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Political Science in Europe

International Bureaucracies: A Public Service Bargain Based on Expertise?

Public Administration
 
Knowledge
 
International
 
Presenter
Johan Christensen
Departments of Political Science and Public Administration, Universiteit Leiden
Authors
Johan Christensen
Departments of Political Science and Public Administration, Universiteit Leiden

Abstract
It is often argued that the expertise plays an especially important role in international bureaucracies, given their lack of direct democratic legitimacy and the complexity of international policy issues. However, we lack a more coherent theoretical understanding of the place of expert knowledge in these administrations. The paper addresses this issue by drawing on the notion of ‘public service bargains’, that is, the explicit or implicit bargains that underlie political-administrative relationships (Hood and Lodge 2006). It argues that the relationship between international civil servants and their political principals can be understood partly as a competence-based bargain, where the legitimacy of the bureaucracy is based on the ability to provide relevant knowledge. Furthermore, it explores different conceptions of the types of knowledge that are crucial to this bargain, ranging from specialist to generalist knowledge and from substantive knowledge to knowledge about the policy process.

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