Comparative Bureaucratic Politics

Posted: 25 May 2022

See all articles by Carl Dahlström

Carl Dahlström

University of Gothenburg - Department of Political Science

Victor Lapuente

University of Gothenburg - Department of Political Science

Date Written: May 1, 2022

Abstract

This article discusses one of the most important institutions in the modern world, namely public bureaucracies, from a comparative perspective. Bureaucratic organizations can be seen as a result of handling dilemmas along two critical dimensions. The first dimension concerns whether bureaucrats should be autonomous or, on the contrary, directly accountable to their political masters. The second dimension is about whether bureaucrats should always be guided by the letter of the law, strictly following established rules, or, on the contrary, guided by the principle of management, searching for the most efficient solution. We review the extensive recent research on the effects of different ways of organizing public bureaucracies along these two dimensions. Specifically, we look at three fundamental outcomes: economic development, corruption, and the quality of public services. We conclude by discussing the pros and cons of the four types of bureaucracies—legalistic (accountability and law), populistic (accountability and management), Weberian (autonomy and law), and liberal (autonomy and management)—and how they relate to, but do not overlap with, the concept of administrative traditions.

Suggested Citation

Dahlström, Carl and Lapuente, Victor, Comparative Bureaucratic Politics (May 1, 2022). Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 25, pp. 43-63, 2022, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4119368 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-polisci-051120-102543

Carl Dahlström (Contact Author)

University of Gothenburg - Department of Political Science ( email )

Box 711
Göteborg, S-405 30
Sweden

Victor Lapuente

University of Gothenburg - Department of Political Science ( email )

Box 711
Göteborg, S-405 30
Sweden

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