Nanna Mik-Meyer
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The bureaucratic context
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This chapter describes discretionary practices when discussing how the bureaucratic context affects the encounter between welfare workers and citizens. It focuses on the (stronger or weaker) effects of bureaucratic rules, procedures, values and so forth in encounters between welfare workers and citizens in bureaucratic organisations. An important feature of the bureaucratic organisation is the fact that the presence of clients is involuntary. The chapter introduces M. Weber's definition of the ideal-type bureaucracy. It also introduces the work of Michael Lipsky and Lipsky-inspired scholars on the discretionary practices of street-level bureaucrats. The goal of helping citizens on the basis of individual cases often contradicts the administrative rules and structures of bureaucratic organisations. In bureaucratic organisations, as analysed by Lipsky, staff are constantly considering the ambiguities and contradictions of their performance objectives and consequently form their own ideals of how to solve their clients' problems and deliver the best service.

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