International Handbook of Public Management Reform
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International Handbook of Public Management Reform

Edited by Shaun Goldfinch and Joe L. Wallis

This major Handbook provides a state-of-the-art study of the recent history and future development of international public management reform.
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Chapter 12: The United States: The Political Context of Administrative Reform

Bert A. Rockman and Thierno Thiam


Bert A. Rockman and Thierno Thiam The political context of administration in the United States of America By design the US system of government is exceedingly convoluted. More than two centuries of practice has produced a system of even greater complexity than perhaps was initially envisioned. This basic reality is fundamental to an appreciation of the political context in which administrative reforms in the USA and the political context are proposed and implemented. The political context of public administration in the USA is characterized structurally by federalism (often of a competitive nature) and the separation of powers (or, more properly, separate institutions often competing for power). Historically, the USA has featured political patronage in the bureaucracy and the late arrival of the Civil Service. In recent decades, strong differences between the political parties especially regarding the distinctive nature of their political constituencies and their ideas about the regulatory role of the state have fed into an increased struggle for political control and direction of the bureaucracy. The combination of the institutional and political factors place great emphasis on this struggle for control of the executive and is reflected in the idea of ‘the administrative presidency’ (Moe, 1985; Nathan, 1983). The ‘administrative presidency’ is a shorthand label for describing efforts on the part of presidents to make all aspects of the executive – people, programs and laws, and finances – exclusively responsive to them. The term was coined by Richard Nathan (1983), an official in the administration of President Richard Nixon, and an...

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