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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).


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)