Americans are just emerging from one of the great reform eras in our historyan era in which we attempted to control public bureaucracies through interest representation, due process, management, policy analysis, federalism, and oversight. The United States has, in fact, undergone an institutional realignment and has emerged with a weaker, less autonomous bureaucracy. In a book that will interest not only public administration specialists but students of American government generally, William Gormley examines the consequences of the reform efforts of the 1970s and 1980s and seeks to understand why, despite an astonishing number of these efforts, we remain dissatisfied with the results.
"The American bureaucracy is beleaguered and besieged," writes Gormley. ". . . Unfortunately, the bureaucracy's critics are equally capable of blunders." The author explains our situation by analyzing a spectrum of controls ranging from catalytic to hortatory to coercive. Catalytic controls--such as proxy advocacy, environmental impact statements, and freedom-of-information acts--are most flexible, while coercive controls--such as legislative vetoes, executive orders, and judicial take-overs of state institutions--are most rigid. While recommending that controls be tailored both to issues and to bureaucracies, Gormley shows that coercive interventions (or muscles) often generate new bureaucratic pathologies without eradicating old ones. In contrast, catalytic controls (or prayers) energize the bureaucracy without predetermining a hastily crafted response.
Originally published in 1989.
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