Research Handbook on Street-Level Bureaucracy
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Research Handbook on Street-Level Bureaucracy

The Ground Floor of Government in Context

Edited by Peter Hupe

When the objectives of public policy programmes have been formulated and decided upon, implementation seems just a matter of following instructions. However, it is underway to the realization of those objectives that public policies get their final substance and form. Crucial is what happens in and around the encounter between public officials and individual citizens at the street level of government bureaucracy. This Research Handbook addresses the state of the art while providing a systematic exploration of the theoretical and methodological issues apparent in the study of street-level bureaucracy and how to deal with them.
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Chapter 3: Conceptualizing street-level bureaucracy in context

Peter Hupe


This chapter offers an exploration of the ways in which street-level bureaucracy has been approached theoretically so far, especially in its relationship with factors identified as exercising influence. How can what happens at the street level of government bureaucracy be conceptualized as positioned in its environment? The chapter places approaches to street-level bureaucracy research within the trinity of governing, a comprehensive analytical framework. Some forms of reductionism are identified as apparent in the existing literature. It is underlined that researchers cannot escape from some form of reduction. This being so, when understanding and explaining social reality via empirical research, functional rather than a priori reductionism is preferable. This implies that variables are chosen as expressing expected relationships with an eye on what needs explanation. The implications of the various forms of reductionist explanations are elaborated further in Chapter 17.

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