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Becoming Bureaucrats

Socialization at the Front Lines of Government Service

By Zachary W. Oberfield

Publication Year: 2014

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: American Governance: Politics, Policy, and Public Law


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Title Page, About the Series, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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Chapter 1. Bureaucratic Socialization

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pp. 1-21

Though it has more than four letters, “bureaucrat” is a bad word.1 It evokes Kafkaesque paperwork and government workers who are out of touch, rule-obsessed, and heartless. Despite the word’s cultural resonance, and its usefulness as a rhetorical device (Safire 1978), the myth bears little resemblance to reality: public-sector...

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Chapter 2. Dispositions and Institutions

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pp. 22-38

In his study of police officer development, Van Maanen (1974, 84) quotes a police chief as saying, “The day the new recruit walks through the doors of the police academy he leaves society behind him to enter a profession that does more than give him a job, it defines who he is. For all the years he remains, closed into the...

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Chapter 3. The Long View: How Veteran Workers See Their Worlds

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pp. 39-55

As they enter bureaucracies, new public workers meet peers, are told how to think and act by instructors, and begin their work. Various ethnographic studies suggest that this process is formative for entrants (Conti 2009; Kappeler, Sluder, and Alpert 1998; Macvean and Cox 2012; Rubinstein 1973; Wanous 1992). For example...

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Chapter 4. Entry: An In-Depth Account

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pp. 56-86

A group of welfare caseworker trainees sat nervously on the first day of training. We talked quietly among ourselves and took in the sights and sounds around us. The state office building in which we sat was modern, with clean carpeted hallways and inspirational posters about the benefits of work. Eventually two trainers...

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Chapter 5. In the Service of Others? Motivation, Altruism, and Egoism

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pp. 87-112

After he had worked for two years inside the welfare department, I asked Terrell what was driving him to stay in his job. Without missing a beat he responded, “I would say that it really is just to have a job and have income come in. You know what really? I just go to work and do what I’m guided to do to get through the day...

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Chapter 6. Bureaucratic Identity: Rules and Loyalty

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pp. 113-139

After two years on the force, Phillip, a white police officer who had previously served in the armed forces, described his approach to policing: “You gotta have a dual personality like you’ll know when the good, honest, hardworking people you’re dealing with, and I treat them like a good, honest person should be treated...

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Chapter 7. Attitudes: Social Problems, Race, and Deservingness

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pp. 140-163

The first time that we spoke, Mary talked at length about other caseworkers whom she had observed.
What I have seen is some of the [caseworkers] are very biased in their thinking. . . . And because of their way of thinking they treat people kind of bad. But you have other workers who the clients are so many, and the caseload...

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Chapter 8. Change and Continuity at Government’s Front Lines

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pp. 164-178

Bureaucrats play an essential role in public policymaking because they decide what rules mean and how they are applied in practice. As they make choices about how to respond to people and situations, their behavior follows a logic of appropriateness—they think about who they are as members of an organization, what type of situation...

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Appendix A. Research Design

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pp. 179-198

To examine the diverging expectations set forth in Chapters 1 and 2, this book outlines the findings from a comparative case study of entering police officers and welfare caseworkers. These two cases were selected because they have much in common but also differ in important ways. This section discusses the similarities...

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Appendix B. Recruitment and Job Requirements

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pp. 199-200

Chapter 4 provides an in-depth portrait of the experiences that these two sets of workers had when they entered their organizations. Although the first day of training was an important milestone for newcomers, it is important to describe the recruitment tactics used by each of these organizations as well as the job requirements that entrants had to meet...

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Appendix C. Measurement and Analysis

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pp. 201-210

To analyze entry, Chapters 5 to 7 rely on bivariate (welfare) and multivariate (police) statistical analysis of entrants’ responses to survey questions. Since the two cases differ, and the theorized influences on entrants vary depending on where they were in their development, the book uses a variety of models (discussed...


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pp. 211-216


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pp. 217-230


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pp. 231-234


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pp. 235-236

E-ISBN-13: 9780812209846
E-ISBN-10: 0812209842
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812246162

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 33 illus.
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: American Governance: Politics, Policy, and Public Law
Series Editor Byline: Series Editors: Richard Valelly, Pamela Brandwein, Marie Gottschalk, Christopher Howard See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 881398588
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Becoming Bureaucrats

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Civil service -- Training of.
  • Government employees -- Training of.
  • Bureaucrats -- Training of.
  • Police -- Attitudes.
  • Social workers -- Attitudes.
  • Organizational sociology.
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