simplest
case we consider a single policy, the result of which is
determined by the effort put in by the policymaker and by
his ability. Thus, the policy outcome y is:
y = e + a (1)
where a represents the effort of the policymaker and e j-
N (e, 62e) is his random ability. Ability and effort are
additive.3 Citizens care about the policy outcome according
to a well behaved, concave utility function,
u = U (y). We start with linear preferences, U (y) = y,
introducing strict concavity later when it matters.
Effort is costly, and the strictly convex and increasing
cost is labelled c = C(a). The reward for the policymaker is
Bureaucrats or Politicians 195

labelled R(a) and it differs depending on whether the

policymaker is a politician or a bureaucrat.
Both of them maximize their utility defined as:
R(a) . C(a) (2) .
with Ca > 0, Caa > 0 and R(a) to be defined below
(subscripts denote partial derivatives).
The timing of events is as follows. At the "Constitutional
Table" society chooses who has control rights over policy,
whether the bureaucrat or the politician. Next, the
policymaker chooses effort, a, before knowing his ability, e.
Finally, nature chooses e, outcomes are observed and the
reward is paid. Irrespective of who has control rights over
only the outcome y is observed by the principals, not its
composition between effort and ability. Hence the agent's
reward can only be based on the policy outcome, y.
In this simple environment, an optimal contract with
the policymaker based on performance would achieve the
first best level of effort - see appendix 1. But the assumption
that policy performance is verifiable and contractible is hard
to swallow. Public policy typically pursues many goals, that
are often hard to measure and to reward directly through
explicit and verifiable contracts. Moreover, if society could
write unre- 4 The model can be restated in terms of rent
extraction instead of effort, by defining a = .r where r > 0
are rents and V (r) (with Vr > 0 Vrr < 0 ) is the utility of
We thus assume that policy performance, y, is observable
but not contractible. Both bureaucrats and politician'1 are
rewarded based on observed performance, but through an
implicit reward scheme that contains specific restrictions
compared to an optimal explicit contract. In the next two
subsections we spell out our specific assumptions about the
196 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

implicit rewards offered to a bureaucrat and to a politician,

and giving rise to two different reward functions, RB(a)
and RP (a) respectively.
These reward functions are taken as given throughout
the analysis. Our normative question is which reward
function is more appropriate, given the nature of the policy
The bureaucrat
We posit that. the bureaucrat is motivated by "career
concerns". That is, he is concerned with the perception of
his ability ein the eyes of those that may offer him alternative
job opportunities in the private or public sector, given the
stated goals of the bureaucratic organization.
This assumption is especially appropriate for high level
bureaucrats that have already been promoted to the top of
the bureaucracy, say a central bank governor or the
chairman of a regulatory agency.
More precisely, let x be the relevant measure of
performance with which the bureaucrat is evaluated (the
stated goals of his organization).
We assume that the bureaucrat's reward is (the suffix B
stands for Bureaucrat);
RB(a) = aE(E (e I x (3)
where a is the market value of talent, E denotes
unconditional expectations over the random variable x, and
E denotes expectations over, conditional on the realization
of x. Equation (3) contains several implicit assumptions.
First, the bureaucrat cares about his talent as perceived by
outside observers representing his relevant "labor market" .
Second, the expectation of talent is formed by conditioning
on the bureaucrat's observed performance. Third, the
relevant measure of performance, x, must be defined in
Perfection of Meritocracy or Ritual of Bureaucracy 197

advance. Fourth, the market value of talent is a given

parameter, a, possibly different from.
In the context of this simple model, it is natural to assume
that the relevant measure of performance for the bureaucrat
coincides with social. At lower levels of the bureaucracy,
job security and promotions dictated by seniority only may
imply that maximizing perceived competence is not
particularly relevant for bureaucrats.
How does equilibrium effort by the bureaucrat differ
from that induced by an optimal contract? Comparing (5)
with (36a) in section 1 of the appendix, we see that the
bureaucrat puts in the first best level of effort if a = 1, i.e., if
the market value of bureaucratic talent coincides with the
true value of talent for society.6 But if the value of talent
for the bureaucrat differs from that for society, and in
particular if it is lower, then bureaucratic behavior is no
longer socially optimal.
The politician
The politicians's goal is to be reelected and this happens
if the voters's utility exceeds a threshold W. Denoting by a
the value of office, we can write the reward function for
the politician as (the suffix P stands for Politician):
RP (a) = a Pr(u jA. W) = a[l . P (W . a)] (6)
where u = y is voters' utility and where P (W . a) = Pr(e
Voters are rational. Thus, they realize that the alternative
to reelecting the incumbent is to get another politician with
average talent, who will exert the equilibrium level of effort.
It follows that:
W = -e + ae (7)
Like the bureaucrat, the politician chooses effort before
198 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

observing his talent, taking the voters' expectations as given.

With a normal distribution for e, equilibrium effort by the
politician, aP , is defined implicitly by the first order
anCe) = Ca(aP ) (8)
where nee) = 1/6eji23 is the density of the normal
distribution of e evaluated at its mean.
How does the effort of the politician compare with that
of the bureaucrat? Comparing (5) and (8), the answer is
ambiguous and depends on parameters' values. A higher
value of office, a, increases the effort of the politician, a
higher market value for bureaucratic talent, a, increases
the effort of the bureaucrat. Under the assumption that the
participation constraint is always satisfied, in this simple
example voters prefer whatever arrangement results in
higher effort. To simplify notation, and since no additional
result hinges on the value of these two parameters, in the
remainder of th~ paper we set a = a = 1.8 politician's ability
today is a signal of his ability tomorrow but some random
element of ability is present every period so that it can never
be fully learnt iIi advance. A widely studied case in the
political business ccycle literature is that of a MA (1) process
for ability. Persson and Tabellini (2000) discuss the
implications of this political model more extensively.
A more general formulation, outlined in the appendix,
would have the politician care about both re-election and,
conditional on losing office, his career prospects outside
politics. If the value of political office is sufficiently high
compared to the expected benefit of a career outside politics,
then the main implication of our model would still hold.
Since we are not considering an optimal contract, both
the bureaucrat and the politician could be earning rents in
equilibrium (i.e., their
Bureaucrats or Politicians 199

The model seeks to capture a key difference between
political and bureaucratic accountability. The politician is
held accountable by the voters who choose whether or not
to reelect him, based on their utility. The bureaucrat is held
accountable by his professional peers or by the public at
large, for how he fulfills the goals of his organization. These
different accountability mechanisms induce two behavioral
differences between a bureaucrat and a politician. First,
the form of the objective function differs: the politician strives
to achieve a threshold level of utility for the voters; the
bureaucrat wants to maximize his perceived talent. Second,
the relevant measure of performance is different: for the
politician it is the voters' utility; for the bureaucrat it is
whatever goals have been assigned to the bureaucratic
organization. In this introductory example only the first
difference plays a role, since both voters' utility and
bureaucratic performance are measured by the same
variable, y. Hence the only behavioral difference between
the two types of policymaker is that one maximizes an
expected value, the other maximizes a probability, both
defined over the same random variable. In later sections
we study richer policy environments, where the difference
over the relevant measure of performance also plays an
important role.
While the assumption that politicians maximize the
probability of victory at the election is now common, there
is not a standard model of bureaucratic behavior. Thus,
although we are not the first to use it, our career concerns"

model of a bureaucrat needs some discussion.

Consider first the assumption that the bureaucrat cares
about his talent as perceived by outside observers. While
we have justified this assumption with reference to
monetary rewards in future jobs, it can be interpreted more
broadly. Top bureaucrats may care about their perception
200 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

of talent "per se", as a matter of self-image, pride or legacy.

Alan Greenspan will probably retire after he resigns from
being chairman of the Fed, but he certainly cares about the
perception of his ability in managing monetary policy.
Next, consider the assumption that the relevant measure
of performance (from which to infer bureaucratic talent)
coincides with the goals of the organization. If there are
multiple tasks, as discussed in the next sections, then this
assumption plays an important role: it does not allow the
bureaucrat or outside observes to select other measures of
performance, for instance by focusing on tasks where the
market value of talent is higher, or where imperfect
monitoring is less of a problem. Thus, we rule out the case
in which, say, a Central Banker chooses to ignore the
problem of controlling inflation and, instead, signals his
ability in international relations by publishing speeches and
books on that topic.
This assumpt!g.n can be defended on several grounds.
First, as noted above, a broad interpretation of career

concerns" can incorporate a desire for legacy and good

reputation with peer groups, say other Central Bankers.
Second, even taking the "career concerns" literally, future
career prospects are uncertain and there is a coordination
problem how does the bureaucrat know which is the
relevant measure of performance used by outside 0bservers?
The assumption that performance is assessed on the basis
of the tasks explicitly assigned to the bureaucrat is a natural
focal point to select amongst possible multiple equilibria.
Third, as stressed for instance by Wilson (1989),
bureaucratic organizations have weak internal incentives.
To motivate employees, the mission of the organization
must be well defined and pursued by the top bureaucrat.
A leader who is perceived as pursuing his own personal
ambition, rather than fulfilling the organizational goals, is
likely to be resisted by his subordinates and this could
Bureaucrats or Politicians 201 .

undermine the leader's own performance. Moreover, a

bureaucrat that pursues his own ambitions rather than
fulfilling the organizational goals would damage his
integrity, and this would certainly hurt his future career
prospects. Finally, bureaucrats (top level or lower ranked)
are not chosen at random. Presumably whoever is chosen
to perform a specific task has a special ability in that task,
or has a particular motivation to perform it well. This makes
it in his interest to signal ability through that task and not
others. In other words and to continue with the previous
example, somebody chosen to be a Central Banker is
competent in monetary economics, and it would not be in
his interest to signal his ability in international relations
ignoring monetary policy.
How do these straw men" politician" and "bureaucrat"
relate to real world cases? Probably the most compelling
example of our "bureaucrat" is a Central Banker. His
incentives to fulfill his task are mostly driven by the desire
to appear competent, even though even a Central Banker
occasionally may bend to the electoral needs of a politician.
Like our bureaucrat, a Central Banker sets policy
without political interferences and his tasks are set by a
clear mandate to keep inflation low. An American President
is instead the quintessential example of a politician: he seeks
reelection for himself in his first term and for his party in
his second, and is not constrained by pre-assigned or
narrowly defined tasks.
Top level bureaucrats in charge of important agencies
may be preparing a leap into politics, so they may worry
about their popularity and not only their competence per
se. On the contrary, politicians may look ahead to a career
in the private sector. While these caveats point to a large
gray area and intermediate cases between our "politician"
and our "bureaucrat", it is useful as a first step to clearly
identify how career concerns and electoral incentives lead
202 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

to different results depending on the nature of the policy

(but see also footnote 7 above).
Imperfect monitoring
We now move to the case of imperfect monitoring, that
is a situation in which performance also depends on
extraneous randomness.
Not surprisingly, the bureaucrat puts in less effort the
lower is the signal to noise ratio.
Next we turn to political delegation. The politician's
reward is given by the same expression as above, except
that now the distribution from which the probability Pr(y
jA W) can be computed has a larger variance, that reflects
both the variance of eand of a. It is immediate to derive the
first order condition of the politician as follows:
Note that, with imperfect monitoring, the career concern
contract no longer induces the optimal amount of effort
even when there is no difference between the value of ability
for the bureaucrat and for society.
Given risk neutrality, the optimal contract (under the
assumption that the principal only observes y and ability is
evaluated equivalently by society and the bureaucrat) would
still induce the same amount of effort as in (5) above - see
also section 1 of the appendix. That is, imperfect monitoring
would not add any distortions. But if the bureaucrat can
only be rewarded implicitly through career concerns, as
we assume, then imperfect monitoring entails an additional
loss of welfare for the voters.
Therefore, less monitoring does not favor one or the other
type of policymakers. This result is related to those obtained
by Dewatripont, Jewitt and Tirole (1999b), who also point
out that performance less closely tied to talent or effort
weakens the incentives of agents motivated by career
concerns. But note that the same conclusions also apply to
Bureaucrats or Politicians 203

a politician. Hence, imperfect monitoring reduces the

performance of both policymaker types (relative to an
optimal contract), but it does not provide an argument for
preferring a politician to a bureaucrat at the constitutional
More uncertainty about talent, however, does favor the
bureaucrat over the politician. With imperfect monitoring
a larger variance of e increases the effort of the bureaucrat,
while it has the opposite effect on the politician. Intuitively,
an increase in the variance of e increases the signal-to-noise
ratio and implies that observed performance (y) is a better
indicator of ability (e). This makes the bureaucrat work
harder, since by assumption he fully internalizes the benefit
of higher expected ability. The politician, instead, only
wants to overcome the 10 Here the bureaucrat is risk
neutral, which means that his compensa- re-election
threshold (giving the voters more than their reservation
utility is a waste). If ability is more uncertain, then re-
election prospects are less sensitive to effort, since more of
the policy outcome is due to randomness. Hence his
incentives are weakened.
A risk averse bureaucrat would put in even more effort
with more uncertainty over e, if his marginal utility was
convex (eg. with iso-elastic utility function, as in the
literature on precautionary savings). This would further
increase his attractiveness relative to the politician. But the
opposite would be true if the bureacrat's marginal utility
was concave (in this case more uncertainty over e could
weaken the bureaucrat incentives, if the effect on marginal
utility outweighs the effect on the signal to noise ratio).
The implication that bureaucratic rather than political
accountability works better for complex tasks is
strengthened if evaluating the performance of a bureaucrat
also requires special abilities or skills- that is, if the extent of
imperfect monitoring also depends on who does the
204 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

monitoring. In the case of politicians, the ultimate judges

of performance are the voters at large. The performance of
bureaucrats, instead, is mainly evaluated by their
professional peers. Hence, imperfect monitoring is less of a
problem if politicians are given simple tasks, since
bureaucrats can.J.llore easily be held accountable by their
peers for more technically demanding tasks. Maskin and
Tirole (2001) and Epstein and 0' Halloran (1999) reach a
similar conclusion in different models.
Is the real world attribution of task broadly consistent
with this implication? H difficult tasks are also technically
more demanding, then the answer is clearly positive. In
many cases technical tasks are delegated to bureaucrats:
for instance managing the financial structure of public debt,
or regulating public utilities or other industries, while
politicians retain the technically less demanding task of
setting general targets. In the UK, for instance, politicians
choose a target level of inflation, the technically demanding
task of choosing interest rates to achieve such target is
delegated to the Central Bank. It is not always true,
however, that difficult tasks are technically more
demanding. Some complex policy decisions, such as in
foreign policy, require ability of a general rather than a
specialized kind. According to Proposition 1, these complex
and yet technically not demanding tasks are also better left
in the hands of bureaucrats. But here, we often observe a
politician in charge. The next section suggests a different
reason, unrelated to variance in ability, why politicians may
perform better in such policy environments.
Policy tasks in an uncertain world
We now add an element of uncertainty to social weHare.
In particular, suppose that at the Constitutional Table
voters are not sure of howtheir preferences will evolve. We
return to the case of perfect monitoring and we assume
that there ~re two possible policies, that is two different
Bureaucrats or Politicians 205

directions in which effort can be devoted to: yi = e+ai, with

i = 1, 2.12 With multiple tasks, which will be our focus
from now on, one needs to specify a general cost function
with multiple arguments, c = C(a1, a2).
Instead of using the general formulation, we simplify to
either an additive case (c = C(a1+a2)), where effort in the
various tasks is perfectly substitutable in the cost function,
or to a separable case (c = C(a1)+C(a2)), where the
marginal cost of effort in one task is totally independent of
effort devoted to the other tasks. We choose the simplest
formulation that does not produce knife-hedge or "trivial"
At the Constitutional Table the (identical) voters are
uncertain about their ex post preferences over alternative
policies, so that voters utility is now given by the following
concave function.
First, at the Constitutional Table voters choose whether
to assign this policy to a bureaucrat or to a politician. Then
nature chooses e, that is social preferences are determined.
Having observed e, the policymaker chooses [ai] , then
nature chooses e, and finally policy is determined and
rewards paid. We assume that e is not verifiable.
Consider bureaucratic delegation first. As discussed in
section 2, if the Constitution assigns control rights over policy
to the bureaucrat, it also defines a relevant measure of
performance with which his ability is evaluated. In that
section, social welfare was the natural measure of
performance, because it coincided with the only possible
measure of performance. But here, at the Constitutional
Table social preferences are not yet known, since they
depend on the future realization of the random variable e.
Thus, we assume that the bureaucrat can only be assigned
an unconditional measure of performance, defined as:
x = ay1 + (1 . a)y2
206 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

where a is a parameter specified by the Constitution.

This formulation entails two assumptions. First, we assume
that the relevant measure of performance assigned to a
bureaucrat cannot be ex-post social welfare, u. We can
justify this assumption with the argument that social
welfare cannot be operationally described ex-ante in an
unambiguous way. To do so, we would need specific
assumptions about utility functions, technology, and many
other unforeseable but relevant features of the economic
environment. Of course, individual welfare can be observed
ex-post by polling each individual about the policymaker's
performance. But telling a bureaucrat that his performance
would be assessesJ. ex-post through an opinion poll would
transform him into a politician, and the theoretical
distinction between political and bureaucratic
accountability that is at the core of this paper would be
lost. The second crucial assumption is that the operational
and describable measure of performance that can be
assigned to a bureaucrat, and in particular the parameter
a, cannot be contingent on the realization of the random
variable: the mission for the bureaucrat cannot be
contingent on the realization of ex post voters' preferences.
This element of contract incompleteness is plausible, and
again can be justified with reference to the undescribability
or unforseeability of future states of the world.
Next, suppose that, at the Constitutional Table, society
gave control over policy to a politician. To win re-election,
the incumbent must show that he is more competent than
the opponent, given that voters observe their own utility.
This means giving voters a sufficiently high utility.
Whatever beliefs the voters entertain about effort
allocation, and given that effort is not observed by voters,
the politician always finds it in his own interest to put effort
in the task preferred ex-post by the voters. This is what
differentiates the politician from the bureaucrat. The
Bureaucrats or Politicians 207

politician's goals always depend on the realization of e (i.e.,

on the expost preferences of the voters). The bureaucrat
instead must be tbld what to do and in some cases he will
be assigned the wrong mission.
The following proposition follows.
Proposition 2 The politician, unlike the bureaucrat,
always chooses the right task from the voters' perspective.
This advantage of the politician is more important the more
risk averse are the voters and the more uncertain are their
ex-post preferences.
Delegation to a bureaucrat is safe when society's
preferences are well known and stable. But when they
change, the rigidity" of a bureaucrat's behavior makes the

latter much less attractive. This helps us to understand why

monetary policy is often delegated to an independent central
bank, while foreign policy is typically under the control of
Few would disagree with the statement that the
appropriate goal for monetary policy is to keep inflation
under control with some room for stabilization policy; and
this goal is unlikely to change over time. But preferences
regarding foreign policy are unlikely to be stable and
unchanged, and as a result an appropriate simple
bureaucratic goal cannot be stated once and for a1l15.
In these situations, a combination of politicians and
bureaucrats could be welfare improving. In fact, a natural
remedy to the "narrowmindedness" of bureaucrats
pursuing the wrong task is to let the politician decide the
mission of the bureaucrat. Specifically, the constitution
could prescribe that policy be delegated to a bureaucrat,
but the bureaucrat's mission (the parameter a in above) be
chosen by a politician.
If the politician observes the contingency e and if he is
208 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

held accountable by the voters as described in the previous

section, he would always choose the socially optimal
mission for the bureaucrat. This division of tasks (the
politician assigns the bureaucrat some goals and the latter
chooses the instruments with which to pursue them) is
observed in a variety of real world arrangements. Of course,
the precision and frequency with which bureaucratic goals
are defined can vary from case to case, and determines the
extent to which 'an independent bureaucrat is really in
charge of policy decisions (rather than taking orders from
the politician.
There is a case in which ex post flexibility is in fact a
disadvantage. When society's preferences are time
inconsistent, the benefit of flexibility associated with political
delegation has a cost. Politicians are much 15Hart, Shleifer
and Vishny (1997) and Wilson (1989) make a similar
argument to clarify why it would be close to impossible to
privatize foreign policy or to delegate it fully to a non-
political agency.
A related issue has to do with the time profile of costs
and benefits of policy choices. Bureaucrats tend to care more
about the long run consequences of policies, compared to
politicians, for two reasons. First, often bureaucrats are
appointed for longer than electoral cycles, precisely to avoid
short-termist policies. Second, even when bureaucrats have
short terms of office, the blame for myopic policies may
reach them and hurt them later on. The reason is that
bureaucrats care about their professional reputation in the
eyes of their peers. This gives bureaucrats a strong incentive
to focus on the long term goal. When the shorttermism of
politicians is an issue, the interaction between bureaucrats
and politicians can yield welfare improvements.
Compensation of losers
A critical task of politicians is to form coalitions in favor
Bureaucrats or Politicians 209

of certain policies, compensating losers either with direct

transfers or by bundling several policies into one package.
To illustrate this point, we need a conflict of interest between
voters (or groups of voters) and the possibility of side
payments and of bundling policies with complementarities.
Voters' utility now depends on the policy outcome and
a transfer (positive or negative) received by the government.
We have two voters (or homogeneous groups of voters of
equal size) with strictly concave utility defined over private
consumption, U (ci), i = 1, 2 where:
c1 = yl + t, c2 = y2 . t, y2 iA t iA .yl (17)
Therefore t is adirect lump sum transfer between voters
and the government budget is balanced. Each group benefits
from different tasks requiring specific and uncorrelated
abilities, ei, i = 1, 2. Let the distribumyopic electoral cycles
in monetary and fiscal policy with rational voters.
Besley and Coate (2003) find evidence that, in US states,
elected regulators tend to keep lower electricity prices
compared to appointed regulators. If, as likely, lower prices
come at the expenses of lower investments, this finding is
consistent with the prediction of short-termism by elected
(as opposed to appointed) regulators.
As in section 4, we assume that e is observable ex-post,
but it is not describable ex-ante, so that the bureaucrat's
mission cannot be defined contingent on e. The policymaker
maximizes its usual payoffs, with different rewards for the
two types of policymakers, except that now we assume that
the cost function is additive in the two efforts:
R (al, a2) . C(al) . C(a2) (19)
Timing has the usual structure. First nature sets e and
this determines which group is hurt by the spillover effect.
Then the policymaker chooses ai and t, nature sets ei and
rewards are paid.
210 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

Consider the politician first. He maximizes reelection

probabilities, which means that he has to win the favor of
a strict majority of voters. Here this means winning the
votes of both groups (as it will be clear below, nothing of
substance hinges on the fact that in this simple example
reelection requires pleasing all voters). Therefore:
In this context, the hazard rate measures the elasticity
of the probability of winning with respect to transfers. Thus,
this optimality condition is similar to the Ramsey rule of
optimal taxation: transfers are allocated between groups
so as to equalize this elasticity across groups. If the hazard
rate is monotonically increasing in z, and given the
assumption of the same distribution for ei, i = 1, 2, equation
(21) implies c1 = c2.17
This result follows from the assumption that bureaucrats
cannot be given state contingent missions. If their goal is
formulated in terms of aggregate efficiency, they will neglect
the distributional consequences of their actions. A politician
instead can take advantage of relatively complex and
evolving spillovers between issues and build majorities with
complex side payments schemes. Compensating the losers
makes it easier to pass legislation while at the same time
providing insurance against bad luck. Imagine a policy that
favors a large majority, say a badly needed highway, but
that creates losers, say the property owners. Under
democratic choice, the losers might be able to block the
project. But the politician can put together a package of
compensation for the property owners, with large benefit
for the majority. In a sense this is almost what describes the
job of a politician. Instead, it is hard to imagine how a
bureaucrat might do that. How can one write on paper
what a bureaucrat is allowed to do or not do, to create
bundling and compensation? A bureaucrat can be delegated
the task of building the best possible highway and he may
potentially do a better job than the politician; but he does
Bureaucrats or Politicians 211

not have the ability, interest or authority to provide

compensation to the local owners.
Lobbying and bribing
In this section we consider the case of lobbies that can
influence the choice of policies with bribes or campaign
contributions. Thus here "redistribution" is intended as
favors towards powerful minorities that can influence policy
decisions. Both the politician and the bureaucrat can be
captured by the interest group, but with different
This difference can give rise to a constitutional preference
for one or the other type of policymaker, depending on the
As in section 4, there are two tasks, yi = e +ai, i = 1, 2
and the cost of effort is non-separable: c = C(a1 + a2). Task
1 benefits the voters at large, while task 2 only benefits a
small but organized interest group.
Voters influence policy only through elections. The
organized interest group is small and its vote is irrelevant;
but he can influe~ce policy through bribes, b, or campaign
contributions, f . thus, the preferences of voters are just y1,
while those of the interest group can be written as:
(1 + a)y2 . b . f (24)
where a is a parameter capturing the intensity of the
group's preferences for task 2.
Bribes can be offered to both the politician and the
bureaucrat, but are illegal. Thus, if a policymaker accepts a
bribe, with some exogenous probability q he is caught and
pays a fine Z (the interest group is not fined). Campaign
contributions are legal and can only be offered to the
politician. The effect of campaign contributions is to increase
the incumbent's chances of winning the elections. We model
212 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

this by saying that the voters' reservation utility is a

decreasing function of the campaign contributions collected
by the incumbent:
It is natural to assume that H(O) = 0, Hf > 0, Hf f < O. At
the Constitutional Table the lobby has no influence, so if
the bureaucrat is given control rights over policy, his
assigned measure of performance coincides with the task
that benefits voters at large (x = yl).Under these
assumptions, we can write the policymaker's preferences

... + a2) + b . qZ (26)

R(yl, y2) . C(al
where R(yl, y2) are the policymaker's rewards (RB(yl,
y2) = E(ejyl) for the bureaucrat, RP (yl, y2) = Pr(yl jA W
) for the politician). The policymaker's effort devoted to task
2 is observable by the interest group, so that bribes and
campaign contributions can be contingent upon the
policymaker effort: b =B(a2), f = F (a2). The timing of events
is as follows.
First the Constitution allocates control rights over
policies. Then the organized group commits to bribes and
or campaign contributions, as a function of effort. Next,
the policymaker allocates effort between the two tasks.
Nature then chooses a realization of e. Finally, rewards are
This is a common agency game, with two types of
principals: the interest group and the representative voter.
The interest group has all the commitment power and can
either influence the agent directly (through bribes), or
indirectly (through campaign contributions). The distinction
between the politician and the bureaucrat is that the latter
can only be influenced by the interest group through bribes.
We want to know whether the voters are better off with
the bureaucrat or with the politician, and what influences
this comparison.
Bureaucrats or Politicians 213

Bribing the bureaucrat

If the constitution gave all control rights to the bureaucrat
we would have a standard common agency game, with a
single active lobby. If bribes are positive, then the equilibrium
must be jointly optimal for the organized group and the
politician. This immediately implies.
Thus, politically appointed policymakers are more easily
captured by organized interests compared to bureaucrats,
particularly in advanced democracies with a well
functioning legal system. The reason is that, to influence a
bureaucrat, the organized group needs to engage in illegal
activities and fight against possibly deeply entrenched
professional goals and standards of a technical
bureaucracy. To influence a politician, instead, the interest
group has an additional instrument: he needs to convince
the voters that the politician is doing a good job and deserves
to be reelected. The politician will then automatically
respond with policy favors to the interest group, since this
will help his chances of reelection. Thus, policies where the
stakes for organized interests are very high, or where
redistributive conflicts concern small but powerful vested
interests against the voters at large, are more safely left in
the hands of the bureaucrat. The regulation of public utilities
is a typical example: the interests of consumers are easy to
identify and protect through regulation, while the stakes
for the utilities' supplier are very high and a politician may
be easily captured.
Note that this result points to an important difference
between ad- 20 This normative argument in favor of
bureaucrats is mitigated if they are easier to bribe than the
politician, however. And bureaucrats with technical
expertise may be more easily bribed than politicians through
a "revolving door policy" - i.e. at the end of their public
services polivanced and less advanced societies. In advanced
societies with a well functioning judicial system, it is
214 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

relatively easy to enforce the no bribe equilibrium, but

campaign contributions may still be very effective at buying
policies; hence, bureaucratic delegation works well. In
developing countries, instead, stopping bribes might be close
to impossible and politicians are likely to do as good a job
as bureaucrats.
Our analysis rests on two fundamental assumptions. The
first one concerns the motivation of different types of
policymakers. Bureaucrats want to signal their competence
for t:a:'eer concerns, politicians for reelection purposes. The
second assumption is that the tasks for bureaucratic
agencies have to be specified ex ante and cannot be
contingent on the realization of too many shocks on the
environment or on the public's preferences. If one accepts
these two hypotheses, the nature of our results is quite
robust to variations on other less important assumptions.
From a normative perspective, these differences between
bureaucrats and politicians imply that some policy tasks,
but not others, ought to be delegated to independent
agencies. Consider first policies with few redistributive
implications, such as monetary policy or foreign policy.
Bureaucrats are likely to be better than politicians if the
criteria for good performance can be easily described ex-
ante and are stable over time; if good performance requires
special abilities that wary widely in the population and
performance evaluation presupposes some technical
expertise; if political incentives are distorted by time
inconsistency or short-termism. Monetary policy indeed
fulfills many of these conditions, and the practice of
delegating it to an independent agency accords with some
of these normative results. Foreign policy does not, because
the criteria for good performance are unstable and more
vague, and the benefit of insulating policy from the political
Bureaucrats or Politicians 215

process are smaller. Next, consider policies that have

redistributive implications, such as trade policy, regulation,
or fiscal policy. Here, bureaucrats perform well if the policy
consequences touch narrowly defined interest groups, if
criteria of good performance can be easily formulated and
assessed in terms of efficiency, and if the legal system is
strong. Politicians instead are better if the policy has far
reaching redistributive implications so that compensation
of losers is important, if criteria of aggregate efficiency do
not easily pin down the optimal policy, and if there are
interactions across different policy domains (so that a single
measure of performance is affected by several policy
instruments and policy packaging is required to build
consensus or achieve efficiency). Regulation of public
utilities or of specific industries are examples of policies that
lend themselves to bureaucratic delegation, since they pit
special interests against those of consumers as a whole, do
not have large spillover effects, and policy performance can
be evaluated on the basis of efficiency or other semi-
technical criteria. Trade policy might fall in this category
too, although here the redistributive implications are more
Welfare state policies, instead, have such broad
redistributive implications that it seems risky to subtract
them from the political process, as suggested by our
examples on compensation of losers and cake splitting.
But there are specific aspects of fiscal policy that would
certainly meet our normative criteria for bureaucratic
delegation: for instance, detailed tax policy provisions, or
intertemporal fiscal policy choices where time inconsistency
or political myopia is an obvious issue, as suggested.
Overall, the normative analysis suggests that there is
ample scope for bureaucratic delegation to improve over
political delegation, particularly if politicians remain in
charge of defining and correcting the general mission of
216 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

independent agencies. Are these normative conclusions

likely to be reflected in observed institutional arrangements?
We explore this positive question in a companion paper,
Alesina and Tabellini.
There we show that opportunistic politicians do not
internalize these normative criteria. Actual institutions are
more likely to be designed so as to deliver maximal rents at
the lowest risk for the incumbent politician.
This argues for retaining under political control policy
tools that are useful to build winning coalitions or to
generate campaign contributions, such as trade policy or
much of fiscal policy. It also means thaL politicians might
want to get rid of tasks that expose them to risk, such as
monetary policy. But this "risk shielding" requires that
bureaucratic delegation be complete, so that the blame for
policy failure lies fully with the independent agency and
does not reach the politician. This might explain why it is
politically so difficult to exploit delegation to indeperldent
agencies in fiscal policy. Full bureaucratic delegation of fiscal
policy is inconceivable, for normative and positive reasons.
But partial delegation of narrowly defined technical tasks
in fiscal policy may be politically unfeasible, no matter how
desirable. The reason is that voters would still hold the
politician accountable, as long as he retains some control
(Le. unless the delegation is complete). And if he is held
responsible, then the politician loses any incentive to
delegate control.

The Future of Bureaucracy

Whether liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican,

Communist or Fascist, teenager or octogenarian, all of us
can agree on one thing: Bureaucracy is bad. Bureaucracy is
what burdens the elderly on their deathbeds with reams of
paperwork which they must complete in triplicate before
being allowed to die. It is what insists that we must explain
first to a clerk, then to an assistant manager, then to a
manager, and finally in writing (for the company records)
why we are returning the guaranteed contraption which
we purchased yesterday, but does not work today. It is the
administrative process requiring a two-page request form
to receive a copy of a document, when there are numerous
extra copies piled in plain view. It is the organization that
refuses to implement the simple, sensible, obvious
improvement that both employees and customers have been
suggesting for years. It is the source of the almost universal
nervous twitching and congested throats as people
sheepishly approach an office counter and hesitantly
attempt to vocalize their request.
Once castigated as the tyrannical realm of clerks,
bureaucracy is synonymous to many with organized
dehumanization. For, whether the requester is a customer,
an employee, or another department, the bureaucrat
identifies the source of any negative response he gives as
"they" or "the firm" or "the rules" or "the agency." If we
are to accept his account, the bureaucrat is never to blame.
He claims to be only a middle man between the producer,
218 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

the customer, and the organization. If so, we think, then

why is he there at all, a superfluous, needless expense-a
blockage of communications between the "real" parties to
any transaction.
We are pretty sure that those other three parties would
be on our side. The "producers" are those most intimately
involved in generating the organization's ultimate
contribution. In schools, they are the teachers; in a
transportation agency, they are the bus drivers and
mechanics; in a construction company, the engineers and
building crew; and in a factory, the assembly line workers.
These are "the ones who are really where the action is."
Who better understands the organization's business than
those who generate it? At the other end are the customers,
who may be the purchasers of the goods or services, the
citizens who paid taxes for the service, or even another
department that is being charged back for it. Their needs
and wants are the very raison d' etre of the business. The
ultimate importance of their opinion has been encapsulated
in the old aphorism "the customer is always right," which
has become a cornerstone of the universally vaunted Total
Quality philosophy.
Finally, the legitimacy of the organization itself is, of
course, beyond question: It is the source of fulfilling the
needs of both producers and customers.
There appears to be no justification for this bureaucrat
to interpose himself between the ones who really count.
No one has a kind word for him. His title may be manager
or supervisor or coordinator. But he is widely known as a
rudely officious clerk, a buck-passing petty tyrant dispensing
conflicting directives and insisting upon endless duplication.
We think of him as the one who wastefully diverts resources
from the organization, potential wages from the producers,
and savings from the consumers to build his own
purposeless empire.
The Future of Bureaucracy 219

Probably most of us could agree with the above critique-

although some might consider it a mite exaggerated. My
biggest hesitation in accepting it is that I myself am a
Most others in the administrative services are in a similar
situation. This is most obviously true of those of us who
work for the government. However, as social scientists have
been pointing out, bureaucracy is the usual organizational
structure found in private companies, as well as in
governmental agencies. Certainly most records or
information managers fit in this category. Consider the
bureaucratic nature of some of our more usual demands:
All files must be removed from ring binders and hanging
folders before being placed in boxes.
Departments must fill out multiple, lengthy inventory
forms to prove they have correctly purged their files.
Departments should get down on their knees and swear
never again to file another extra copy, if they expect to be
allowed an additional filing cabinet.
The public must fill out a form resembling an application
for CIA security clearance just to get a copy of a readily
available record. (The law says so.) Whenever the staff
member from Accounting requests a duplicate of a journal
voucher she misplaced, she must listen to a lecture on the
filing system she should have adopted.
As I mentioned in an earlier column, when I made such
demands, I was accused-not without some justification-of
being "a records management, bureaucratic tail wagging
the dog that is fulfilling the organization's mission." What
do we bureaucrats (whether the public ones working for
the government or the "closet" ones in the private sector)
have to say for ourselves? Are we really as valueless as we
are portrayed (often to our faces).
220 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

Whether liberal or conservative, Democrat or

Republican, Communist or Fascist, teenager or
octogenarian, all of us can agree on one thing: Bureaucracy
is bad. Bureaucracy is what burdens the elderly on their
deathbeds with reams of paperwork which they must
complete in triplicate before being allowed to die. It is what
insists that we must explain first to a clerk, then to an
assistant manager, then to a manager, and finally in writing
(for the company records) why we are returning the
guaranteed contraption which we purchased yesterday,
but does not work today. It is the administrative process
requiring a two-page request form to receive a copy of a
document, when there are numerous extra copies piled in
plain view. It is the organization that refuses to implement
the simple, sensible, obvious improvement that both
employees and customers have been suggesting for years.
It is the source of the almost universal nervous twitching
and congested throats as people sheepishly approach an
office counter and hesitantly attempt to vocalize their
Once castigated as the tyrannical realm of clerks,
bureaucracy is synonymous to many with organized
dehumanization. For, whether the requester is a customer,
an employee, or another department, the bureaucrat
identifies the source of any negative response he gives as
"they" or "the firm" or lithe rules" or lithe agency." If we
are to accept his account, the bureaucrat is never to blame.
He claims to be only a middle man between the producer,
the customer, and the organization. If so, we think, then
why is he there at all. a superfluous, needless expense-a
blockage of communications between the "real" parties to
any transaction?
We are pretty sure that those other three parties would
be on our side. The "producers" are those most intimately
involved in generating the organization's ultimate
contribution. In schools, they are the teachers; in a
The Future of Bureaucracy 221

transportation agency, they are the bus drivers and

mechanics; in a construction company, the engineers and
building crew; and in a factory, the assembly line workers.
These are "the ones who are really where the action is."
Who better understands the organization's business than
those who generate it? At the other end are the customers,
who may be the purchasers of the goods or services, the
citizens who paid taxes for the service, or even another
department that is being charged back for it. Their needs
and wants are the very raison d' etre of the business. The
ultimate importance of their opinion has been encapsulated
in the old aphorism "the customer is always right," which
has become a cornerstone of the universally vaunted Total
Quality philosophy.
'yFinally, the legitimacy of the organization itself is, of
course, beyond question: It is the source of fulfilling the
needs of l- Jth producers and customers.
There appears to be no justification for this bureaucrat
to interpose himself between the ones who really count.
No one has a kind word for him. His title may be manager
or supervisor or coordinator. But he is widely known as a
rudely officious clerk, a buck-passing petty tyrant dispensing
conflicting directives and insisting upon endless duplication.
We think of him as the one who wastefully diverts resources
from the organization, potential wages from the producers,
i and savings from the consumers to build his own
purposeless empire.
Probably most of us could agree with the above critique-
although some might consider it a mite exaggerated. My
biggest hesitation in accepting it is that I myself am a
Most others in the administrative services are in a similar
situation. This is most obviously true of those of us who
work for the government. However, as social scientists have
Bureaucracy and Development Administration

been pointing out, bureaucracy is the usual organizational

structure found in private companies, as well as in
governmental agencies. Certainly most records or
information managers fit in this category. Consider the
bureaucratic natUre of some of our more usual demands:
All files must be removed from ring binders and hanging
folders before being placed in boxes.
Departmt..'I\ts must fill out multiple, lengthy inventory
forms to prove they have correctly purged their files.
Departments should get down on their knees and swear
never again to file another extra copy, if they expect to be
allowed an additional filing cabinet.
The public must fill out a form resembling an application
for CIA security clearance just to get a copy of a readily
available record. (The law says so.) Whenever the staff
member from Accounting requests a duplicate of a journal
voucher she misplaced, she must listen to a lecture on the
filing system she should have adopted.
As I mentioned in an earlier column, when I made such
demands, I was accused-not without some justification-of
being a records management, bureaucratic tail wagging

the dog that is fulfilling the organization's mission." What

do we bureaucrats (whether the public ones working for
the government or the "closet" ones in the private sector)
have to say for ourselves? Are we really as valueless as we
are portrayed (often to our faces)?
The second characteristic of modern bureaucracies is
separation of the bureaucrat's person from the position or
office he holds. The evolution of this modem impersonal
administration was the slowest of all the aspects of
bureaucracy to develop. In ancient, medieval, and even early
modem times, government officials were the king's personal
servants who owed their posts (and livelihoods) either to a
personal relationship to the ruler or to inheritance from
The Future of Bureaucracy 223

their own f~thers. Thus, the feudal lord granted a fief to his
vassals in return for their personal "homage and fealty."
Unburdened by any concept of what we today would call
"conflict of interest," vassals often assumed that with their
fiefs included the right to pocket all, or at least a part, of
the fees and fines that they levied. With a different, but
similarly blatant, willingness to confound public office with
personal profit, elected officials in the United States and
Britain gave positions to their supporters as part of an
informal "spoils system" as late as the nineteenth century.
In fact, the identification of civil service jobs as economic
commodities, as opposed to the principle of hiring the best
qualified for a set salary, has been normal much more of
the time than it has been an exception. It has also been
normal that bureaucrats have been able to mold positions
to their own ambitions and abilities, converting them into
informal "fiefs" and even "empires."
The depersonalized bureaucracy can be traced to the
attempts by central governments to strengthen their power
by appointing new bureaucrats who, lacking their own
independent power base, would be much more tractable.
The commissars of Louis XIV in France, as well as the service
gentry of Ivan the Terrible in Russia and Frederick II in
Prussia, are famous examples of this tendency. However,
just as normal was the tendency of the new appointees
eventually to become entrenched themselves-a phenomenon
that led later rulers to appoint still other groups of
bureaucrats that would wield the real power and be more
personally loyal to the monarch. The cycle continued until
the late eighteenth century.
From that time through most of the twentieth century,
the governments themselves became less personal: States
replaced kings; prime ministers replaced "the King's first
ministers"; and industrial entrepreneurs became chairmen
of impersonal corporations.
224 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

Impersonal administration in government and business

has numerous advantages. Decisions are made less on the .
basis of friendship or the bureaucrat's advantage, than on
what is best for the organization. Appointments and
promotions are based on merit-not possession of an office
as a "fief" in perpetuity or control of some votes or the
influence wielded by friends and relatives. Moreover, the
fact that the bureaucrat behind the counter does not own
the office means that he is in less of a position to abuse his
powers than those who considered the position their
property. -
Bureaucratic Rules
The third defining element of modern bureaucracy is its
adherence to, and enforcement of, rules. The development
of a law- or rulebased administration complemented the
rise of impersonal bureaucracy. Laws andadministrative
rules leave less room for personal whim and discretion. The
tighter the rules and the more sovereignty is assigned to
law, the less capricious the bureaucrat. The laws and rules
are the citizens' and the customers' assurance of fair
treatment, of not being left to the arbitrary fancy of the
monarch or the seller. As bureaucracies became more
controlled by written regulations, the lives of subjects and
customers became morepredictable-more relaxed. Today
it is hard to imagine what it must have been like when
legality was determined by the ruler's-or boss's-mood,
whether he had slept well, whether his allergies were acting
up, or whether his children talked back over the breakfast
Over the past few centuries, society has not been so
poorly served by the rules our multiple bureaucracies obey
and enforce. Rules prevent those with power from wielding
it arbitrarily. Rules are a safeguard against unpleasant
surprises-a need even more important when we already
feel lost in a sea of change. Rules provide a basis for
The Future of Bureaucracy 225

agreement and thereby can legitimize the system and elicit

commitment to it. Rules provide the organization, the
producers, and the customers with some idea of what to
expect from each other.
What intrigues me about bureaucracy is that the same
elements which were its strength from the late Middle Ages
through most of the twentieth century are now becoming
the very sources of its weakness. Current societal and
business trends towards decentralization, networking, and
accelerated change seem to undermine it. Most important
of these, and precipitating the others, is the rapidity of
technical and social change. The reality of "future shock"
has been a salon topic ever since Toffler published his
bestseller by that title in 1970. Yet it would be wrong to
think that a sudden acceleration in change is something
that began in the midtwentieth century. The Industrial
Revolution at the end of the eighteenth century, the
Renaissance, and the agricultural revolution in ancient
times were other such sudden jumps. Modern bureaucracy
became preeminent at the end of the eighteenth century
partly because it was a means for dealing with the
accelerated change resulting from the rise of national states
and industrial economies. However, the rate of change seems
to accelerate geometrically, rather than arithmetically, with
each such "revolution." The increase in the post-industrial
era has truly been a quantum leap in this rate of change, a
leap too great for traditional hierarchical bureaucracy to
handle effectively.
Problems with a Permanent Hierarchy
Today, bureaucracy's hierarchical structure actually
hinders the communication and adaptability to social
evolution it once supported. The same pyramids of
226 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

reporting lines that facilitated communication in the past

now often slow it, because they channel the much more
technically advanced information through a manager who
does not lmderstand it nor is anywhere near as able to make
a technical decision as two staff members located
somewhere towards the pyramid's base. For example, a
person at a lower level of Department A will report a minor
problem involving Department B to his supervisor, who
will then report it to his manager, who will report it to the
director, who will then confront the director of Department
B, who will demand corrective action of the Department B
manager, who will then invite the manager of Department
A to a meeting, where they will agree to have their
supervisors get together and work out the problem. The
obvious question: Why did not the two supervisors interact
laterally in the first place. This situation becomes especially
troublesome when the speed of changes requires quick
decisions to keep the organization on track. The pyramidal
routes of messages up and down bureaucratic reporting
lines seem even more like bottlenecks because our
technology has accustomed society to real-time
Finally, the same principle of "what worked before does
not necessarily work now" also applies to the permanency
that bureaucracy provided for the development of national
states and industrial economies. The people involved in
these two phenomena were just emerging from politically
and economically isolated communities. They needed a
stable structure to buffer the shock of the revolutionary
experience and to educate them in the discipline required
in modern societies. But the permanence of hierarchical
structures is much less suited to today's post-industrial
society. For post-industrial society requires flexibility and a
speed of communication that traditional bureaucracy is
hard-pressed to provide. Bureaucracy tends to be too
permanent and inflexible for a period of rapid change and
The Future of Bureaucracy 227

unanticipated challenges. Problems with

Unfortunately, the good aspects of bureaucratic
depersonalization (impartial administration and the merit
system) are not secure achievements. Just as the officials
who owed everything to Ivan N or Louis XN themselves
became entrenched bureaucrats, so the upstart bureaucrats
of today will start to build their empires. Such expansions
go a long way towards explaining why executives often
find it necessary to clean house at the top even though those
being cleaned out appear quite competent. The progression
towards impersonal administration is not linear and will
never be complete.
The negative side to depersonalization of the
bureaucracy goes beyond its inability to eliminate the
continuation of empire builders. Depersonalization can
easily degrade into dehumanization. It frequently leaves
the bureaucracy with the appearance of an unfamiliar,
inhuman machine that is frightening to the customer or
citizen. Since such bureaucrats speak for an impersonal
position, not for themselves personally, they are more likely
to be callous and unfriendly. Indeed, now it is possible to
have the worst of both, seemingly contradictory,
bureaucratic models at the same time: the pseudo-feudal,
egoistic empirebuilding of the past and the appearance of
a futuristic inhuman bureaucratic machine.
The Problem with Bureaucratic Rules
Voluminous, hard-to-read rules, many of which are
obsolete antiquities or nonsensical self-contradictions,
exacerbate this situation. Daily we encounter excessive red
tape and nit-picking regulations forbidding the use of paper
clips when the circular reads staples or permitting only the
use of a form 107.326 rev A (certainly not 107.327 rev B) to
order a pencil. All of us can recall being told to fill out a
228 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

form that we were fairly sure would never be read or to

obtain signatures from a long series of officials, who
scrawled initials on the documents without seeming to pay
the slightest attention to what they were approving.
Many of the rules seem to exist because someone thought
there "ought to be a rule" for everything or because the
procedural manual seemed a little slim. Sometimes
bureaucrats have bolstered their egos by assigning complex
procedures and numerous rules to the process for which
they are responsible. If we are honest, many of us have
done this ourselves. I know that I have. Procedures I have
authored for checking out a file read as though they were
patterned on the requirements for obtaining a national
security clearance to store nuclear bombs. My data entry
instructions appear to be modeled on the NASA count-
down to a Jupiter probe. Then there are all the rules for
"processes" that surely any fiveyear-old could figure out
for himself without a two-sided form accompanied by a
ten-page guideline. Here are some real examples from where
I work.
How to request a vacation day. How to report spraining
an ankle on the job. How to request a toner cartridge for
the printer. (Disposition of the spent cartridge is, of course,
not just a part of this simple procedure. It is at the "policy
How to report an overflowing toilet in the restroom. How
to dispose of trash at your workstation.
Such rules complicate and slow processing. Often it
seems as though they are made for the sake of making rules.
Moreover, as argued by Burnham in the The Managerial
Revolution, complex rules can also be wielded as unfair
weapons by certain bureaucrats who use their knowledge
of the rules to justify whatever suits them. Likewise, many
rules that made sense when they were promulgated are
not rescinded after they cease to be useful. In such cases,
The Future of Bureaucracy 229

the letter of the law remains in effect to the detriment of all.

An example of the unnecessary burden of rules that should
have been rescinded was our rule in the Mail Room that
any outgoing Federal Express packages had to be received
in the Mail Room by 3:00 p.m. in order to go out as overnight
deliveries. There was some justification for this rule.
Each day, Federal Express came promptly at 4:00 p.m.,
and staff were notorious for waiting until the last minute
to bring their packages down. We needed time to type up
the airbills before the Federal Express courier came.
Two years after I had unilaterally promulgated the 3:00
p.m. rule, the situation changed. We moved to a new
building, where the Federal Express courier came at 5:00
rather than 4:00 p.m. Also by this time we had begun to
use Federal Express's Powership system to produce the
airbill, which saved a good deal of time. At this point, 4:30
would have been a reasonable deadline. But when a poor
secretary arrived at 3:30 entreating us to make an exception
and arguing the importance of the delivery, the clerk at the
front desk, said "No." When I was called, I stood by his
decision, arguing in my best bureaucratic manner, "If we
made an exception for you, it would not be fair to all of the
others we had to turn down." After she was gone, I reflected
further that perhaps the most important disadvantage to
senseless or excessive bureaucratic rules is that they limit
the bureaucrat's flexibility in coming up with innovative
solutions that can benefit both the customer and the
organization in an era of frequent, large-scale change.
As we have seen, bureaucracies are a very old element
in the development of civilization. In the modern era,
bureaucracy was crucial in the evolution of the modern
national state and industrial society. However, the three
defining characteristics of modern bureaucracy
230 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

(hierarchical structure, depersonalization, and rule-based

administration) have effects that can be both positive and
negative. On the positive side, they provided the stable,
organized, consistent structure necessary to the
development of modern governments and economies. But
in the post-industrial world, their impact has become
increasingly negative. The question becomes whether this
negative impact is bad enough, and the political and
economic benefits of bureaucracy waning enough, to justify
scrapping its hierarchical bureaucratic organizational
principles altogether. We must ask, not whether
bureaucracy is good or bad, but whether its weaknesses
have become so pronounced as to make its 5urvival unlikely
and undesirable. Yes, there are signs that bureaucracy has
outlived its usefulness, that it does not serve the needs of a
post-industrial society, and that its negative side effects
outweigh its benefits. Yet bureaucracies are still around.
Are they just vestiges of an earlier social structure that we
have not gotten around to replacing, or do they continue
to serve some real purposes? As you might expect, since I
am a bureaucrat, I tend to favor the latter explanation.
To support my view, I argue first that bureaucrats are
still part of our organizations because they are useful to
organizations as buffers. As mentioned above, from one
perspective, the bureaucrat's role as middleman between
organization, customers, and producers appears as a
needless obstacle to effective communication between these
three groups. Yet, in many cases, it is the bureaucrat who
must referee between such conflicting goals as (1) the
producers' demand for higher wages; (2) the consumers'
desire for lower prices, and (3) the organization's need for
increasing profit, often implying both higher prices and
lower wages. From the executive point of view,
bureaucratic intermediaries are indispensable in explaining
the organization's position-what it will and will not doto
long lines of workers and customers complaining and
clamoring to have their demands met. The executives might
The Future of Bureaucracy 231

be better able to express the organization's position, but

they simply do not have the time. To put it more succinctly,
as long as there is unpleasant work to be delegated, there
will be bureaucrats to delegate it to.
Second, despite all of our homage to "the customer
knows best" and "the producers should know best," many
times neither group knows what it really wants or how to
get it. My favorite example in arguing that the customer
may not always be right was the confrontation between
my staff and a public-spirited, elderly, slightly lame man I
will call Harold. Harold is a staunch advocate of better bus
service and a fierce opponent of light rail and subway
projects which he considers to be siphoning money away
from improving bus service. Consequently, every week he
requests seemingly endless copies of documents to provide
the enemies of rail construction with ammunition to use
against our project. I disagree with Harold's opinions, but I
strongly support his right to obtain these documents, and
we go out of our way to provide them. Harold is also the
champion of another cause, the reservation of seats at the
front of each bus for the elderly and handicapped. This is a
laudable campaign, and I have often commended him for
insisting at public meetings that all buses display signs to
reserve this seating. However, Harold's dedication to this
cause led him to board as many buses as he could and affix
the signs himself if they were not already visible enough to
suit him. Some in our agency considered this tactic a form
of graffiti. I only smiled-until Harold began to replenish his
supply of signs by requesting them as "public records" in
batches of 100 at a time. This honestly seemed a little
ridiculous, and I believed that he could better achieve his
goals by working through proper channels (public and
committee meetings, letters, and the like). I argued that bus
signs were hardly public records. He told me that was a
typically bureaucratic reply. So I asked our legal department
for an opinion. To my chagrin, they agreed with Harold
232 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

that the signs really were public records and that I did have
to provide him with a sign-or at least a facsimile of a sign.
However, they also gave me a way out by stating that there
was no law that said I had to provide multiple copies of a
public record. So Harold received a sign. No matter how
just his cause.
Believe that this was appropriate, and that it was one
case when the bureaucrat-at least the bureaucrat's counsel-
knew best.
But what about the opinion of the "producers" -the
workers, teachers, planners, engineers, and staffs in other
functional areas. Do not those "in the trenches," "where
the action is," have a uniquely valuable perspective on the
processes involved?
Indeed, they are able-with uncanny immediacy and
accuracy-to identify those elements of a plan or procedural
revision that simply will not work well in practice, no matter
how wonderful it appears in theory. How many times have
I worked late at night to develop a profoundly intelligent
procedural solution, only to have my balloon of brilliance
and pride punctured with a tired, scowling, "I guess, but
what about. Usually, I just had not thought about that
critical consideration which inevitably invalidates my whole
On the other hand, it is possible to be so close to a given
process that one cannot imagine doing it any other way.
Such tunnel vision has led some of the practicing "experts
in the trenches" to overlook preferred alternatives that may
be more obvious to the bureaucrat somewhat distanced
from the task. Insecurity can also lead the producers to be
excessively loyal to traditional ways of doing things-partly
because what is familiar is comfortable, partly because new,
unknown procedures may threaten their sense of
competence and their job security. In an earlier column, I
The Future of Bureaucracy 233

mentioned the example of mail clerks, who for the past

twenty years had gone through a single sort of all company
mail. They had refused to consider any alternative by saying,
"We've been doing this for twenty years;. we ought to
know." While they were on strike, a bureaucrat (the
Records Management Supervisor) took charge. With no
previous mail-room experience, but with a firm
understanding of filing principles, she introduced multiple
sorts, a procedural change resulting in completion of the
work in less time with a smaller, much less experienced
Most bureaucrats-especially records managers-can think
of similar experiences. Consider the almost universal opinion
of producers in a functional area that the paper records
which they daily process constitute an irreplaceable treasure
for the organization. "What would we do if someone sued
us over a matter documented in these files?" they ask. "How
could the organization continue to function legally without
the original, paper copy of all of its contractual documents?"
The records management bureaucrat may argue rationally
that other media are just as legal and are easier to control,
but she will face an uphill struggle against the functional
staffs belief in the sanctity of their paper until they finally
run out of space to store it. Just as frequent is the producers'
attitudes towards the boxes of inactive records they send
to storage. Not trusting the barcode that records
management bureaucrats affix to the boxes, they insist on
taping manifests of the contents to the box lid or side. It is
not until the lids are mixed up or the manifests are
accidentally ripped from the box that they come to realize
that, while the barcode may not look like much, it is a far
more reliable way of identifying a box than scraps of paper
taped to its top or side. I do not want to be misunderstood.
Certainly, both the customers and the producers most
closely associated with a particular function know a great
deal about what they want and about what they do. Their
knowledge and opinions are critically important. I am only
234 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

suggesting that neither group is infallible and that the

bureaucrats in the middle are not always wrong.
believe that this was appropriate, and that it was one
case when the bureaucrat-at least the bureaucrat's counsel-
knew best.
But what about the opinion of the "producers" -the
workers, teachers, planners, engineers, and staffs in other
functional areas? Do not those "in the trenches," "where
the action is," have a uniquely valuable perspective on the
processes involved?
Indeed, they are able-with uncanny immediacy and
accuracy-to identify those elements of a plan or procedural
revision that simply will not work well in practice, no matter
how wonderful it appears in theory. How many times have
I worked late at night to develop a profoundly intelligent
procedural solution, only to have my balloon of brilliance
and pride punctured with a tired, scowling, "I guess, but
what about.. .." Usually, I just had not thought about that
critical consideration which inevitably invalidates my whole
On the other hand, it is possible to be so close to a given
process that one cannot imagine doing it any other way.
Such tunnel vision has led some of the practicing "experts
in the trenches" to overlook preferred alternatives that may
be more obvious to the bureaucrat somewhat distanced
from the task. Insecurity can also lead the producers to be
excessively loyal to traditional ways of doing things-partly
because what is familiar is comfortable, partly because new,
unknown procedures may threaten their sense of
competence and their job security. In an earlier column, I
mentioned the example of mail clerks, who for the past
twenty years had gone through a single sort of all company
mail. They had refused to consider any alternative by saying,
"We've been doing this for twenty years; we ought to know.
The Future of Bureaucracy 235

While they were on strike, a bureaucrat (the Records

Management Supervisor) took charge. With no previous
mail-room experience, but with a firm understanding of
filing principles, she introduced multiple sorts, a procedural
change resulting in completion of the work in less time with
a smaller, much less experienced staff.
Most bureaucrats-especially records managers-can think
of similar experiences. Consider the almost universal opinion
of producers in a functional area that the paper records
which they daily process constitute an irreplaceable treasure
for the organization. "What would we do if someone sued
us over a matter documented in these files?" they ask. "How
could the organization continue to function legally without
the original, paper copy of all of its contractual documents?"
The records management bureaucrat may argue rationally
that other media are just as legal and are easier to control,
but she will face .an uphill struggle against the functional
staffs belief in the sanctity of their paper until they finally
run out of space to store it. Just as frequent is the producers'
attitudes towards the boxes of inactive records they send
to storage. Not trusting the barcode that records
management bureaucrats affix to the boxes, they insist on
taping manifests of the contents to the box lid or side. It is
not until the lids are mixed up or the manifests are
accidentally ripped from the box that they come to realize
that, while the barcode may not look like much, it is a far
more reliable way of identifying a box than scraps of paper
taped to its top or side. I do not want to be misunderstood.
Certainly, both the customers and the producers most
closely associated with a particular function know a great
deal about what they want and about what they do. Their
knc,wledge and opinions are critically important believe
that this was appropriate, and that it was one case when
the bureaucrat-at~least the bureaucrat's counsel-knew best.
But what about the opinion of the "producers" -the
workers, teachers, planners, engineers, and staffs in other
236 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

functional areas. Do not those "in the trenches," "where

the action is," have a uniquely valuable perspective on the
processes involved.
Indeed, they are able-with uncanny immediacy and
accuracy-to identify those elements of a plan or procedural
revision that simply will not work well in practice, no matter
how wonderful it appears in theory. How many times have
I worked late at night to develop a profoundly intelligent
procedural solution, only to have my balloon of brilliance
and pride punctured with a tired, scowling, "I guess, but
what about Usually, I just had not thought about that
critical consideration which inevitably invalidates my whole
On the other hand, it is possible to be so close to a given
process that one cannot imagine doing it any other way.
Such tunnel vision has led some of the practicing "experts
in the trenches" to overlook preferred alternatives that may
be more obvious to the bureaucrat somewhat distanced
from the task. Insecurity can also lead the producers to be
excessively loyal to traditional ways of doing things-partly
because what is familiar is comfortable, partly because new,
unknown procedures may threaten their sense of
competence and their job security. In an earlier column, I
mentioned the example of mail clerks, who for the past
twenty years had gone through a single sort of all company
mail. They had refused to consider any alternative by saying,
"We've been doing this for twenty years; we ought to
know." While they were on strike, a bureaucrat (the
Records Management Supervisor) took charge. With no
previous mail-room experience, but with a firm
understanding of filing principles, she introduced multiple
sorts, a procedural change resulting in completion of the
work in less time with a smaller, much less experienced
staff. Most bureaucrats-especially records managers-can
think of similar experiences. Consider the almost universal
The Future of Bureaucracy 237

opinion of producers in a functional area that the paper

records which they daily process constitute an irreplaceable
treasure for the organization. "What would we do if
someone sued us over a matter documented in these files?"
they ask. "How could the organization continue to function
legally without the original, paper copy of all of its
contractual documents?" The records management
bureaucrat may argue rationally that other media are just
as legal and are easier to control, but she will face an uphill
struggle against the functional staffs belief in the sanctity
of their paper until they finally run out of space to store it.
Just as frequent is the producers' attitudes towards the boxes
of inactive records they send to storage. Not trusting the
barcode that records management bureaucrats affix to the
boxes, they insist on taping manifests of the contents to the
box lid or side. It is not until the lids are mixed up or the
manifests are accidentally ripped from the box that they
come to realize that, while the barcode may not look like
much, it is a far more reliable way of identifying a box than
scraps of paper .taped to its top or side. I do not want to be
misunderstood. Certainly, both the customers and the
producers most closely associated with a particular function
know a great deal about what they want and about what
they do. Their knowledge and opinions are critically
important. I am only suggesting that neither group is
infallible and that the bureaucrats in the middle are not
always wrong.
The application of such reengineering techniques to make
hierarchic bureaucracies workable is not unlike the
drastically radical surgery which doctors perform on
terminally ill patients. Two questions nearly always
accompany such attempts: Will the pCltient survive? Will
the surgery so change the patient's life that he can hardly
recognize himself? We may ask nearly the same questions
about the reengin~ered bureaucracy: Will the radical
reengineering permit it to survive into the twenty-first
238 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

century? If so, will the organization that survives still be

recognizable as a bureaucracy.
Adopting a Common Sense Approach to
Depersonalization and Rules
The problem of depersonalization is basically a matter
of common courtesy. The fact that an orgaIization must
be impersonal in order to avoid inconsistencies and conflicts
of interest does not mean that we should behave as
mechanical, uncaring parts of an inhuman machine. Just
because the organization is not an association of relatives
and friends does' not mean we should not be congenial.
Just because we will never know most of the customers we
serve or because they will probably never do us a favor
does not mean we should act like petty tyrants. Just because
a subordinate is supposed to do what we tell him does not
mean we have to boss him around.
This same common sense i~ necessary in dealing with
rules. The challenge of bureaucratic rules is not how to
eliminate them but how to develop systems for continually
reviewing and revising them from the standpoint of
continued relevance, efficiency, customer service, and
integration with all other rules. ARMA International has
provided an exceptionally good example of this in its support
for the federal paperwork reduction program. Here is an
example of bureaucrats-the records managers in both
government and private business-striving to reduce
unjustified requirements to collect and preserve records that
they might easily have fought to maintain as a justification
for their own bureaucratic empires. Note that it is the
bureaucrats themselves who are often best able to identify
the bureaucratic rules which should be abolished. This sort
of exercise is also useful in teaching bureaucrats the value
of organization above department" thinking.

The application of such reengineering techniques to make

hierarchic bureaucracies workable is not unlike the
The Future of Bureaucracy 239

drastically radical surgery which doctors perform on

terminally ill patients. Two questions nearly always
accompany such attempts: Will the patient survive? Will
the surgery so change the patient's life that he can hardly
recognize himself. We may ask nearly the same questions
about the reengineered bureaucracy: Will the radical
reengineering permit it to survive into the twenty-first
century? If so, will the organization that survives still be
recognizable as a bureaucracy.
The problem 'of depersonalization is basically a matter
of common courtesy. The fact that an organization must
be impersonal in order to avoid inconsistencies and conflicts
of interest does not mean that we should behave as
mechanical, uncaring parts of an inhuman machine. Just
because the organization is not an association of relatives
and friends does not mean we should not be congenial.
Just because we will never know most of the customers we
serve or because they will probably never do us a favor
does not mean we should act like petty tyrants. Just because
a subordinate is supposed to do what we tell him does not
mean we have to boss him around.
This same common sense is necessary in dealing with
rules. The challenge of bureaucratic rules is not how to
eliminate them but how to develop systems for continually
reviewing and revising them from the standpoint of
continued relevance, efficiency, customer service, and
integration with all other rules. ARMA International has
provided an exceptionally good example of this in its support
for the federal paperwork reduction program. Here is an
example of bureaucrats-the records managers in both
government and private business-striving to reduce
unjustified requirements to collect and preserve records that
they might easily have fought to maintain as a justification
for their own bureaucratic empires. Note that it is the
bureaucrats themselves who are often best able to identify
the bureaucratic rules which should be abolished. This sort
240 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

of exercise is also useful in teaching bureaucrats the value

of "organization above department" thinking.
Ecological units. The ecological units studied in this
paper are formal organizational rules. A formal
organizational rule is a written organizational document
that usually specifies who should do what, when, and
under which conditions. Most organizational rule
documents contain a number of related provisions or
component rules assembled under a single headline, the
formal name of the rule document (e.g., reimbursement of
expenses). Thus, most formal rule documents are really
composites of component rules, which in turn can be
decomposed into grammatical components, and so forth.
Vital events. Organizational rules can undergo three
basic vital events. A rule is bom when a new rule document
is put in force in an organization. The second vital event is
rule revision, which involves adding or removing provisions
from existing rule documents. At times, the line between
births and revisions might seem to be blurred, for example,
when a revision shifts the main focus of a rule document
dramatically or when a new rule document is born that
retains large parts of other rule documents that were
suspended earlier. In those cases, the distinguishing criterion
is the existence of a predecessor document. For rule
revisions, predecessor rule documents (i.e., an earlier
version of the rule) can be identified. For rule births, no
predecessor can be identified. For a number of
methodological, empirical, and theoretical reasons, I limit
this paper to the creation of new rule documents (rule births).
I did not analyze revisions here, mainly because analysis of
revisions requires a different theoretical and statistical
apparatus. An implication of this focus is that this paper
does not capture bureaucratization through elaboration of
existing rules. To avoid potential misspecifications of the
statistical models, however, I included the intensity of rule
revisions as a control.

The Future of Bureaucracy 241

The third vital rule event is suspension. A rule suspension

(rule death) occurs when the rule is removed and no
successor version of the rule is put in place. Suspensions
are empirically less frequent than the other events and are
analytically subordinate. From a bureaucratization theory
perspective, rule births are the main components of
bureaucratization, since each birth results in an expansion
of the number of rule documents in an organization.
Bureaucratization requires rule births, whereas rule
suspensions can provide only a sufficient condition of
bureaucratization (i.e., only if the rate of suspensions
declines and if it is smaller than the birth rate). The growth
rate of a rule population is the difference between the birth
rate (the number of rules born in a given year) and the
suspension rate (the number of rules suspended in a given
year). A rule population grows as long as the birth rate
exceeds the suspension rate. If the suspension rate equals
the birth rate, the population does not grow. If the
suspension rate exceeds the birth rate the population shrinks
the growth rate is negative.
Resources. Organizational rule production can be
conceptualized as an ecological process in which rule
populations evolve that feed on organizational resources.
When such resources are limited, they can set limits to
organizational rule production. When they are abundant
they facilitate rule production. I distinguish two classes of
resources: problems and rule-making capacities. Rules are
to some degree seen as solutions to organizational problems.
Organizations create new rules when they encounter
problems that are not yet covered by existing rules, especially
when these problems are fairly recurrent, consequential,
or salient. Rule making is limited when there are fewer
problems. Rule making can also be significantly impeded
when rule-making capacities - such as attention, expertise,
and the jurisdiction of rule-making bodies - are limited. For
example, one of the rule-making bodies of the rules analyzed
in this study was administered by only one person (the
242 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

"editor" of the administrative rule book), who would

occasionally assemble small groups of "rule owners" (i.e.,
relevant administrators from a given area) to discuss rule
changes in their area. Large changes in one area would
delay rule change projects in other areas.
Population boundaries. Joint dependence on the same
resources is the main defining criterion for rule populations.
Thus, population boundaries can be established by
categories of problems and of rule-making capacities.
Organizational problems can be categorized based on their
thematic relatedness, such as accounting problems or
procurement problems. Organizations usually establish rule
categories based on these problem areas, for example,
creating accounting rules or procurement rules. Rules
specific to each of these problem areas are usually more
similar in content and purpose within than between areas.
Rule-making capacities can be categorized according to the
rule-making body authorized to create and change a set of
rules. Organizational rule making, especially the production
of formal policies, is typically located at higher levels of the
organization. Rules are functional precisely because they
can be produced centrally and applied decentrally. Such
higher-level rule-making bodies are particularly important
for the establishment of organizational rules that coordinate
action across departments, e.g., rules setting general
standards or rules defining transactions and interfaces
between subunits. Thus, a rule population is a set of rules
that is dedicated to the problems in a particular
organizational problem area and is created by the same
organizational rule-making body. Of course, the boundaries
of individual rule populations depend on how organizations
define problem areas and how they establish rule-making
bodies. Some organizations, especially highly bureaucratic
organizations (e.g., the military) develop very elaborate rule
systems in which problem areas have multiple sub-areas
and even multiple levels of sub-areas. Other organizations
The Future of Bureaucracy 243

(or parts thereof) might have fuzzy definitions of problem

areas, competing rule-making bodies, and even some
overlap (or, worse, contradictions) between different rule
areas. Clearly, such differences have implications for the
way each rule population evolves, a point I discuss below.
The proposed definition of rule populations has
implications for the analysis of the evolution of rule
populations. Problem areas and rule-making bodies are not
fixed in most organizations. Rather, they can change over
time. Boundaries around problem areas can shift, as when
the organization expands into new activity domains. Rule-
making bodies can change, for example, when rule-making
bodies are abandoned, established, or augmented. In
longitudinal studies of rule populations, such changes have
to be considered. Rule proliferation in organizations is as
much an outcome of the proliferation of rules within (Ule
populations as it is the result of the emergence of new rule
populations. The statistical models of rule production
presented below can cope with emerging rule populations
and also test whether different populations of an
organization evolve differently.
Rule density, as in models of organizational populations,
can be defined as the number of rules in a given
organizational rule population at a given time. It tends to
increase over time, as the rule population grows bigger and
the organization grows older (e.g., Pugh et al., 1968; Blau,
1970). Density dependence of rule births means that the
number of new rules born per year (the birth rate) depends
on the number of rules already in the organizational rule
population. A positive density dependence of the birth rate
means that the rule population grows faster as the total
number of rules grows larger; and a negative density
dependence of the birth rate means that the rule population
grows slower as the total number of rules grows larger. A
244 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

grows slower as the total number of rules grows larger. A

negative density dependence of the rule birth rate, however,
does not imply a negative growth rate of the organizational
rule population. It only means that the growth of the rule
population slows down as the number of rules increases.
This article focuses on an examination of accelerated versus
decelerated growth of organizational rule populations and
does not consider the rare case of shrinking bureaucracies.
The Empirical Context
This study explores rule production in a medium-size,
private university in the U.S. The university keeps two large
sets of organizational rules, administrative rules and
academic rules. The administrative rules deal with the
administrative side of the university and academic rules
regulate the conduct of faculty and students. The two rule
sets provide the empirical data base of this study.
The administrative data set is based on the
"Administrative Guide," a collection of administrative
policies that has existed at this university since 1961. This
data set covers the entire history of the guide until 1990,
the date the data collection was completed. The
administrative rules consist of rules in six main areas:
personnel, accounting, procurement, general organization
(e.g., organization charts), services (such as printing), and
rules regarding external property (i.e., government property,
gifts). Each of these administrative problem areas
constitutes an administrative rule subpopulation.
The academic data set is based on the collection of
academic rules at the university and covers the entire history
of academic rules, from 1889 to the end of the data collection
period, 1987. Over this time period the rule-making body
of the academic rules shifted. From 1891 to 1967, academic
rules were made by the Academic Council, essentially all
faculty members of the university. In 1968, academic
rulemaking authority was moved from the council to the
The Future of Bureaucracy 245

Faculty Senate, an elected body of 55 faculty

representatives, meeting biweekly and dedicated to decision
making in the academic area. The academic rules fall into
two main areas: rules about student conduct (e.g., honor
code) and rules about faculty conduct (e.g., tenure rules).
Each of the four different combinations of rule-making body
and area constitute a separate academic rule subpopulation.
The overall structure of the data is shown in figure 1.
Administrative rules can be aggregated at two levels. The
global level aggregates across all rule areas. On the local
level, the administrative rule areas define the six
administrative subpopulations. Academic rules can be
aggregated at a global level, a local level, and an
intermediate level. The global level aggregates across all
kinds of rules. On the intermediate level, there are
aggregations in two directions: faculty and student rules
(aggregating across rule-making body) and council and
senate rules (aggregating across areas). On the local
academic level, four subpopulations exist: student rules
made by the Academic Council, facuIty rules made by the
Academic Council, student rules made by the Faculty
Senate, and faculty rules made by the Faculty Senate.
Weberian and Post-Weberian Models of Rule
Bureaucracy theories are not very explicit on the issue
of density dependence of rule births, but through careful
reading one can reconstruct some implied relationships
between the number of rules in a bureaucracy and the rate
of rule production. One can distinguish moderate and
dramatic bureaucracy theories. According to moderate
theories, organizations breed rules at a continuous but
relentless pace, more precisely, at a rate that is implied to
be larger than the rate of rule suspension. According to the
dramatic formulations, rules breed rules. The moderate
versions result in a continuous, linear expansion of the
246 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

number of rules. The dramatic versions result in exponential

growth of the number of rules. Most bureaucracy theorists
use both formulations. Weber argued that rationalization,
the driving force behind the erection of great bureaucracies,
is really the result of an ascetic mind set that was carried
out of monastic cells into everyday life. This would suggest
the presence of a simple diffusion (e.g., proselytizing)
process over the population of organizations (or their
employees) and a subsequent, steady rule generation
process in the lIinfected'; organizations. Rule proliferation
is also fairly steady when bureaucratization occurs for
other, purely exogenous reasons, such as the technical
superiority of bureaucratic administration. Several of
Weber's arguments, however, allude to mechanisms in
which bureaucratization feeds on itself. This happens, for
example, when bureaucratic expansion requires the
establishment of control agencies, alongside the bureaucratic
hierarchy, that supervise the adherence to rules and that
create rules that llinit the authority of officials (Weber, 1978:
271). A second feedback mechanism results when new rules
are created to unify and systematize existing rules and laws,
sometimes in response to the interests of the bureaucratic
officialdom, which is generally interested in clarity' and

'orderliness' of the law. On the societal level, Weber (1978)

discussed at least three additional feedback mechanisms:
(1) bureaucratic expansion in continental states facilitates
their growth, which, in turn, fuels more bureaucratic
expansion demands of culture (Kulturanspruche) push
for increasing bureaucratic intensification, which, in tum,
increases (2) the standard of living and makes for an
increasing subjective indispensability of public, interlocal,
and thus bureaucratic provision of the most varied wants";
and (3) some of the main causes of bureaucratization - such
as the expansion of the state (with the accompanying
"quantitative development of administrative tasks") and
cultural, economic, and technological development
The Future of Bureaucracy 247

tasks") at the same time are promoted by bureaucratization

e.g., "permanence of great states," economic development.
Post-Weberians have proposed additional mechanisms.
For example, Gouldner (1964) proposed a circular
mechanism that expands bureaucratic rule systems. He
argued that close supervision creates tensions that can be
mitigated by bureaucratic rules, which, in tum, create low
motivation and performance and thus motivate
management to use close supervision, resulting in more
tensions and more rules. Crozier (1964) saw increasing
numbers of rules as the result of "vicious circles." He
suggested that bureaucratic rule systems grow because
impersonality and centralization are the only solutions to
recurrent conflicts over personal privileges. Other
mechanisms are proposed by authors such as Merton (1957)
("goal displacement") and Meyer (1985), who argued that
organizational complexity exceeds the limits of bounded
rationality. Although most of these mechanisms do not
directly address density del' endence, they seem to suggest
a positive effect of the number of organizational rules on
the birth rate of rules, in agreement with a dramatic
bureaucratization model:
Impediments to Organizational Learning
Limits to bureaucratic rule proliferation are rarely
addressed by bureaucracy theorists. If they do discuss limits,
they tend to invoke exogenous causes, such as cultul'al and
technological changes (e.g., Crozier, 1964: 294) or rising
awareness of the general public that bureaucracies create
more problems than they solv. Yet bureaucracies are subject
to inherent mechanism that limit their growth. Such
endogenous limits are discernible from the perspective of
an organizational learning approach, whIch shares
bureaucracy theory's interest in rules but not its rationality
248 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

Theories of organizational learning have a peculiar

outlook on organizational rule production. They assume
that organizational rules are repositories of organizational
knowledge and that organizational learning involves rule
making. For example, Levitt and March argued that
organizations learn "by encoding inferences from history
into routines that guide behavior." While not all rule making
involves organizational learning (Mills and Murgatroyd,
1991) and not all organizational learning results in rule
making, it is evident that organizations can learn from
experiences and that this learning often results in encoding
of these lessons in formal and informal rules and routines.
As the organization encounters more experiences, the
average rate of encoding increases (ceteris paribus). When
the organization encounters fewer experiences, rule
production decreases.
Differential supply of problems. I assume that
organizational rule production is driven by experiences with
organizational problems. Organizations create new rules
when they encounter problems that are not yet covered by
existing rules and when these problems are fairly recurrent,
consequential, or salient. Organizations that encounter
many such problems create a large number of rules.
Organizations that encounter few problems will have a small
number of rules. From this point of view, the supply of
problems sets limits on organizational rule production. A
rich supply of problems supports more intense rule
production than a meager supply of problems.
Unfortunately, it is very difficult to test hypotheses involving
organizational problems. Comprehensive data about
organizational problems, especially over long historical time
periods, are virtually impossible to gather. In contrast to
formal rules, which are written documents and are kept in
archives, data about problems are usually not systematically
recorded and stored in archives. To get at least an indirect
assessment of the role of problem supply for rule production,
I assess several factors that can be used to indicate the supply
The Future of Bureaucracy 249

of problems in one area relative to another area. Then I test

whether the birth rate is related to these differences.
Several factors are likely to be related to the supply of
problems in any given area. Large, heterogeneous problem
areas, such as all administrative rules, are likely to generate
more problems than narrow, homogeneous problem areas
(e.g., rules regarding specific stakeholders such as
government or donors). Populations in close contact with
the environment (e.g., procurement, marketing) are likely
to produce more problems than areas shielded from the
environment (e.g., accounting). Finally, agency problems
are likely to play a large role. Areas that are plagued by
frequent agency problems are likely to provide many
impulses for rule making (e.g., personnel rules or rules about
reimbursement of expenses), whereas areas less subject to
those hazards are likely to have a smaller arrival rate of
new problems (e.g., rules regarding basic organizational
structures and strategies). From this follows the next
Absorption. The supply of problems for organizational
rule production also depends on endogenous factors. At
least partially, the supply is a function of the rules in
existence. Organizational rules "absorb" problems. Rules
contain encoded solutions to current and anticipated
problems. Subsequent occurrences of situations generating
the same problems can be handled by applying the rules.
In this way, the problems can be avoided. Because they
eliminate, or at least significantly reduce, the impetus for
change, rules even absorb problems when they provide only
cosmetic solutions (e.g., are created to appease external
stakeholders or to alleviate institutional pressures).
One can distinguish two absorption mechanisms,
preemption and codification traps. Preemption, one of the
accouterments of legal-rational bureaucracies, means that
problems cease to be available for further rule production
250 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

(within the jurisdiction of the same rule-making body) after

they have been encoded in a rule. For example,
organizations rarely have more than one non-smoking
policy. Having more than one rule for a given issue would
incur the risk of inconsistency between rules and thereby
jeopardize the institutionalized expectation of rational
administration. Codification traps occur when the extension
and habitual application of old rules to new problems
eliminate the perceived need to create new rules. In
codification traps, problems get absorbed even if they do
not exactly match the premises of the old rules. Merton
(1957), with reference to Veblen, called this the "trained
incapacity of bureaucrats." Bureaucrats tend to stretch
established rules to cope with new problems. In this way,
they obviate the need to develop new solutions. The
outcome is a trap reminiscent of competency traps.
Stretching old rules to deal with new problems reinforces
the old rules and keeps experience with alternatives
inadequate to make them rewarding to use. Both preemption
and codification traps affect the rate of rule production.
The larger the number of rules in existence, the higher the
likelihood that new problems will fall into the factual or
stretched domain of existing rules. Thus, the rate of rule
production should decline with the number of rules in the
It is likely that absorption is accompanied by another
mechanism that also implies a shrinking rate of rule
production. It concerns the temporal order of codification.
Not all possible organizational problems are encoded
immediately. Some problems, such as basic problems, are
encountered earlier, receive more attention, are solved easier,
and are ceded sooner than others. The temporal order of
codification depends on a number of factors. Here I focus
only on recurrence. Organizational problems vary in the
degree of their recurrence. Some types of problems recur
frequently and others seldom. In organizations, recurring
The Future of Bureaucracy 251

problems receive more attention and are codified sooner

than rare problems. Recurring problems could be considered
as "low hanging fruit" that are highly visible and easy to

pick" by organizational decision makers (i.e., their solutions

provide more returns). Rare problems easily escape
attention and their solutions are difficult to assess because
the feedback is long delayed. Such a dynamic implies a
sorting process. Problems are dealt with in the order of their
recurrence. Recurrent problems have a higher chance of
showing up earlier in the organizational rule-making
process and are codified earlier than rare problems, which
have small chances of arriving and are codified later. Sorting
by recurrence depletes organizational problem areas in a
particular way: the set of remaining problems not yet
codified consists of increasingly rare problems.
Organizational encounters with these problems are rare
and get rarer as the sorting process absorbs problems in the
order of their recurrence. This suggests that codification
proceeds from highly recurrent to frequent to likely to
occasional to rare and, finally, to possible and potential
contingencies. It takes longer and longer for this process to
arrive at the next problem because the next problem is rarer
than the preceding one. The outcome of sorting by
recurrence is a negative density dependence of rule births.
The resulting hypothesis is identical to hypothesis 3, which
I therefore refer to as the absorption/ sorting hypothesis.
Turbulence. The absorption and sorting mechanism..:; are
likely to be weakened when many new problem sources
emerge in a problem area, a situation I term "turbulence"
(inspired by Emery and Trist, 1965; see also Terreberry,
1968). Turbulence can disrupt absorption. Environmental
turbulence can replenish the stock of problems in a problem
area, thereby increasing the carrying capacity of the problem
area for new rules. This situation is more likely in areas
that experience a strong supply of problems, that is, in
problem areas that (1) are located in boundary spanning
areas, (2) are plagued by agency problems, and (3) are wide
252 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

and heterogeneous. From this would follow that the negative

effect of density on the birth rate of rules is weaker in
turbulent areas and stronger in calm areas.
Turbulence not only weakens absorption, it also disrupts
sorting. Some of the new problem sources emerging in
turbulent areas might generate highly recurrent problems
and thus elevate the rate of rule production, at least until
their most recurrent problems are covered. Although the
sorting mechanism is likely to kick back in after turbulent
spells cease (because rule making catches up with the new
problems in the order of their recurrence), it can get
significantly weakened when a high level of turbulence
persists. This is particularly likely in rule areas located in
turbulent environments (e.g., those closer to the periphery
of the organization). Thus, turbulent problem areas will
show a weaker negative density dependence of the rule
birth rate than calm areas:
The density dependence of the rule birth rate is stronger
(i.e., negative) in calm areas and weaker (i.e., closer to zero)
in turbulent problem areas.
Recycling. Given this similarity between absorption and
sorting, one might wonder if it is possible to disentangle
both mechanisms. One difference between them concerns
the effects of suspensions. Rule suspensions release
problems previously regulated by organizational rules and
put them back into the arena of organizational rule making,
where they can be picked up or "recycled by other rules. >

In a sense, recycling is the inverse of absorption: previously

absorbed problems become available for new rules. The
outcome of recycling would be that the birth rate of
organizational rules would shift upward as the number of
suspended rules in a population increases. Recycling,
however, does not reverse sorting. Sorting relies on
differentials of problem recurrence that, at least a priori,
are not related to recycling. Thus, empirical support for
The Future of Bureaucracy 253

recycling would be consistent with absorption but would

imply nothing about sorting.
The rate of rule birth increases with the number of
suspensions of other rules. Sorting, absorption, and
recycling reflect situations in which rules compete with
other rules for scarce resources such as organizational
problems or organizational rule-creation capacities. Such
resources can be more or less widely shared. For example,
one could imagine that some rule subpopulations feed on
resources of other subpopulations (e,g., when accounting
rules encroach on the procurement area or when
jurisdictions of rule-making bodies overlap). This is
particularly likely if different rule populations form
ecological communities. In that case, one would expect that
global density and global suspension measures affect rule
production. in other cases, rule subpopulations might feed
mostly on their own resources. if rule populations are
independent, density and suspension effects should be
mainly localized within populations. The models presented
below explore these possibilities.
All independent variables except the suspension
variables are lagged. The main reason for not using lagged
suspension variables is that recycling occurs more or less
instantaneously. Problems, once part of rules, are generally
acknowledged as issues worth some regulation. Rational
bureaucracies do not risk explicitly deregulating virulent
issues and let them hang in the air for an extended time
period. Rather, components of rules to be suspended are
moved to new rules that are put in force at the time the old
rules are suspended. A second reason is methodological. A
fair amount of recycling occurs during overhauls of groups
of rules, when a group of related rules is suspended and
replaced with a new group of rules that deal with most of
the issues of the suspended group. It is possible that births
that occur during these overhauls are different from regular
births; in particular, they are probably not independent
254 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

from each other, thus violating assumptions of the Poisson

model. Inclusion of contemporary suspensions captures the
bulk of these overhauls and thereby reduces potential
misspecifications of the models.
Population age dependence is a possible source of
spurious density effects. Lines of thought around the
concept of liability of newness and work on the concept of
structural inertia (Hannan and Freeman, 1984) suggest that
organizational inertia increases with age. For
organizational rule populations, this could mean that the
rate of rule production declines as populations age, because
social relations in an organizational area under the
jurisdiction of a given rule-making body become routinized
and obviate"new rules. If such arguments hold, the rate of
rule production would decrease with population age.
Therefore, if age is not included in the models, spurious
density dependence might re$ult, because density tends to
be positively correlated with age. To check this possibility, I
tested models that included time clocks. For administrative
rules, the time clock is the age of the administrative rule
population. For academic rules, I included two time clocks,
one for the Academic Council and one for the Faculty
Senate. Each starts at zero and is updated every year as the
corresponding subpopulation ages.
Another potential source of spuriousness is revisions.
One could imagine that the bureaucratization process shifts
from rule making to rule changing as the number 6f rules
in the organization expands. This would result in a spurious
negative density dependence of the rate of rule birth if
revisions are not considered in the models. For this reason,
I included the number of rule revisions in the preceding
A number of additional control variables were included
in the models. Organizational and structural growth are
frequently regarded as main causes of formalization in
The Future of Bureaucracy 255

organizations (e.g., Blau, 1970). To capture their effect on

rule production, I included two measures. Organizational
growth was measured as the difference of the log of the
number of students enrolled in year t-1 minus the log of
students enrolled in year t-2. In effect, this is the log of the
ratio of consecutive years. Structural growth was measured
in the same way but was based on the number of degree
programs at the university, i.e., as In(number of
[programs.sub.t-1]) - In(number of [programs.sub.t-2]). This
specification reduces multicollinearity because it uses first
differences. It also normalizes the variables because it uses
Another set of control variables concerns the effect of
university presidents on rule production. University history
can and has been written in terms of presidential periods.
Different university presidents signify differences in decision
style, political agenda, and strictness in enforcing or
stretching established rules. To capture the effects of
different presidents on the rule production process, I
included tenure dummies for different university presidents.
The dummies are 1 in the years greater or equal to the
beginning of the presidential tenure period, and zero before
that. This way the exponential function [e.sup.[Betall of
the effect (see equation 2) gives the change of the birth rate
relative to the birth rate in the previous period, a method
suggested by Hannan and Freeman (1989: 210). The first
period (the tenure of president 1) starts at 1891, the second
(the tenure of president 2) at 1913, the third at 1943, the
fourth at 1949, the fifth at 1968, the sixth at 1970, and the
seventh at 1980. The first period was used as the reference
The parameter estimates of Poisson models of the rule
birth rate reported here were estimated with LIMDEP.
There are two tables of parameter estimates for
256 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

administrative rules and two analogous tables for academic

rules. The first tables in each subsection constrain the slopes
of density and suspension parameters to be equal across
subpopulations, although intercepts are allowed to differ.
The models in these first tables are nested and therefore
permit the use of likelihood-ratio tests. The second tables in
each subsection (tables 3 and 5) allow slopes of density and
suspension variables to differ between subpopulations, but
for the most part, those models are not nested, so likelihood-
ratio tests were not used.

The Revolution is Today:

Bureaucracy Is Forever

In any nation, the bureaucracy shies away from anything

resembling "new thinking." In the Soviet Union,
bureaucracy is a mire as immobilizing as mud in Siberia,
and as eternal as the seasons. "Chin," the system of infinite
civil service gradations of rank inherited from the Mongols,
and GogoI's caricC,lture of Akaky Akakievich, the timid petty
bureaucrat of "The Overcoat" whose life falls apart after a
harsh word from a high official, would have been familiar
to Lenin, who wrote in 1897. "The complete lack of rights
of the people in relation to government officials and the
complete absence of control over the privileged bureaucracy
correspond to the backwardness of Russia and to its
So after the revolution, did he get rid of it. Of course
not. As he observed himself in 1921. 'The czar can be sent
packing, the landed proprietors sent packing, the capitalists
sent packing. That we did. But bureaucratism cannot be
'sent packing' from a peasant country, cannot be 'swept
from the face of the earth.' One can only reduce it by slow,
stubborn effort.'
Seventy years of communism in the Soviet Union brought .
258 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

a vast bureaucracy of an estimated 18 million people. (By

contrast, the United States had 4,194,436 Federal employees
at the beginning of this year, plus more millions in state
and local bureaucracies.) Mr. Gorbachev sometimes sounds
as if he would like some of the capitalists and the landed
proprietors Lenin sent packing to come back, to try to
salvage something from the ruins.
Yesterday, he and other Soviet leaders met to decide on
economic measures that are expected to encourage private
enterprise, set up a national banking system along Western
lines to finance it, and start eliminating some of the millions
of ways in which Soviet bureaucrats interfere with market
mechanisms by telling enterprises how much of everything
from pins to power plants to produce and how much to
charge for them.
Mr. Gorbachev said last week that he was ready to use
his sweeping new executive powers to speed the latest
package, hoping to spare it the fate of the ones he introduced
in 1985 - the bureaucracy just ignored them.
Lining Up to Fill Out Forms
How is that possible? Imagine a country where
practically everything requires filling out forms and waiting
in line. Imagine a place where buying an airplane ticket or
changing money for a trip abroad involves as much
inconvenience and frustration for a Soviet citizen as going
to the Department of Motor Vehicles for a new driver's
license does for a New Yorker, where getting permission to
live in an apartment in Moscow is as complicated as getting
approval to build a modem extension on a landmarked
building in Brooklyn Heights.
The bureaucrats in charge of the coal and oil industries,
of course, do not have to sweat in the mines or freeze in the
Siberian oilfields; they sit in offices and wear suits and ties.
But many would not know how to help economic reform
The Revolution is Today: Bureallcraty is Forever 259

even if they wanted to. Gavriil K. Popov, a radical economist

in Moscow, said miners who were on strike last year only
wanted the right to market for themselves any coal they
produced above what they had to give to the state ministry,
but the bureaucrats would not give in.
There are so many rules and regulations that often the
only way to get anything done is to quietly bribe those who
enforce them. But there are no guarantees. Even for the
initiated Western businesses, there are plenty of pitfalls.
Stockmann's, a Helsinki department store that has been
shipping orders to the Western community in Moscow for
decades, tried to take advantage of new rules for joint
ventures with Soviet cooperatives last year. It opened a small
food store in Moscow, and for awhile it did a booming
business. Now its shelves are empty, all because of red tape.
Finance Ministry bureaucrats wrote its charter under a
Council of Ministers regulation that says joint ventures can
import products only for their own needs, according to the
new Soviet business weekly Commersant. Customs officials
discovered" this in March, and began turning back

Stockmann's trucks.
In 1986, at the end of Mr. Gorbachev's first year, there
were 55 Soviet Government ministries and 23 state
committees eqUivalent to ministries: ministries for defense,
military production, internal affairs, health, justice, the
merchant marine, light industry, heavy industry, electricity
and electrification, metallurgy, chemicals, finance, trade,
communications, fisheries and production of chemical
fertilizer, committees for state security, state planning,
prices, labor, television and radio, and forestry - to name
only a few.
Now there are only 37 ministries and 19 state committees.
That does not mean all the old ones went away - just that
they were merged or their functions devolved to the
duplicate bureaucracies in the 15 constituent Soviet
260 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

republics. For Soviet bureaucrats, as for their counterparts

around the world, survival and self-interest are often more
important than the public welfare. While the average Soviet
monthly wage was 220 rubles last year -about $360 -
Valentin S. Pavlov, the Finance Minister, told the Supreme
Soviet indignantly last December that some high-ranking
functionaries were taking advantage of consolidation to
raise their own salaries - to 1,500 rubles a month for the
president of the urban planning association of the Ministry
of Power and Electricity, for example, 1,400 for his general
director and 500 for his driver. At the official rate of
exchange (set by bureaucrats), 1,500 rubles is $2,475. Yuri
A. Tyunkov, a spokesman for the Soviet Council of
Ministers, said the Prime Minister gets only 1,200 rubles a
That the growth of a bureaucracy that planned every
detail of the economy would eventually be a paralyzing
dead weight on initiative should have come as no surprise
to any student of Weber, Marx, or Engels. Now Mr.
Gorbachev wants to shift to a market economy regulated
to prevent the excesses of 19th century capitalism, the only
version most Russians still have in their blood. But this, too,
could become a bureaucratic nightmare.
But the United States, with its market economy, had
more bureaucrats in the Federal Department of Agriculture
(110,615), he said, than the Soviet Union had in its state
Commission on Procurement and Food, and the same was
true in other areas. In the Soviet Union, he said, "the idea
of a vast bureaucracy is a myth.' One wonders what Mr.
Gorbachev would say about that.

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Accountability 70 Decentralization 145
An interpretive-cultural approach dopting a Common Sense 238
Anti bureaucracy 36
empires 223
Enabling Bureaucracy 128
Bureaucracy Arena 51 Enabling Bureaucracy's 129
Bureaucracy, Organisation &
Political Change 1
Bureaucracy's Defining Federal Express's Powership
Features 125 229
Bureaucratic Performance 57 Fiefs 223
Bureaucratic Rules, 54 Future of Bureaucracy 217
Bureaucrats or Politicians 190
Governance and Democracy
Challenge of Governance in a 115
Large Bureaucracy 103 Governance and Effectiveness
Changes over Time 64 119
Changing Quality of Life 46 Governance and Governing III
Coercive and Enabling Governance and Public
Bureaucracy 123 Bureaucracy 107
Compensation of losers 208 Governance Defined 105
Coordination 148
Cultures Generate Bureaucracy H
139 HRM and people processing
264 Bureaucracy and Development Administration

HRM system 164 R

I Representative Bureaucracy 81
Impediments to Organizational s
Learning 247
Self-organising 113
Interpretation 178
Introducing Coercive T
Bureaucracy 126
The Bureaucracy and
L Governance in Developing
Count 50
Leading the Future of the Public
The bureaucrat 196
Sector 80
The Empirical Context 244
Legitimacy 114
The Management of Change at
Lining Up to Fill Out Forms 258
the Bureaucracy 25
Lobbying and bribing 211
The Mother of All Bureaucracy
M 138
The politician 197
Meritocracy 69
The Primacy of Bureaucracy
Monitoring 148
Mysteries of promotion 174
The Problem with Bureaucratic
o Rules 227
The reform of the State
Organizational 242 bureaucracy 143
p The Revolution is Today 257
The Vantage Point 45
Perfection of Meritocracy 150 Transparency 72
Policy tasks in an uncertain Two Kinds of Bureaucracy 125
world 204
Political Culture, Development w
Administration 45 WGS Data on the Bureaucracy
Post bureaucracy 34 60
Problems with a Permanent
Hierarchy 225
Process and outcome cracks
public-spirited 231