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Democratic Accountability and the Politics of Mass Administrative Reorganization

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 July 2016


Governments face different incentives when they reorganize many administrative agencies at one time rather than making infrequent, case-by-case changes. This article develops a theory of mass administrative reorganizations, which posits that the politics of reorganization is focused on government accountability. Viewing mass reorganization as a structured decision, it argues that choices about independence, agency organization and functional disposition have different impacts on the political costs of administrative policy making. Analyzing novel data from a recent British reorganization with sequential logistic statistical models provides substantial support for these claims. The study challenges the focus on organizational survival in the existing literature. By eschewing more fundamental political questions of democratic accountability, the prevailing approach masks essential politics, and in the context of this study, all influence of conflict due to party and agency policy positions.

© Cambridge University Press 2016 

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New York University (emails:, Funding was provided by a grant from the Economic and Social Research Council (Grant Ref. ES/J010553/1). We thank Haram Lee, George Krause, Oliver James, Sanghee Park, Stéphane Lavertu, Chris Skelcher, Katherine Dommett and Katherine Tonkiss for assistance with data sources and helpful comments. Data replication sets are available at and online appendices are available at


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