Understanding Political Dowry in Iran’s Public Administration

  • Hassan DanaeefardEmail author
  • Masoumeh Mostafazadeh
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-31816-5_3525-1



Privilege a manager promises to bring by himself/herself to an organization.


The behaviors of political and executive managers and experts in public sector have always attracted the attention of theorists and practitioners of public administration area. Political sciences, public policy-making, and public administration are the domains of attempt to theorize the actions of political managers, employees, and political and executive institutions in different political systems in a variety of ways. Theories, models, and frameworks are the instruments used to describe and explain the actions and activities. Thus, each of these domains transfers the knowledge produced about each of the aforementioned phenomena through administrative degrees (BA, MA, and PhD) and administrative events (workshops, seminars, and conferences) to ensure efficient, effective, and fair administration based on human rights. Although a few authorities from these domains claim their theories, models, and frameworks are universal, the reality is that, most of the produced knowledge is context- and culture-oriented, and it may not be used in other contexts. Thus, comparative public administration tries to promote belief in local public administration models of the public sector and public policy-making, although it follows the design of general theories in its essence.

Based on this, comparative public administration researchers have developed certain models for explaining managerial behaviors in the public sectors of developed and developing countries. In referring to “political dowry” in third-world countries, the authors in this study attempt to describe this phenomenon by relying on interdisciplinary theories. Our belief is, in countries with more political approach to public administration, this phenomenon is popular. Political officials with a dominant role over the highest state officials maintain strong control over those senior civil servants who after the onset of political functions are not replaced, which creates a strong (political) pressure and ultimately reduces professional independence (Čehovin and Haček 2015, 139). Prismatic society theory, cooptation theory, public managers’ displacement theory (Danaeefard and Alvani 2007), and new public administration theory could be noticed as theoretical foundation of this phenomenon. Reviewing these theoretical foundations, we will talk about some mechanisms of this phenomenon in third-world countries.

Theoretical Roots of Political Dowry

Prismatic Society Theory

Fred Riggs one of the most famous of scientist of public administration, tried to explain local models and theories in developing countries. His theory of prismatic society and the Sala (administrative subsystem) model of administrative systems have a certain place in scientific studies on comparative public administration. In the theory of prismatic society, he places fused, diffracted, and prismatic societies in one class, where prismatic societies are between the two other types. According to him in a fused society with a structure (king, leader, etc.), governors perform all governance tasks, and citizens and people are absolute servants of governors and do not seek any reward or compensation in lieu of serving the governors. In these societies, the government is not responsive to people, but the people have certain moral commitments in terms of obeying the government’s regulations. Furthermore, intrasocietal relationships are so weak, and the relationship between the nation and the government is of the lowest level. A diffracted society is so disintegrated (in terms of structure, behavior, and process) that its degree of differentiation is considered the criterion for its development. In such societies, specialization governs, and every structural element’ performances and functions are integrated. All structures are somehow designed there on from rational considerations. Economic systems are based on the market axis and affect other aspects of society. Fred Riggs used the term “marketized society” to refer to such societies. In such societies, the government shows some sensitivity toward people’s demands and defends their rights. Public authorities do not have absolute power, and people are expected to obey regulations. The third type of society that is intermediate to the two aforementioned types is the prismatic society. According to Riggs, this society combines the features of two other types of societies. There is a certain level of differentiation along with specialization of necessary roles for administration and new technology. However, in terms of social integration, there are some difficulties. Although such a society is not fused, it is not completely diffracted (Riggs 1964).

Cooptation Theory

In the realm of environmental administration, various theories, mechanisms, and strategies have been proposed for managing turbulent environments. One of the theories of Philip Selznick (1949, 1996) the father of institutionalization is the cooptation theory. According to this theory, managers try to manage their environments in various areas by communicating with critics and key influencing factors. By establishing aggregations (committee, council, commission, etc.) in their organizations and inviting these critics, managers try to direct organizational players toward turbulent areas to alleviate any environmental crisis in the organization that can threaten the organization. Instead, the organization makes these people members of the board of directors, committees, and commissions, and such people try to bring some kind of dowry to the organization. The dowry brought by each individual might differ. Sometimes, through these individuals, the organization gets loans, facilities, foreign trips, and wins bids or competitions for various projects. For example, a few research organizations try to acquire research projects of organizations in which these individuals are members by attracting said individuals to their high councils of research and guaranteeing their survival.

New Public Administration Theory

Each of the managerial movements in the public sector has its own managerial approach (Danaeefard 2012). One of the managerial movements in the public sector is new public administration that is based on the political approach toward administration in the public sector (Frederickson 1980). According to some researchers, politics is the main axis of the administrative system in this approach. Sayer (1978) effectively referred to this point. He believed public administration is in fact a part of main core of political theory. The fundamental issue in democracy is the responsibility toward public control. Thus, the responsibility and organization and administrative bureaucracy’s sensitivity toward selected authorities has central importance and the government emphasizes severely on imposing discretionary power by administrative organizations.”

Appleby (1945) refers to this issue and considers public administration as policy making. In Big Democracy, he refers to three main features of public managers: territory and the effect of action, public responsiveness, political behavior and attributes.

In the linkage between democracy and bureaucracy, according to some authors, a democratic society requires democratic organizations. So when executive power is in control of the winning party, said party hands over the control of all managerial and key positions to its fans and members because it believes that people have voted for the values of their intended winning party. Thus, the selected government is required to change managers and bureaucrats to implement its agenda. In this case, the political approach toward administration in the public sector shows itself in the form of change or displacement of managers, deputies, and even top managers, and somehow, in the lowest rung of people in the public sector organizational pyramid. Political rationale and party-oriented strategies are the specifications of this approach toward administration in public sector and competency is not the only initial and main index of managers and employees.

Theorizing the Political Dowry Theory

When a society has the characteristics of Fred Riggs’ prismatic society, a Sala-like administrative system is formed. Moreover, when the political approach to administration governs the public sector and the theory about displacement of public managers confirms the transfer and displacement of public managers and the cooptation theory governs the managerial styles of managers in the public sector, the administrative system will witness behaviors appropriate to such communities. Top civil servants form the organizational link between elected political executives and the administrative hierarchy that forms the backbone of the public sector (Christensen et al. 2014, 217). In such an administrative system, any public manager tries to show its performance in terms of good public opinion instead of focusing on real and democratic performance. Thus, managers seek different ways of presenting the organization as being good and effective. In this political market that governs the public sector, various displacements occur across various organizations. Some individuals attempt to promote their professional and specialized roles within political games and by transferring from a low-level organization to a higher organization. Since these individuals have obtained high places through political interactions and there is the possibility that these places can be taken back after political revolution, they try to find positions in certain professional and specialized centers to remain safe. Thus, by resorting to higher authorities, they create the grounds for transfer to target organizations. Because it is likely that these individuals do not have the required professional competencies and the main body of the target organization contradicts with their entrance, they enter the target organization by appealing to political pressures and inattentiveness to service regulation. Moreover, since the managers of organizations and specialized institutions are selected through such a political managerial style, they try to place their party members in their organizations. However, they expect compensation from the newcomers. In other words, an individual with high political and managerial place enters such organizations and brings a dowry to the organization that the authors call “political dowry.” Such dowry has different forms and shapes. The volume and significance of such dowry depends on the target position and the individual’s influence on the national and executive policy-making in the country. The allocation of certain budgets, receiving of land and public facilities, linking of target organization with power centers, paying debts, and receiving surplus budgets are a few examples of such dowry. The severity and duration of this phenomenon is different in different government functions (economic, cultural, and educational). Meanwhile, in explaining the incidence of this phenomenon, one could say that governance in the political approach to public sector administration increases the inclination toward achieving public treasury in political players because in this case, the possibility that they return to political power is in doubt. Thus, the winning political party tries to strengthen its roots in various managerial sectors so that it cannot be withdrawn easily. By contrast, the next winning party will not be able to dominate other professional and political centers. Furthermore, because the professional and specialized centers have good face in society and protect the abilities of professional individuals and the possibility of rapid confrontation with experts in such centers is slightly problematic, politicians try to obtain certain professional and specialized places after losing their political positions to be able to enter political realm at any given opportunity and to stay in public consciousness.

Accordingly, such individuals try to promise heavy dowry to target organizations, usually by quoting their political status, to gain entry into the target organization by persuading the manager of the organization. Because such an opportunity is not always available to them, they try to allocate the professional and specialized positions to themselves when their party is in power. Political opportunity-seeking defines such individuals because after departure of their political party from the political and executive administration of the country, the possibility for them to enter such organizations is low. The destructive and negative outcomes of this phenomenon include showing the country environment as based on rent, building of revolutionary spaces in organizations, pessimism toward parties and politicians, questioning meritocracy, degradation of the spirit of law and regulation in society, increase in the avarice of other political players in using political positions when in power, diminished public trust in the trusteeship of politicians, politicization of professional and specialized organizations, disappointment in society – based on the fact that without party dependency, progress is difficult – destruction of national motivation of experts in said organizations, and pessimism and distrust of managers in said organizations. In Islamic society, where policy based on religious guidelines, this phenomenon seems to be strange because “political opportunities” in such a society is a divine trusteeship, where unfaithfulness has religious consequences. Figure 1 shows the incidence of political dowry graphically.
Fig. 1

Political dowry phenomenon

Figure 1 shows that when the political approach governs the entire political system and public sector administration, winning party is willing to guarantee its political survival through different ways and by appealing to various mechanisms. Thus, the inclination toward political survival is very high in the winning political party, and it tries to make maximum use of national assets (political, economic, cultural, professional, and specialized) to sustain its survival. The drive to use public facilities is very high, and the party in power tries to increase partisanship in all aspects of life, including sociocultural, politico-economic, legal, as well as professional and specialized administration. Accordingly, the inclination toward partisanship is high. The link between three mentioned dominant inclines leads party players to stabilize and occupy the political, managerial, and professional positions. Thus, they try to focus on obtaining professional and specialized positions that have higher survival in society. Based on this strategy, professional-specialized interorganizational transfers occur in the public sector, and a phenomenon called political dowry facilitates the confirmation of political positions.

Notably, the authors focus on transfers in professional-specialized organizations. However, because the political space governs such transfers and displacements, it is likely that even the individuals transferred to such organizations do not honestly declare the amount of their dowry; however, the manager of target organization wishes to gain some advantages for the organization before the entrance of such an individual because of knowledge about the political place of that individual or because the individual clearly creates the impression in the manager of the target organization that his entrance will benefit the organization. However, some individuals might enter target organizations after presenting their dowry. Overall, the following states are possible:
  • An individual first enters the organization and then offers dowry to the organization; however, the speed of dowry injection to organization might vary. It might happen that such an individual would not succeed in bringing dowry but benefit from membership of the organization.

  • Before entrance to the organization, an individual submits dowry to the organization and might not enter the organization because of changes in the situation.

  • Manager inducts an individual into the organization expecting to receive dowry, and by entrance of the individual, the organization may or may not benefit from the dowry offered.

Mechanisms of Political Dowry

Receiving Public Loans or Public Budgets

Managers of public organizations present their prestige and extent of administration by increasing their credits and budget because one of the indicators of public managers’ success is obtaining greater financial resources and a larger share of public budget. Any public sector manager who can increase the inflow of funds into an organization seems to be more effective. To fulfill such an aim, a public manager should be powerful in budget brokerage within or outside the relevant ministry or should be able to supply finance through beneficiaries. The dowry of these individuals might be the injection of major or average budgets into such organizations; however, the injection of such dowry happens legally. For example, such individual can directly or indirectly (as a member of government) inject a major budget by approval of the government and authorities or enter a big load into the organization by approval of the government or other related communities.

Acquisition of Public Buildings

In the revolution era of organizations’ activities, considering rapid spread of public organizations’ activities, one of the issues confronting public organizations is the physical structure of such organizations. Undoubtedly, the spread of activities in some organizations requires physical places, including various uses of employees and managers’ training, the participation of the children of managers and employees of the target organization in sporting and cultural events, and use of recreational complexes. Based on this, an individual who enters a target organization might acquire some buildings of other public sector organizations to give it to the target organization, delegate recreational centers to the target organizations, attach certain research centers to the target organization, or assign sporting facilities to the target organization.

Land and Public Facilities

One of the dilemmas facing public organizations is a lack of physical space and weakness in presenting welfare services to employees and managers. There are various ways of acquiring such lands and increasing the number of recreational centers available to employees. However, land and public facilities are the main conditions of political dowry placed on an individual to be transferred from an organization or a political position to the target organization.

Linking of Target Organization with Power Centers

Occasionally, the political dowry of an individual who enters a target organization involves building some relation between the target organization and power centers, policy makers, and executive managers of the country and many organizations try in different ways to communicate with certain centers. A dowry that a person can bring to the organization is “the link of the organization with such centers,” including major economic projects (dam, bridge, and power plant construction) and research projects, public buildings, and land and government facilities. At times, such links prevent destruction of the target organization because the entrance of such a person into the target organization might bring with it increased budget and other facilities for the organization.

Debt Relief or Tax Exemption

Undoubtedly, one of the success indices of managers is debt reduction or receipt of postponed budgets and tax exemption. In this regard, managers try to achieve success in different ways, for instance through legal reasons and by justifying the specialty of activities and delegations of their organization in a given area. One mechanism that managers employ is attracting influential individuals who can settle the organization’s debt legally, reduce them, or fulfill financial demands via other organizations. These individuals try to achieve this by means of their influence in executive, regulatory, and judicatory systems. This phenomenon is called political dowry because of what the individual brings to the organization directly or indirectly.

Transaction of Public Policies

Any society depends on the government’s policies for its survival. When general policies emerge, they do not always benefit of all people in a society or an organization. General policies create some constraints and increase the freedom available to individuals, organizations, and various communities. There are various ways in which influential groups try to change policies to their benefit or to prevent their constitution. One of the key mechanisms of these influential groups is to supply individuals who can fulfill these aims. Sometimes, by attracting these individuals, organizations try to delegate such “transaction of national policies” to these individuals in order to encourage policy-making centers to develop policies that are beneficial to the organization or prevent policies that are detrimental to organization. This is the heaviest component of the dowry that such individuals bring to target organizations.


The authors have tried to describe and explain “political dowry,” its foundation and its mechanism. We do not claim our theorizing of this phenomenon and its process of operation is perfect and accurate but we tried to understand a common phenomenon in some countries. Although, political dowry has various forms, its financial implication on the public treasury is important. In the political approach toward administration in the public sector, de-politicization of policies and administration creates the ground for various political activities in administrative systems of countries. The new public administration theory confirms the prismatic nature of such systems. Governing political parties try to make use of various instruments and mechanisms to remain in power. Using the public treasury in legal and illegal ways is one of these mechanisms. In this approach, although the civil servant is a person who is employed into the civil service and should not be a political or judicial office holder and his remuneration should be solely paid out of government funds (Briggs 2007, 144), political managers try to takeover specialized areas, so they try to guarantee their entrance to professional-specialized areas through the injection of political dowry.

Authors propose serious studies on “political dowry” in public administration in all countries because this is a dangerous reality that could cause irreparable damage to governments. Injection of this phenomenon to public administration domain in academic level could lead to more studies and researches.



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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tarbiat Modares UniversityTehranIran
  2. 2.University of TehranTehranIran