Discretion from a Sociological Perspective

  • Zachary W. Oberfield


If we want to understand how bureaucrats behave, we need to reckon with whom they are and how they are influenced by the social forces that they encounter in their workplaces. As such, this chapter asks how newcomers are shaped by the organizations that they enter and what this means for how they use their discretion. To guide this pursuit, the chapter uses the Logic of Appropriateness, a decision-making theory, next to two competing explanatory frameworks for organizational socialization, the dispositional and institutional perspectives. Using these perspectives as a guide, the chapter discusses the findings from a research project that examined how two sets of entering street-level bureaucrats—police officers and welfare caseworkers—developed their approaches to discretion during their first few years on the job.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zachary W. Oberfield
    • 1
  1. 1.Haverford CollegeHaverfordUSA

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