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Downs: Inside bureaucracy

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Downs. Inside bureaucracy.

In Brief

This summary focuses on chapters 8 and 9 of Downs's book.

Role of Hierarchy

Bureaucracy is a system of hierarchy. Every official has superiors, equals, and subordinates. "These superior-subordinate relationships are especially important because every official's chances for improving his position in the bureau, including promotion, higher salary, and success in furthering policies favors" certain actors (p 80).

What Officials Want

Officials have four types of goal: ultimate goals, social conduct goals, basic political action goals, basic personal goals. A particular "type" of goal is specifically bureau-oriented goals which are divided in these subcategories:

  1. Social function goals comprise the values of officials concerning the broad social functions carried out by the bureau to which they belong.
  2. Bureau-structure goals comprise the values of officials concerning the "constitutional design" of their bureaus.
  3. Broad bureau policy goals involve the longer-term objectives that the bureau pursues in order to carry out its major social functions.
  4. Specific bureau policy goals involve the particular actions that the bureau takes in attempting to achieve its broad policy goals.

Fives Types of Official

Downs sees five types of officials running the bureaucracy.

  1. Purely self-interested officials are motivated almost entirely by goals that benefit themselves rather than their bureaus or society as a whole. These come in two sub-types:
    • Climbers (they consider power, income, and prestige all-important in their value structures).
    • Conservers consider convenience and security all-important
  2. Mixed-motivated officials have goals that combine self-interest and altruistic loyalty to larger values.
  3. Zealots are loyal to relatively narrow policies or concepts, such as the development of nuclear submarines.
  4. Advocates are loyal to a broader set of functions or to a broader organization than zealots.
  5. Statesmen are loyal to society as a whole.

Determinants of an Official's Type

  1. Psychological predispositions. An ambitious man tends to be a climber; a timorous one tends to be a conserver.
  2. The nature of the position occupied by the official. Each bureaucratic position exerts a certain amount of pressure upon its occupant to exhibit specific behavior patterns.
  3. The probability that an official actually attain the goals associated with the particular type toward which he is psychologically inclined.

Type and Behavior

  • Climbers: In search of promotions, he seeks to aggrandize his current office/income and find new opportunities above it (or outside the bureau).
  • Conservers: Motivated by job security and convenience, they strongly oppose any losses in their existing power, income, and prestige but do not actively pursue more of these "goods".
  • Advocates: As partisans, advocates promote everything they can within their jurisdiction. They have the tendency toward two-faced attitudes: each advocate is highly partisan externally, but an impartial arbiter internally.
  • Zealots are poor general administrators because of the narrowness of their interests. They antagonize other officials by their refusal to be impartial. They are almost never assigned to high-level administrative or command positions.
  • Statesmen: "Natural" statesmen are doomed to be misfits in office. Most are forced by the exigencies of their positions to behave like some other type (usually advocates).