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 5: Adopting an institutional view in street-level bureaucracy research

Deborah Rice


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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