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Carpenter: State building through reputation building

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Carpenter. 2000. State building through reputation building: Coalitions of esteem and program innovation in the Nati. Studies in American Political Development 15.

See notes in Kernell (2001).

MAIN POINT:

The professionalization of the post office was driven by (1) bureaucratic entrepreneur (Wanamaker) and (2) his coalition of mid-level Post Office employees dedicated to improrving the reputation and effectiveness of their organization. Together, they independently implemented bold new experimental programs and innovative reforms, with party- and class-crossing efforts. "A new generation of reform-minded bureaucrats ... pressed for several changes in postal operations."

The Post Office was autonomous. "in form, particularity, and experiment, all three [new] programs found their origin in the department," not in Congress. The Post Office's autonomy was further attested in that Republican patrons running fourth-class post offices were not spared when the fourth-class post offices were eliminated. (Kernell's explanation: Congress was using the Post Office to eliminate the fourth-class post offices because it wanted to hide its own backing of the idea).

Kernell sharply disagrees and presents persuasive evidence to the contrary.

"An account centered upon bureaucratic reputations -- beliefs about the capacity of an agency, embedded in multiple and diverse network ties -- offers the first and only explanation that unifies the important institutional changes in the American postal system that occurred between 1890 and World War I." (153)