When politics meets bureaucracy

Rules, norms, conformity and cheating

Author: Christian Lo

This book is based on a study of the strategies and tactics applied by municipal bureaucrats and local politicians in the pursuit of political goals. The study is set in two small Norwegian municipalities. Here, the enactment of a bureaucracy based on legal-rational authority within a small and close-knit community tend to essentialize some central tension and dilemmas related to how formal and informal relations intersect during the production of public policy. By analyzing the relation between normative and pragmatic rules regulating political action, the author demonstrates how the efforts to resolve these tensions and dilemmas involve a balance between alternative sources of political legitimacy.

Through ethnographic accounts of policy-making in action, the book offers novel perspectives on the interdisciplinary debate about local governance. Most significantly, these accounts demonstrate how processes of hierarchical government are inextricably intertwined with broader processes of governance during policy processes, thereby dissolving the theoretical and normative separation between the two concepts characterizing large parts of the literature. By focusing on the interconnections between government and governance, the author explores the cultural and historical conditions informing this intertwinement, which, the author argues, enable horizontal alignments that can modify the hierarchical logic of bureaucratic organizations.

Through its interdisciplinary approach, the book draws on a range of perspectives from political science, sociology and anthropology. This broad approach makes the book relevant for a wide audience of students and scholars interested in the inner workings of bureaucratic organizations and how such organizations interact with their societal surroundings.

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