Bureaucratic Politics

ARENA Working Paper 8/2021 (pdf)

Tobias Bach

Image may contain: Organism, Terrestrial plant, Font, Pattern, Circle.The bureaucratic politics approach seeks to understand public policy as the result of decision-making processes, characterized by conflict, bargaining, and compromise, inside and between government organizations. A core assumption is that government organizations pursue distinct interests, including the preservation of their unique sphere of authority (“turf”) as well as the pursuit of distinct views on policy problems and solutions. Hence, while appearing as unitary actors with consistent preferences from the outside, the bureaucratic politics approach suggests that decisions of national governments, supranational organizations, such as the European Commission, and other bodies, such as regulatory and executive agencies, should be better understood as the result of political processes involving multiple organizations and organizational units. The bureaucratic politics perspective therefore partly overlaps with the literature on coordination inside and between government organizations, which for instance highlights the importance of “organizational silos” as impediments to successful coordination. The paper introduces classic contributions to this literature (as well as more recent theorizing), focusing on the political nature of public organizations, including reputation management and blame avoidance. The paper also elaborates on different types of decisions – reforms/institutional choice vs. regular policy-making – and the relevance of the bureaucratic politics approach for analyzing such decisions. The paper reviews selected empirical contributions to this literature, specially focusing on the European Commission as well as EU agencies and their interactions with national level agencies.

Tags: Administrative Reform, Blame Avoidance, Bureaucratic Politics, Coordination, EU Agencies, European Commission, Reputation Management
Published Nov. 3, 2021 10:47 AM - Last modified Nov. 12, 2021 10:42 AM