Victor Lapuente
Göteborgs Universitet



(Wednesday, 20th May 2009)

Title : Political Economy of Bureaucracy

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This workshop reviews the contribution of political economy and principal-agent theories to the study of an area of political science – public bureaucracies – traditionally dominated by cultural, sociological and historical approaches. The workshop aims to assess up to which extent the analytic rigor of economic perspectives has helped to illuminate long-standing research puzzles surrounding the so-called Weber’s dilemma (i.e. non-expert politicians trying to control expert bureaucrats):

  • Which mechanisms, if any, can politicians use to control bureaucrats?
  • Why do politicians so frequently replace directly accountable political appointees for autonomous bureaucrats?
  • Which are the causes of the important cross-time and cross-country differences in the degree of autonomy of otherwise similar bureaucracies?
  • Are the public administrations populated by autonomous bureaucrats better than the ones with political appointees? 

The workshop will also discuss the future challenges of these economic approaches to bureaucracies and, in particular, how to move from the study of US administrations, where they have heavily been centered, to other (democratic or authoritarian) polities.

Bibliographical references :

Miller, Gary J. 2005. “The Political Evolution of Principal-Agent Models.” Annual Review of Political Science 8:203-225.

Dahlstrom, Carl, Victor Lapuente and Jan Teorell. 2009. "Bureaucratic Structure, Corruption, and State Effectiveness". Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association.

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Krause, George A., David E. Lewis, and James W. Douglas. 2006. “Political Appointments, Civil Service Systems, and Bureaucratic Competence: Organizational Balancing and Gubernatorial Revenue Forecasts in the American States.” American Journal of Political Science 50 (3): 770–87.