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American bureaucracy in comparative perspective

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Rockman, Bert A.

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Graduate School of Public Administration, Seoul National University
Korean Journal of Policy Studies, Vol.3, pp. 1-15
This article poses two basic questions: (1) What are the central di.ferences and similarities that
exist across the state bureaucracies of industrialized democracies? and (2) To what extent, in what
ways, and why is the United States' Federal bureaucracy distinctive?
The article argues that in spite of large conceptual problems, it is only through the comparative
analysis of administrative systems, processes, and behavior that we can develop the means by which
to see what is common and what is precisely distinctive about particular systems. The article notes,
for example, that complexity of decisionmaking and issues of politicixation of the administration
exist everywhere; only their forms differ.
Several dimensions of comparative analysis are discussed: (1) personnel and personnel systems;
(2) political culture and environment; (3) decision-making processes; (4) the power of the bureaucracy;
and (5) within federal states, uniformities and nonunifomities in implementation.
Each of these dimensions presents complex problems for comparison. Ways of developing them
further for comparative inquiry are discussed, as are particular aspects of the distinctive character
of both American bureaucratic structure and bureaucratic linkage to the political system.
While the article summarizes ways in which particular dimensions of analysis can be fruitful in
comparing administrative systems, its function is mainly to provide a map to guide further explorations.
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