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Bureaucracy in Politics – Research Guider

The paper 'Bureaucracy in Politics' is a great example of a research paper on politics. 
This study problematized the attitudes and behaviors of the bureaucracy towards change engineered by elected political officeholders. It made no pretense to circumventing the difficulty in studying human behavior but utilized research methods that best measure perceptions of the change process as an indirect measure of outward reaction to the process and the agents of change. 

The study obtained information on bureaucrats' and politicians’ personal identification, demographic and socio-economic characteristics, politico-cultural backgrounds, work, and professional experiences. The study adopted quantitative and qualitative approaches to obtain relevant information needed to explain the relationship between the research variables. The instruments employed were structured questionnaires, focus group discussions and in-depth interviews. In all, 350 bureaucrats and politicians were given fill-in questionnaires, 4 group discussions were conducted and 12 top-level bureaucrats and politicians were interviewed. 

The research shows the inhibitive tendencies of bureaucrats in the implementation of new policies initiated by politicians. These tendencies bear upon issues of self-interest and group interest. The study also identifies increasing mutual suspicion and distrust between the two groups studied. Finally, the study suggests that conflict of interest is manifest in the corrupt tendencies of both groups studied. 

Introduction

Consider this vignette: aggressive behavior of ducks to humans on campus. The ducks live in a pond situated on campus meant for humans. The ducks and humans are co-habitants of the campus. The ducks swim in the pond and also spread on the green grass around the pond. Students also use the green area to relax, recreate and increasingly to read and discuss in groups. Due to incessant complaints of students, the school authority decided to construct concrete slabs close to the pond and pews around it to protect the ducks from undue harassment and also protect the students from aggressive attacks of ducks. The ducks saw this differently and reacted differently. 

To social scientists, human behaviors and attitudes are highly difficult to study and predict, and cannot be explained by the simplistic relations highlighted in the vignette. However, the vignette sheds light on the nature and tendencies of human behaviors and attitudes. In this study, we viewed the attitudes of bureaucrats towards politicians in a reform process. As students of policy and politics, we are interested in understanding how the interplay of power influences this relation particularly in a developing economy typified by the bloated public sector. 

Methodology

This study utilized both survey and desk review research methods. For the field survey methods, the first challenge was sample design. A simple random sample method was employed in selecting the respondent of questionnaires while a systematic sampling method was used for participants of the group discussion and interviewees.

A 37-item questionnaire was administered to 350 respondents. This instrument was methodically designed to collect information relating to the specific objectives of the study.  Each item in the questionnaire was thoroughly examined to ensure its statistical and analytical relevance.  In addition to quantitative data generated from the questionnaires, focus group discussions were organized to obtain qualitative information on the perception of individuals and groups on issues that require more detail explanations. Finally, in-depth interviews were conducted in order to intensively discuss issues identified from the responses to questions in the administered questionnaires as well as the group discussions. A set of structured questions were used to elicit a response to specific issues already identified in the preceding survey techniques. 

Data analysis took two broad forms. The quantitative data generated from the questionnaires were coded and subjected to statistical analysis using the SPSS package. Frequencies were generated and the research variables correlated in order to bring out salient points about individual and group behavioral tendencies. Pie charts and pictograms were generated to represent computed figures. Secondly, the qualitative data were analyzed using a desk review method. To complement the data sourced from survey instruments and to give the study theoretical and conceptual bearing, secondary sources of data were painstakingly collected and explored.

Findings

The analysis of the data collected shows that:

  1. There are Mutual suspicion and distrust between the bureaucrats and politicians. About 65% of the bureaucrats consider the politicians as impediments to the full exercise of their discretionary powers and their professional development whereas 86% of politicians considered bureaucrats as barriers to a successful implementation of reform policies in the public sector. However, the level of distrust is more obvious at the top level that it is at the lower of the public service.
  2. There is a similarity of bureaucrats’ perception of the public sector reform and of the politicians initiating it. This perception coalesces around job security and resistance to new ways of doing things. Expectedly, the politicians’ perception of the reform policy and of the bureaucrats varies according to party affiliations. There is the however dominant view of the bureaucrats as agents of corruption.  

Discussion

The bureaucracy is ideally a politically neutral body of personnel that works in the public sector and serves the general interest of the public. This characteristic makes it be good machinery for implementing policies initiated by politicians. In this study, however, it is clear that the bureaucracy constitutes what Morton (1952: 363) long ago described as a “rigidity of approach” that makes it difficult to adjust to altered circumstances in the policy process. Such rigidity makes it resist policies that it perceives to threaten its own programs and personnel, as in the case of 1970s Britain (Richardson and Jordan, 1979: 82). The question here is what makes the bureaucracy to behave negatively towards policies initiated outside of it? 

This question can be answered using the group theorists’ arguments. As one of the early group theorists, Arthur Bentley (1967), argues “all phenomena of government are phenomena of groups pressing one another”. More specifically, group pressure is argued to be the dominating feature of the policy process (Richardson and Jordan, 1979: 3). So to understand the way policies are decided, their actual content and how they are subsequently implemented one needs to understand the group system and its dynamics. Understanding the group dynamics particularly the intervening attitude of bureaucrats and conflict of group interests requires understanding the perception of the bureaucracy (Suleiman, 1974: 100). From data analyzed in this study, the perceptions of the bureaucracy and politicians reflect the interplay of power and conflict of interests among the two groups operating in the policy process. The new ways introduced in the new policies will make the policy process more transparent and accountable and will reduce the number of public resources controlled by the bureaucracy. The politicians, on the other hand, see this as an opportunity of planting their people in the liberalized public sector, which was hitherto held captive by a few top bureaucrats. The opposing perceptions are indicative of each group’s corrupt tendencies. But for the success of the policy process, equilibrium must be reached between the competing demands of the two influential groups.



References

Bentley, Arthur F. The Process of Government Harvard: Belknap Press, 1967.

Morton, Robert K. “Bureaucratic Structures and Personality” in Merton et al eds. Reader in Bureaucracy New York: Free Press, 1952.

Richardson, J. T., and Jordan, A. G. Governing Under Pressure Oxford: Martin % Robertson & Co Ltd, 1979.

Suleiman, Ezra N. Politics, Power and Bureaucracy in France New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1974.

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