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Theoretical Grounding of Bureaucratic Ethics

  • Steven G. KovenEmail author
Chapter

Abstract

The size and scope of the US government has expanded significantly since the founding of the nation. This chapter presents various explanations for this growth that include factors such as urbanization, economic crisis, war, clientele pressure, and budget maximization. Concurrent with government growth is the need for bureaucracies to produce efficiency, economy, neutrality, and rationality. The general ethos of these organizations is described as well as the potential threat this ethos poses to constitutional government. In theory, bureaucracies act with neutrality, responding to the will of elected leaders and the desires of the people. An alternative model is presented where constituents defer to the expertise of careerists in organizations. In this model subjectivity and discretion are celebrated. The writings of classical bureaucratic theorist such as Woodrow Wilson, Max Weber, Frederick Winslow Taylor, Henri Fayol, and Luther Gulick buttress the case for expertise and discretion to play major roles in public policy. Finally, the chapter introduces the concept of bureaucratic resistance to electoral authority. Resistance can take various forms. However, each form of resistance represents a threat to democratic accountability. Bureaucratic autonomy, even if it leads to efficiency, is viewed as a potential menace to the values of responsiveness and government by consent of the governed.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA

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