Handbook of American Public Administration
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Handbook of American Public Administration

Edited by Edmund C. Stazyk and H. G. Frederickson

The Handbook of American Public Administration draws on the expertise of established and emerging scholars to provide national and international audiences a comprehensive review of the current state and future direction of theory and practice in US public administration. The authors provide a cross-disciplinary, holistic review of the field and pave an agenda for future research.
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Chapter 18: Institutionalism and assumptions: institutionalizing race and gender in public administration scholarship

Shannon Portillo and Nicole Humphrey


Focusing on the social construction and social positioning of organizations and the individuals who form them, institutionalism has captivated recent generations of public administration scholars. The framework has various strands developing sets of assumptions that guide empirical work and nuanced theoretical development. With most of the recent theoretical developments of the field fitting within the tent of institutionalism, it is difficult to present a standardized set of assumptions for the framework. However, the focus on social norms, rules, and roles and how these frame public organizations and the behavior of public officials, is at the core of all institutional approaches. In this chapter, we trace the development of institutionalism within the field, making note of current debates and trends. We challenge scholars to recognize the normative characteristics of institutionalism and the ways in which racialized and gendered assumptions become central to much of the early theoretical development of the field.

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