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“Why Are Some Public Managers More Committed to Professional norms than Others? An Experimental Survey Proposal at Municipal Level” by Kohei Suzuki

June 30, 2021 @ 9:00 pm 10:00 pm JST

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Author: Sofia Axelsson (University of Gothenburg), Victor Lapuente (University of Gothenburg), and Kohei Suzuki (Leiden University).

Pre-analysis Plan Abstract: In the overarching question of why some polities better governed than others, the organization of bureaucracy has been a “forgotten fundamental”(Lægreid 2018). Most comparative studies focus on the institutions shaping the behavior of politicians including the electoral system or political regime. Yet, for most citizens worldwide, the face of politics, instead, is not a politician, but a bureaucrat (Pepinsky et al. 2017). The internal workings of the state, and the incentives of the public employees providing public services, despite their capital importance, have been largely overlooked by scholars of government (Finan et al. 2017). In recent years, scholars have “rediscovered” the importance of bureaucracies for understanding the different performance of governments (Olsen 2006). Having a politically autonomous bureaucracy – also known as a “Weberian bureaucracy” – has been associated to long-term economic development (Evans and Rauch 1999, Fukuyama 2011), improved health outcomes (Cingolani et al. 2015), lower corruption (Dahlström et al. 2012a), regulatory quality, entrepreneurship and innovation (Nistotskaya and Cingolani 2016, Suzuki and Demircioglu 2019), good environmental outcomes (Povitkina and Bolkvadze 2019), and higher government effectiveness (Dahlström and Lapuente 2017). Although the results of previous studies on good governance suggest such positive impacts of Weberian bureaucracy on favorable outcomes, the following two big research questions remain to be answered: one on how bureaucrats are recruited, and the other on how they behave and which attitudes they have. First, how does the meritocratic principal function de facto in the bureaucracy? Although there exist cross-national variations (Dahlström et al. 2012b), bureaucracies in most countries hire and promote civil servants theoretically based on their merits. However, meritocracy in law may diverge from meritocracy in practice (Schuster 2017). We still do not know to what extent actual hiring and promotion practice of civil servants follow the meritocratic principle (Bach and Veit 2017). And to what extent do other factors such as political and personal connections matter to get a job or being promoted in bureaucracy? The second remaining research question is about the determinants of individual-level bureaucratic attitudes and behavior. The idea of a politically autonomous bureaucracy assumes that civil servants are committed to professional norms, political neutrality, and certain ethos. And the existing good governance studies have identified an empirical link between macro-level bureaucratic factors such as the type of recruitment system of public servants or salary levels and favorable outcomes. Yet we still do not empirically know how civil servants’ beliefs, values and work cultures are influenced by individual characteristics (e.g. gender, education, age, prior experience in the public and private sector) as well as by institutional features (e.g. overall degree of politicization, existence of special employment laws for bureaucrats). Why are some civil servants more committed to impartiality and professional norm while others are not? Why are some civil servants willing to be innovative to change the status quo while others are not (Lapuente and Suzuki 2020a, b)? We aim to explore, in general, what explains civil servants’ attitudes and behavior, and, in particular, why some civil servants are more committed to professional norms and public service values – such as impartiality, equity, efficiency, and innovation – than others. Our research project will address the above two big research questions below by conducting experimental surveys for local civil servants in three countries (i.e.,Spain, Sweden, and Japan).

Discussants: Simon Calmar Andersen (Aarhus), Tobias Bach (Oslo), Kim Sass Mikkelsen (Roskilde), and Christian Schuster (UCL).

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