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Comparing Public Bureaucracies

Problems of Theory and Method

Written by B. Guy Peters

Publication Year: 1988

The comparative study of public policy once promised to make major contributions to our understanding of government. Much of that promise now appears unfulfilled. What accounts for this decline in intellectual fortunes and change in intellectual fashion? Comparing Public Bureaucracies seeks to understand why. One of the principal answers is that there is no readily accepted and dependent variable that would allow comparative public administration to conform to the usual canons of social research. In contrast, comparative public policy has a ready-made dependent variable in public expenditure.

Peters discusses four possible dependent variables for comparative public administration. The first is personnel—the number and type of people who work for government. Second, the number and type of organizations that form government can suggest a great deal about the structure of government. Third, the behavior of members is obviously important for understanding what actually happens in government—such as the extents to which bureaucracies approximate the budget-maximizing behavior posited by economists. Ginally, the relative power of civil servants in the policymaking process is a major factor in institutional politics in contemporary industrial societies.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xv

This book began its life as the 1986 Coleman B. Ransone Lectures in Public Administration and Policy at the University of Alabama, a lecture series inaugurated in the mid-1940s. I felt honored to be invited to give the lectures and to follow in the footsteps of the many distinguished previous lecturers. ...

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1. The Need for Comparison in Public Bureaucracy and the Difficulties Involved

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pp. 1-25

We all have a tendency to conceptualize politics or economics or culture in terms of our own national or even personal experiences. This statement may be especially true of the social sciences in the United States. Contemporary social science theory has had a disproportionate share of its development in the United States, ...

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2. Public Employment and Public Service Industries

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pp. 26-60

The first of the possible dependent variables in comparative public administration, and seemingly the easiest to cope with, is public personnel, or public employment. We are all familiar with the soldier, the fireman, the tax collector, and the public school teacher as public employees. ...

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3. Organizations as the Building Blocks of Government

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pp. 61-106

Public administration, which as we have seen is a collection of individuals, is also a collection of organizations. Indeed, government itself is little more than a collection of a large number of organizations. Even those actors who might be thought to engage in more personalistic forms of government ...

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4. The Behavior of Public Officials

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pp. 107-143

The third of our possible dependent variables for the study of public administration is the behavior of public officials in administrative positions. I earlier blamed the relatively poor condition of comparative public administration in large measure on the success of the behavioral revolution in political science. ...

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5. The Pursuit of Power

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pp. 144-180

The last of the four possible dependent variables in the study of public bureaucracies is power. Power is certainly a classic concern of the social sciences, ranging from the sociology of communities to international relations (Dahl, 1957; Hunter, 1953; Lasswell and Kaplan, 1950; Morgenthau, 1948). ...

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6. Conclusion

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pp. 181-189

This book began with a set of rather simple premises and one even simpler question. The two premises were, first, that the study of public administration was in principle no different from the study of other aspects of political behavior and that, like the other components of governing, ...


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pp. 190-208


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pp. 209-217

E-ISBN-13: 9780817383947
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817303686

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 1988