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Ministerial bureaucracy s influence on policy making

See Article History Bureaucratic politics approach, theoretical approach to public policy that emphasizes internal bargaining within the state.

Inter-Relation between Politicians, Politics and Administration

The bureaucratic politics approach argues that policy outcomes result from a game of bargaining among a small, highly placed group of governmental actors. These actors come to the game with varying preferences, abilities, and positions of power.

Bureaucratic politics approach

Participants choose strategies and policy goals based on different ideas of what outcomes will best serve their organizational and personal interests. Bargaining then proceeds through a pluralist process of give-and-take that reflects the prevailing rules of the game as well as power relations among the participants.

Edited by Robert E. Goodin

Because this process is neither dominated by one individual nor likely to privilege expert or rational decisions, it may result in suboptimal outcomes that fail to fulfill the objectives of any of the individual participants. Most discussions of bureaucratic politics begin with Graham T. Allison provides an analysis of the Cuban missile crisis that contrasts bureaucratic politics bargaining with two other models of policy making.

Thus, bureaucratic politics is often offered as a counterpoint to realist or rationalist conceptions of policy decision making. The second alternative approach describes policies as guided by, even resulting from, previously established bureaucratic procedures, which leaves little room for autonomous action by high-level decision makers.

Compared with these and other alternative conceptions of policy making, the bureaucratic politics model represents a significant and distinctive strain of organization- and state-level theory in international relationsorganization theorypublic policy, and American politics. Perhaps the most-abiding concept from the bureaucratic politics model, and the shorthand many have used to define it, is that actors will pursue policies that benefit the organizations they represent rather than national or collective interests.

A central and intuitively powerful claim of bureaucratic politics explanations, this premise has been criticized for its narrow view of preference formation.

For example, critics note that it fails to explain the role of many important actors in the original bureaucratic politics ministerial bureaucracy s influence on policy making study of the Cuban missile crisis. Yet even the early bureaucratic politics theorists, including Allison, were explicit in acknowledging that other factors, such as personality, interpersonal relations, and access to information, also play important roles in the bureaucratic politics process.

Each of these queries masks a number of additional questions and hypotheses about the bureaucratic politics process. Whether actors are elected or appointed, high- mid- or low-level, and new to their stations or old hands can all affect their interests and bargaining positions.

For example, actors who serve as part of a temporary political administration, such as political appointees of the U. Many aspects of the policy environment also influence the bureaucratic politics dynamic. Issues that are highly salient and visible to key constituenciesfor instance, may cause politically ambitious actors to alter their ministerial bureaucracy s influence on policy making positions. The venue in which bargaining takes place—cabinet room, boardroom, public news media, and so forth—may also privilege some actors and some interests over others.

Important implications can be drawn from this model. To understand the actions of a state—indeed, of any large, complex organization—one must understand the rules governing its decision-making processes and the motivations of actors participating therein. The result of such a process may well indicate a compromise point without any clear internal strategic logic and may even reflect the unintended consequence of a dynamic tug-of-war among actors.

Thus, it may be very difficult to interpret the intentions that underlie the seemingly strategic behaviour of complex organizations, making interactions with these bodies less predictable and, in some spheres, such as international conflict, consequently more dangerous. Though the bureaucratic politics model has been used to describe decision making in many different contextsit is most commonly applied to national policy making in the United States and particularly to U.

This focus has meant that the theory remains underdeveloped in many policy areas, and the traditional pluralistic view of bureaucratic politics has been challenged by critics who claim alternative paths to policy making. Some critics argue that in the American context the model underestimates the power of the president, who dominates policy through the selection and control of appointed officials.

Others critique the model because it places too little emphasis on the power of lower-level administrators and structures to influence policy through the control of information and implementation. Because the bureaucratic politics approach has most often been applied to studies of crisis decision making, critics have also asserted that its value for explaining ordinary policy making, particularly over time, is limited.

Finally, some have expressed normative worries about the implications of the bureaucratic politics model for government accountability: