From Expert Administration to Accountability Network: A New Paradigm for Comparative Administrative Law

53 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2011

See all articles by Francesca Bignami

Francesca Bignami

George Washington University - Law School


Notwithstanding the radically changed landscape of contemporary administrative governance, the categories that guide comparative administrative law and that determine what will be compared remain similar to those used at the founding of the discipline in the late 1800s. These categories are rooted in confidence in an expert bureaucracy to accomplish public purposes and are mainly twofold - administrative organization and judicial review. This outdated model has limited the ability of comparative law to engage with contemporary debates on the administrative state, which instead display considerable skepticism of public administration and are premised on achieving the public good through a plural accountability network of public and private actors. This Article seeks to correct the anachronism by reframing comparative administrative law as an accountability network of rules and procedures designed to embed public administration and civil servants in their liberal democratic societies: accountability to elected officials, organized interests, the courts, and the general public. Based on this paradigm, the Article compares American and European administrative law in a global context. Among the many differences explored are parliamentary versus presidential political control, pluralist versus neo-corporatist forms of self-regulation and public-private collaboration, judicial review focused on fundamental rights versus policy rationality, and reliance on ombudsmen in lieu of courts. The Article concludes with a number of suggestions for how comparative law can speak to current debates on reforming administrative governance.

Suggested Citation

Bignami, Francesca, From Expert Administration to Accountability Network: A New Paradigm for Comparative Administrative Law. American Journal of Comparative Law, Vol. 59, 2011; GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 580; GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 580. Available at SSRN:

Francesca Bignami (Contact Author)

George Washington University - Law School ( email )

2000 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States
202-994-2470 (Phone)


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