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Bureaucracy and Democracy

Bureaucracy and Democracy
Accountability and Performance

Fourth Edition

August 2017 | 360 pages | CQ Press

Given the influence of public bureaucracies in policymaking and implementation, Steven J. Balla and William T. Gormley assess their performance using four key perspectives—bounded rationality, principal-agent theory, interest group mobilization, and network theory—to help students develop an analytic framework for evaluating bureaucratic accountability. The new Fourth Edition provides a thorough review of bureaucracy during the Obama and Trump administrations, as well as new attention to state and local level examples and the role of bureaucratic values.

Chapter 1: Bureaucracies as Policymaking Organizations
The Contours of Public Bureaucracy

Accountability and Performance in Public Bureaucracies

Accountability and Its Many Faces

The Push for Performance

Accountability and Performance: Theories and Applications

Chapter 2: Bureaucratic Reasoning
Bounded Rationality

Simplified Problem Solving

Evidence-Based Research

Implications for Policy Analysis


Consequences of Bounded Rationality


Chapter 3: The Bureaucracy’s Bosses
Delegation, Adverse Selection, and Moral Hazard

Why Bureaucracy?

Managing Delegation

Principal-Agent Theory and the Bureaucracy’s Clients

Principals and Principles

Chapter 4: The Bureaucracy’s Clients
The Benefits, Costs, and Politics of Public Policy

The Rise and Fall of Iron Triangles

The Venues of Client Participation

Client Influence on Bureaucratic Policymaking

Clients and the Institutions of Government

Client Participation: Three Lessons and Beyond

Chapter 5: Bureaucratic Networks
Networks versus Hierarchies

Network Theory

The Tools Approach

Types of Bureaucratic Networks

Network Effectiveness

The Effectiveness of Policy Tools

Networks and Public Bureaucracy

Chapter 6: The Politics of Disaster Management
The Gulf of Mexico: Two Crises with Precedent

September 11, 2001: A Crisis without Precedent

Avian Influenza: A Crisis in the Making?

Evaluating Bureaucracy in Light of the Theories

Chapter 7: Why Are Some Bureaucracies Better Than Others?
Rating the Performance of Agencies

Explaining Variations in Performance

Alternative Ways of Gauging Agency Performance

Bureaucracy in the Twenty-First Century


This is the best single overview of bureaucracy and how it fits in our democratic system available. The book elegantly weaves a nuanced understanding of bureaucracy itself with the functioning of agencies in a political system. Readers will learn a tremendous amount. Balla and Gormley know their stuff and they share it in an engaging and accessible fashion. The book includes clear frameworks and contemporary examples to help readers make sense of this complex but important topic.

David E. Lewis
Vanderbilt University

Employing a series of timely and engaging illustrations, Balla and Gormley walk readers through the key theoretical approaches to modern bureaucratic governance. The result is a sophisticated but accessible treatment of the complexities of bureaucratic performance and accountability. This is a go-to resource for those interested in understanding what is at stake when it comes to the administrative state.

Rachel Augustine Potter
University of Virginia

Bureaucracy and Democracy delivers on the longstanding promise that professors make to students each year: that theories of bureaucracy and democracies matter in very practical and applicable ways, and that to understand bureaucracy you need to understand democracy (and vice versa).  Students who read this book will have that ‘a-ha’ moment about all these connections. That, to me, is worth the price of the book.”

Lonce Bailey
Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania

“Bureaucracy can be a dry topic to teach and study; Balla and Gormley make it accessible and fun. The book provides a wonderful overview of the theories behind bureaucratic decision-making, as well as the political and other challenges faced by administrative agencies.”

Lydia Tiede
University of Houston

This book looks good for senior-level students who study bureaucracy in depth.

Ms Eunsil Yoo
School Of Public Affairs, Pennsylvania State University
November 24, 2020

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 3

Chapter 6

Steven John Balla

William T. Gormley, Jr.

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ISBN: 9781506348889

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