The Ground Floor of Government in Context
Edited by Peter Hupe
Chapter 7: Street-level bureaucracy research and the specification of national culture
Research in street-level dynamics shows that street-level bureaucrats play a unique role in policymaking. Since the publication of Lipsky’s (1980) book on street-level bureaucracy, many contributions have been made helping us to understand what happens at the street level of welfare states’ public administration, as well as in the interactions between public services and civic life. The dominant trend within street-level bureaucracy research has been to focus on similarities between occupations such as police officers, social workers, nurses and teachers and on differences in policy interpretation within organizations. This has mainly been done in single case studies. However, evidence across contexts and national settings is varied and even contradictory. This chapter focuses on the possible importance of national culture as it manifests itself in the normative, social and regulative structure of welfare state regimes and in politico-administrative systems, arguing that such contexts may be important for the way in which street-level work and discretion are perceived and performed but, particularly, are being studied. A central question is whether it is possible to discern national culture from street-level bureaucracy culture and hence from the way street-level bureaucrats operate in a particular country. And if so, what are the implications for street-level bureaucracy research?
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