The Ground Floor of Government in Context
Edited by Peter Hupe
Chapter 5: Adopting an institutional view in street-level bureaucracy research
This chapter builds on the work of the American sociologist Robert K. Merton to develop a mechanism-based institutional approach to street-level work. Existing institutional approaches to street-level work tend to be either materialist or culturalist in outlook. They cannot account for different individual adaptations to identical organizational or policy contexts. In contrast, a Mertonian perspective takes into account both material and cultural inputs to street-level work and offers explanations for varying street-level work modes within one and the same structural environment. At the same time, a Mertonian mechanism-based approach can help to explain why certain street-level work patterns come to dominate in a particular organization or policy implementation system. Hence, such an approach may act as a valuable explanatory and sampling device in comparative street-level research.
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