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Bureaucracy and Democracy

Bureaucracy and Democracy
Accountability and Performance

Fourth Edition

August 2017 | 360 pages | CQ Press

Given the influence of public bureaucracies in policymaking and implementation, Steven J. Balla and William T. Gormley assess their performance using four key perspectives—bounded rationality, principal-agent theory, interest group mobilization, and network theory—to help students develop an analytic framework for evaluating bureaucratic accountability. The new Fourth Edition provides a thorough review of bureaucracy during the Obama and Trump administrations, as well as new attention to state and local level examples and the role of bureaucratic values.

Chapter 1: Bureaucracies as Policymaking Organizations
The Contours of Public Bureaucracy  
Accountability and Performance in Public Bureaucracies  
Accountability and Its Many Faces  
The Push for Performance  
Accountability and Performance: Theories and Applications  
Chapter 2: Bureaucratic Reasoning
Bounded Rationality  
Simplified Problem Solving  
Evidence-Based Research  
Implications for Policy Analysis  
Consequences of Bounded Rationality  
Chapter 3: The Bureaucracy’s Bosses
Delegation, Adverse Selection, and Moral Hazard  
Why Bureaucracy?  
Managing Delegation  
Principal-Agent Theory and the Bureaucracy’s Clients  
Principals and Principles  
Chapter 4: The Bureaucracy’s Clients
The Benefits, Costs, and Politics of Public Policy  
The Rise and Fall of Iron Triangles  
The Venues of Client Participation  
Client Influence on Bureaucratic Policymaking  
Clients and the Institutions of Government  
Client Participation: Three Lessons and Beyond  
Chapter 5: Bureaucratic Networks
Networks versus Hierarchies  
Network Theory  
The Tools Approach  
Types of Bureaucratic Networks  
Network Effectiveness  
The Effectiveness of Policy Tools  
Networks and Public Bureaucracy  
Chapter 6: The Politics of Disaster Management
The Gulf of Mexico: Two Crises with Precedent  
September 11, 2001: A Crisis without Precedent  
Avian Influenza: A Crisis in the Making?  
Evaluating Bureaucracy in Light of the Theories  
Chapter 7: Why Are Some Bureaucracies Better Than Others?
Rating the Performance of Agencies  
Explaining Variations in Performance  
Alternative Ways of Gauging Agency Performance  
Bureaucracy in the Twenty-First Century  

This is the best single overview of bureaucracy and how it fits in our democratic system available. The book elegantly weaves a nuanced understanding of bureaucracy itself with the functioning of agencies in a political system. Readers will learn a tremendous amount. Balla and Gormley know their stuff and they share it in an engaging and accessible fashion. The book includes clear frameworks and contemporary examples to help readers make sense of this complex but important topic.

David E. Lewis
Vanderbilt University

Employing a series of timely and engaging illustrations, Balla and Gormley walk readers through the key theoretical approaches to modern bureaucratic governance. The result is a sophisticated but accessible treatment of the complexities of bureaucratic performance and accountability. This is a go-to resource for those interested in understanding what is at stake when it comes to the administrative state.

Rachel Augustine Potter
University of Virginia

Bureaucracy and Democracy delivers on the longstanding promise that professors make to students each year: that theories of bureaucracy and democracies matter in very practical and applicable ways, and that to understand bureaucracy you need to understand democracy (and vice versa).  Students who read this book will have that ‘a-ha’ moment about all these connections. That, to me, is worth the price of the book.”

Lonce Bailey
Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania

“Bureaucracy can be a dry topic to teach and study; Balla and Gormley make it accessible and fun. The book provides a wonderful overview of the theories behind bureaucratic decision-making, as well as the political and other challenges faced by administrative agencies.”

Lydia Tiede
University of Houston
Key features


  • Updated to reflect developments up through the end of the Obama administration and the transition to the Trump administration offering timelier application of the theories to what is currently happening in bureaucratic politics.
  • Interviews with two new cabinet secretaries—Christine Todd Whitman and Tom Ridge—with insightful quotes from them throughout the book.
  • New section on the diffusion of policy diffusion, an important topic both for researchers and policymakers, illustrates the idea that much policy is made at the state level, and that states learn and emulate one another on a range of issues.
  • Added material on the battle over regulations, a battle that will loom large during the Trump administration, including midnight regulations and the Congressional Review Act.
  • New examples demonstrate the activity and influence of constituencies of different kinds including the placing of women and minorities on US currency, a vignette that features the musical Hamilton, and the political protests surrounding the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines.
  • A new discussion of the pros and cons of the privatization of roads.

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 3

Chapter 6

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