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 13: Street-level bureaucracy research and professionalism

Gitte Sommer Harrits

Abstract

To fully understand the work of street-level bureaucrats we must pay attention not only to the political and bureaucratic context but also the cultural and social context of citizen encounters, as well as the context of professional groups and professionalism. Therefore, the chapter presents and discusses insights from the literature on professionalism that can be helpful for street-level bureaucracy research. Three traditions from the literature on professionalism are highlighted: (a) a tradition focusing on the normative function of professionalism; (b) a tradition focusing on professional knowledge; and (c) a tradition focusing on professionalism as the institutionalization of power. Also, some integrated perspectives on professionalism are presented. Examples from research using the notion of professionalism are discussed to shed light on what goes on at the street level.

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