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Above Politics
Bureaucratic Discretion and Credible Commitment


Award Winner

Part of Political Economy of Institutions and Decisions

  • Date Published: June 2016
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107401310

£ 18.99

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About the Authors
  • Economic development requires secure contract enforcement and stable property rights. Normal majority-rule politics, such as bargaining over distributive and monetary policies, generate instability and frequently undermine economic development. Above Politics argues that bureaucracies can contribute to stability and economic development, but only if they are insulated from unstable politics. A separation-of-powers stalemate creates the conditions for bureaucratic autonomy. But what keeps delegated bureaucrats from being more abusive as they become more autonomous? One answer is the negotiation of long-term, cooperative relationships - that (when successful) typically bind subordinates to provide more effort in exchange for autonomy. Even more compelling is professionalism, which embeds its professional practitioners in professional norms and culture, and incidentally mitigates corruption. Financial examples are provided throughout the book, which ends with an analysis of the role played by professionalized bureaucracies during the Great Recession.

    • Nontechnical readers will be able to understand the core ideas of the book, initiating a conversation among people with varying backgrounds
    • Includes a variety of vignettes throughout the text to provide examples of the application of the theoretical concepts
    • Explores the pressures on bureaucracies' decision making from political, institutional, economic, and other social forces
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    • Co-Winner, 2016 Book of the Year, Section of Public Administration Research (SPAR), American Society of Public Administration

    Reviews & endorsements

    'The significant new book, Above Politics, by Miller and Whitford, combines eloquent political theory with engaging examples and sophisticated analysis. In the tradition of the Federalist Papers, it provides a persuasive argument about the most important institutional design issues facing democracy today.' Jack H. Knott, University of Southern California

    'We want our government agencies to be politically accountable. Yet we also want them to have autonomy, so they can utilize their professional expertise to make good decisions. In their lucid, engaging analysis, Miller and Whitford show how the incentives of both politicians and bureaucrats affect the balance between accountability and autonomy. It is a splendid scholarly achievement.' Charles Shipan, University of Michigan

    'More thoroughly than anyone before them, Miller and Whitford teach us that politicians cannot commit to keep their hands off of agencies even when to do so would benefit all of us. A rigorous defense of agency independence and professionalized administration.' Dan Carpenter, Harvard University

    'This theory-based, theory-driven work masterfully weaves analyses and examples that help demonstrate myriad ways bureaucracies can provide stability to government while enhancing economic development - as long as they are permitted to operate as they need to - while politicians (and the public) regularly question whether bureaucrats are neutral while gaining autonomy … Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through professionals.' W. Miller, Choice

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2016
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107401310
    • length: 274 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 16 mm
    • weight: 0.41kg
    • contains: 5 b/w illus. 1 table
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. The moral hazard of bureaucrats and politicians
    3. Political moral hazard and credible commitment
    4. Political moral hazard and bureaucratic autonomy
    5. 'Above politics': the separation of powers and bureaucratic autonomy
    6. The control paradox, trust, and leadership
    7. Professionalism and credible commitment
    8. The politicization of financial regulation
    9. The financial crisis and reregulation
    10. Conclusion.

  • Authors

    Gary J. Miller, Washington University, St Louis
    Gary J. Miller is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Washington University, St Louis. He taught previously at California Institute of Technology, Michigan State University, and Washington University's John M. Olin School of Business.

    Andrew B. Whitford, University of Georgia
    Andrew B. Whitford is Alexander M. Crenshaw Professor of Public Policy in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia. His research centers on strategy and innovation in public policy and organization studies. He is currently Editor of the Journal of Public Policy. He is an elected Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration. His papers have been published in journals such as Administrative Science Quarterly, the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, the American Journal of Public Health, and the American Journal of Political Science.


    • Co-Winner, 2016 Book of the Year, Section of Public Administration Research (SPAR), American Society of Public Administration
    • Winner, 2017 Gladys M. Kammerer Award, American Political Science Association

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