Beyond Weber: Conceptualizing an Alternative Ideal-Type of Bureaucracy in Developing Contexts
Regulation and Governance, 2017
17 Pages Posted: 31 May 2016 Last revised: 30 Jun 2018
Date Written: May 28, 2016
The study of public administration in developing countries needs to look beyond the Weberian model as the only ideal-type of bureaucracy. When we assume that there exists only one gold standard of public administration, all other organizational forms that do not conform to the Weberian ideal are written off as corruption or failures. Drawing on neo-institutional economics, I introduce an alternative ideal-type of bureaucracy found in China. Termed bureau-franchising, this model combines the hierarchical structure of bureaucracy with the high-powered incentives of franchising. In this system, public agencies can rightfully claim a share of income earned to finance and reward themselves, like entrepreneurial franchisees. Yet distinguished from lawless corruption, this self-financing (or prebendal) behavior is sanctioned and even deliberately incentivized by state rules. Although such a model violates several Weberian tenets of “good” bureaucracy, it harnesses and regulates the high-powered incentives of prebendalism to ameliorate budgetary and capacity constraints common to developing countries like China.
Keywords: public administration, bureaucracy, developing countries, corruption, Weber, incentives, China
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