Public sector organizations and public officials at various levels of government are key players in the policy process. At the same time, bureaucracy itself is profoundly affected by political decision-making, for instance, through reorganizations or personnel management. Among the key themes in the literature on politico-administrative relations are tensions between political control and bureaucratic autonomy and different explanations of the drivers of bureaucratic and political behavior, both at the individual and the organizational level. The goal of this section is to push this research agenda forward by explicitly adopting a political science perspective on public administration to study how political processes affect public bureaucracies, and vice versa.
Administrative Behavior amidst Political Failure
Chairs: Joris van der Voet & Ken Meier
Effective bureaucracies require an effective political process. This panel examines how distinct and combinative elements of political failure – e.g., the allocation of inadequate financial, material or temporal resources, the provision of insufficient autonomy to devise or implement solutions based on expertise, and the formulation of unclear, inconsistent or unstable objectives– shape administrative behavior. Papers can address administrative behavior of decision-makers on the individual or organizational level of analysis, including search, risk-taking and decision-making, leadership behavior, goal-setting, resource allocation, strategy formulation, implementation of innovation and change, and recruitment or personnel policies.
Comparing Core Executives: Actors, Processes, and Change
Chairs: Heidi H. Salomonsen & Kristoffer Kolltveit
The core executive was introduced 30 years ago in the UK, underlining how the heart of the governmental machinery consists of different institutions, inter-organizational networks, and informal practice all contributing to coordination. The concept has been applied in studies both inside and outside the UK context, yet important questions remain unanswered. The panel aims to further develop the research agenda, e.g., by discussing how suitable the core executive framework is outside the Westminster context, and how it may account for coalition dynamics. The panel also focuses on how various societal changes have affected core executives over the last decades in different countries.
Political Determinants of Policy Integration and Coordination Reforms
Chairs: Martino Maggetti & Philipp Trein
Policy integration and the coordination of administrative units are considered important to deal with pressing policy challenges, such as climate change and migration. During the last 20 years, researchers have focused on the integration of policy instruments and the coordination of public organizations from a problem-solving-oriented perspective. The panel invites contributions that explicitly analyze the politics behind policy integration and coordination reforms. Which are the political motivations behind cross-sectoral policy reforms? In what cases are such reforms driven by political (e.g., electoral) considerations, and are passed to achieve a symbolic impact? What are the relevant political variables that explain the politics of policy integration and administrative coordination reforms?
What is the promise of Policy Labs?
Chairs: Fritz Sager & Karol Olejniczak
In the last decade, we have been observing the dynamic development of policy labs across the world. On the one hand, labs try to overcome organizational silos and enhance experimentation in a risk-averse bureaucratic environment. On the other hand, they try to supplement the politics of policy design with a research rationale bringing evidence and the perspective of the end-users. However, current research provides us with limited knowledge about the actual nature of this phenomenon. We will focus on questions such as: What is the relationship between policy labs and bureaucratic structures? What is their contribution to the actual policy-making process? How sustainable are they in the public policy context?
Democracy and Bureaucracy
Chairs: Tobias Bach & Kai Wegrich
Discussant: B. Guy Peters
This panel addresses the relationship between democracy and bureaucracy, which is a long-standing theme with renewed significance in scholarly research. Whereas some approaches consider bureaucracy as subordinated to democracy, others consider bureaucracy as a fundamental institution of democratic governance. The panel invites conceptual and empirical papers addressing the role of bureaucracy in sustaining (or damaging) trust in political institutions, the implications of populist politics and democratic backsliding for bureaucracies, or the allocation of democratic responsibility in increasingly organizational structures.
The Politics of Bureaucratic Reputation
Chairs: Dovilė Rimkutė & Jan Boon
Bureaucratic reputation literature has demonstrated that to manage their reputation bureaucracies adjust decision-making practices, produce diverse outputs, and communicate about their competences and activities in different ways. However, we still have a limited understanding of how and under what conditions bureaucracies provide differentiated responses and engage in distinct behavior patterns to manage the anticipated impact of reputational threats on their multidimensional reputation. This panel invites theoretical and empirical contributions on the politics of bureaucratic reputation. In particular, it invites papers proposing novel and rigorous empirical techniques to capture how and to what extent reputational considerations affect bureaucracies’ outputs, processes, and behavior.
Politics in the European Commission
Chairs: Miriam Hartlapp & Michael Bauer
Politicization is widely believed to have increased in the EU. Research has studied and mapped different dimensions of politicization and has been characterized by an interest to explain why we see (more) of it in the EU. Yes, we know relatively less about the effects of politicization on the EU’s institutions. Focusing on the European Commission we invite papers that look at institutional, attitudinal, and procedural effects of politicization on the EU's bureaucracy. Papers could include – but are not limited to – contributions that revisit theoretical perspectives on the Commission or compare the outgoing Juncker Commission to its predecessors.
Policy Accumulation and its Burden on Bureaucracies
Chairs: Christoph Knill & Christian Adam
Research on rule growth and policy accumulation indicates that policy-making is predominantly a process of continuous accumulation of increasingly complex policy-mixes. These increasingly complex policy mixes impose elevated implementation burdens on all levels of public administration; particularly the administrative frontline. This panel invites research interested in how bureaucracies (1) cope with increasing implementation burdens and (2) try to undermine policy-makers’ attempts to impose ever-more implementation tasks. This includes papers that evaluate the development of implementation burdens and deficits in different areas as well as papers that assess the nexus between bureaucratic politics and the continuous accumulation of public policies.
Behavioral consequences of AI, big data and algorithmic decision-making in public services
Chairs: Christine Prokop & Stephan Grimmelikhuijsen
The digitalization of public services is in full swing. Specifically, machine-learning technologies and the algorithms that power them hold a huge potential to make government services fairer and more effective, ‘freeing’ decision-making from human subjectivity enhance the efficiency of public services, reduce administrative burdens, and lower personnel costs. Algorithms today are used everywhere from welfare to criminal justice; for instance, they can predict recidivism better than criminal court judges. Research indicates that the digitization of public services caused by the introduction of algorithms may cause profound shifts in the way bureaucrats make decisions.
Overall, using such technological systems in administrative processes and public service delivery is supposed to be beneficial, yet little is known about the effects of those changes on micro-level attitudes and behavior of public servants and citizens. This panel invites papers advancing theory, providing empirical insights, or speaking to public management practice in terms of behavioral consequences of digitalized public services. Any papers applying experimental (lab, field, survey) methods, other quantitative, or qualitative research approaches are welcome.