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Politics of the Administrative Process

Politics of the Administrative Process

Sixth Edition

January 2014 | 560 pages | CQ Press

Today’s public administrators struggle to remain efficient in the face of polarization and gridlock, while at the same time, must maintain their performance despite shifting demographics and challenging economic and budgetary conditions. Kettl hones in on three overarching themes of politics, accountability, and performance to give students a realistic, relevant, and well-researched view of the field. Understanding the need to balance theory with practice, chapter discussions provide the foundational concepts necessary to understand how the administrative process works, while case studies apply those concepts at the federal, state, and local levels. The new sixth edition now showcases a full-color interior that will grab students’ attention and improve data analysis skills with eye-catching photos, tables, figures, maps, and charts. Also thoroughly updated with new scholarship, data, and events, this text remains reader friendly with its engaging vignettes and rich examples.

1. Accountability
PART I: The Job of Government
2. What Government Does—And How It Does It
3. The Meaning of Public Administration
PART II: Organizational Theory and the Role of Government’s Structure
4. Organizational Theory
5. The Executive Branch
6. Organization Problems
7. Administrative Reform
PART III: People in Government Organizations
8. The Civil Service
9. Human Capital
PART IV: Making and Implementing Government Decisions
10. Decision Making
11. Budgeting
12. Implementation
PART V: Administration in a Democracy
13. Regulation and the Courts
14. Executive Power and Political Accountability

“Politics of the Administrative Process stands out among other competing textbooks for its clarity, comprehensiveness, and coverage. It tackles the issue of government accountability in a direct way, but also has a positive, upbeat tone toward public service, which is important for today’s students, many of whom question the value of public service. Other public administration textbooks are dry and uninteresting but this book works better for my students, due to the clear, straightforward writing style and illustrative case studies. Students like real-life examples, and the case studies really bring the more abstract discussions to life and are an important part of helping to meet our teaching and learning objectives. Many texts also ignore or downplay discussion of state and local governments, but Kettl’s coverage is robust, and incorporates numerous state and local examples. I particularly like the last section that puts public administration into the context of the rules, processes, and politics of our democratic system— the text’s emphasis on politics is one of its most attractive aspects for me.”

John Klemanski
Oakland University

“The approach that Donald Kettl takes in Politics of the Administrative Process really stands out as a very appealing aspect of the book, especially the perspective that the government is working for the people and is involved in our lives on a daily basis, rather than being a distant and formal monolith. The placement of accountability and ethics as the first chapter also effectively sets the stage for the rest for the book. The excellent case studies at the end of each chapter are one of the text’s key strengths, covering a variety of topics that are grounded in actual events, instead of generic scenarios. Kettl also makes an effort to help students connect with the book by discussing events that they can relate to, such as the Boston Marathon bombing, and placing them into the context of the themes of the text.”

Kurt Fenske
Northern Arizona University

“Politics of the Administrative Process is truly a comprehensive text. Donald Kettl is a well-known scholar who is very knowledgeable on the role of administration in policy formation and implementation, and he is able to condense a great deal of information and present it in a way that is relatively easy for students to follow. Kettl’s book is effectively organized, and focuses on the core issues and concepts of public administration, including important topics like accountability and bureaucratic reform.  The book also includes strong pedagogical aids, with very clear and helpful tables, figures, and charts, and useful end-of-chapter elements.”

Patricia Freeland
University of Tennessee

“One of the key strengths of The Politics of the Administrative Process is its organization; the book opens and closes on the theme of accountability—fitting bookends to the topics in-between.  The case studies at the end of each chapter are exceptional, providing the basis for many interesting classroom discussions and thoughtful written assignments. Overall, Politics is very engaging and accessible to students.”

Neal Buckwalter
Grand Valley State University
Key features


  • Significant updates to the human resource management, budgeting, and implementation chapters add context to the current issues facing the public sector:
    • the ever increasing use of contracting and private sector oriented practices at all levels of government
    • the failure of budget negotiations that led to the 2013 sequestration and analysis of the federal government shutdown
    • the continuing impact of the Great Recession
  • One out of three case studies in each chapter is new, covering such contemporary topics as the bungled implementation of President Obama’s new health insurance program, coordinated government response in capturing the Boston Marathon bombers, the resurgence of whooping cough, the conflicting federal and state policies on marijuana, the October 2013 federal government shutdown, and the battle over launching Obamacare.
  • A new Ripped from the Headlines box connects the themes of politics, accountability, and performance to current issues recently in the news
  • A new beautiful, full-color interior design effectively showcases photos, as well as data in a range of tables, figures, maps, and charts.
  • A new online Public Administration Resource Center with additional case studies, data-based exercises, access to SAGE Journal articles, and video resources.



  • Engaging writing by renowned scholar, author, and columnist Don Kettl.
  • Every case study ends with Questions to Consider encouraging critical analysis.
  • All chapters end with key concept, for further reading, and suggested website lists.
  • Bolded key terms, a full glossary, and a list of abbreviations and acronyms rounds out the book’s pedagogical aids.

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

Chapter 11

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