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 15: Street-level bureaucracy research and accountability beyond hierarchy

Eva Lieberherr and Eva Thomann


In this chapter, the authors consider how in the public policy and public administration literature, accountability has typically been addressed as a hierarchical concept. Using this as a point of departure, they assess how scholars have applied a more nuanced understanding of accountability that includes informal aspects and social relations and hone in on the extended accountability regimes framework as a promising solution. Beyond political-administrative means, it includes customer/shareholder-oriented, vocational and participatory accountability. The authors then demonstrate what can be gained by addressing accountability beyond hierarchy. In doing so, they apply the extended accountability regimes framework to two illustrative cases: for-profit street-level bureaucrats in Swiss food safety policy as well as subnational governments and private street-level organizations in Swiss forest policy. In doing so, the authors shed light onto accountability dilemmas, where particularly political-administrative accountability conflicts with other accountabilities. The analysis shows how professional norms seem to play a key role for explaining action, regardless of whether the actors at the street level stem from the public or private sector.

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