Executive Governance: Presidential Administrations and Policy Change in the Federal Bureaucracy

By Cornell G. Hooton | Go to book overview

Foreword

The M.E. Sharpe series in Bureaucracy, Public Policy, and Public Administration is designed as a forum for the best work on bureaucracy and its role in public policy and governance. Although the series is open with regard to approach, methods, and perspectives, especially sought are three types of research. First, the series hopes to attract empirical studies of bureaucracy. Public administration has long been viewed as a theoretical backwater of political science. This view persists despite a recent flurry of research. The series seeks to place public administration at the forefront of empirical analysis within political science. Second, the series is interested in conceptual work that attempts to clarify theoretical issues, set an agenda for research, or provide a focus for professional debates. Third, the series seeks manuscripts that challenge the conventional wisdom about how bureaucracies influence public policy or the role of public administration in governance.

Executive Governance: Presidential Administrations and Policy Change in the Federal Bureaucracy examines the time-honored question of the relationships between bureaucracy and political executives. Too often studies of this nature have ignored the bureaucracy, preferring to treat it as a black box as it interacted with political institutions. Cornell Hooton demonstrates that such an approach will not only provide an incomplete view of the process but often result in conclusions that are simply wrong.

Executive Governance uses a behavioral perspective on organizations to shape an extended case study of the Urban Mass Transportation Administration as well as shorter cases on the Federal Highway Administration and the Food and Nutrition Service. His striking finding is that the legal authority of political executives is a key factor in their ability to change the policy direction of bureaucrats. As such this is a direct challenge to principal-agent models of bureaucracy that examine political control of the bureaucracy without reference to the precise nature of legal authority. Hooton's work, therefore, indicates that bureaucracies as institutions can provide reinforcement for democratic procedures. Attempts at political control by less than democratic means—that is, with questionable legal authority—are more likely to be resisted and more likely to fail.

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