HUMMEL and GOODSELL Both authors assess the state of bureaucracy: Hummel quite critically and Goodsell quite positively. Goodsell argues with a variety of data; Hummel a more theoretical case Hummel is strong at identifying possible bureaucratic pathologies, but he over-reaches in making the pathology the most likely case. Goodsell makes a case that bureaucracy is misunderstood, but is perhaps too forgiving of possible problems. HUMMEL Comes clearly from the post-modern camp Focuses on the dehumanizing effects of bureaucracy (and really does not distinguish between public and private) The problem is largely linked to the hierarchical nature and focus on expertise within a modern bureaucracy This leads to bureaucrats who know a great deal about a specific task but not much about the totality of what they (and their agencies) do Hierarchy leads bureaucrats to seek impersonalized goals rather than helping the actual person in a bureaucratic encounter. (Note that Hummel uses the same language of an encounter as might McSwite.) Ironically the very values that modern bureaucracy holds dear “stability, discipline, reliability, formal equality of treatment” Hummel disparages. (Yet he really doesn’t say what value, besides treating the human being in each and every instance, should be pursued.) Focus of bureaucracies, according to Hummel, is only on processing cases rather than quality outcomes This leads to a dehumanization of both clients (who become cases) and the bureaucrats themselves (who cannot make real decisions.) Methodological Problems Argument is rather tautological: bureaucracy is assumed to be dehumanizing and thus the only answer is that bureaucrats are in despair or denial. (This is often done with Marxist oriented critical theory – if you don’t see the work as critically defined then you suffer from false consciousness.) Argues that bureaucrats have too much power, but that the malaise individual bureaucrats have is that they don’t have the power to make individual decisions. (This is somewhat mediated by his blame on upper level bureaucrats.) Argues, but offers no evidence, that clients are either unhappy with the service they receive or desire some other arrangement Really takes the political realm off the hook – again linked to bureaucrats having too much power – by focusing on the culture of expertise. Yes, bureaucrats may be expert and can use that expertise to cloak their actions, but they can (as Goodsell notes) use it to make very positive changes. Charges, but again without evidence, that bureaucrats are largely out of touch with those they serve – that they are elitist and racist. Strengths Certainly shows potential problem in dehumanizing encounters (cases not people). But how prevalent and who is responsible for this (politicians who create 40-1 caseloads)? Certainly shows how bureaucratic language can distort situations (“friendly fire”) Is a voice for frustrated line bureaucrats who must deal with large numbers and impossible situations without adequate funding or support. Again, though, is this the norm and doesn’t this bring some blame onto the political realm and undercut the notion that bureaucrats have too much power. The argument is at least partially contradictory.) GOODSELL Advances arguments against a number of commonly held charges made about bureaucracy Bureaucrats (public) are poor performers: cites citizen satisfaction studies that show people are generally happy with public agency performance and that it compares well with private counterparts. (Note, too, that these public support scores come even with a great deal of bureaucracy bashing.) Bureaucrats are inflexible power seekers: shows through both survey and case studies that bureaucrats often are quite innovative in addressing problems (summary page 46) Bureaucrats are elitist and racist: provides considerable evidence that bureaucrats are far more representative than often portrayed (by critics on both the left and the right.) Managerial positions are more diverse than in the private sector (pg. 91/92.) Attitudes are comparable, although with a slightly more liberal tilt (page 87). That the bureaucratic personality is far healthier than portrayed by critics such as Hummel: cites multiple studies of bureaucrats not only enjoying their work, but feeling that it makes a difference (see especially table 5.8, page 105.) That bureaucracy is too big: a more subjective section, but shows that bureaucratic growth is not “out of control.” Might also link bureaucratic growth to public demands – when services are even suggested for cutting, there is usually an outcry. Goodsell provides a powerful rejoinder to both academic and political critics. However, bureaucracy is a relatively easy target for criticism. He might be a bit too optimistic and perhaps too accepting of the public perceptions about bureaucratic performance. Still, when bureaucracy doesn’t perform their lack of performance is noticed (Katrina and FEMA). Goodsell also shows the range of the bureaucracy (and the handout article is just wrong in criticizing Goodsell’s very inclusive use of the term bureaucracy) covering aspects of direct service provision to management. A point that perhaps both Goodsell and certainly Hummel don’t cover in as much detail as possible is political interference with the bureaucracy. As we will cover with Re-inventing Government, many of the supposed failures of government are due to restraints placed upon the bureaucracy. However, these same constraints are parts of the multiple value environment that was presented in the first class lecture.
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