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Bureaucracy and the Formulation of Public Policy

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Actors, Interests and Lobbying
Administration and Governance
Administrative Law and Constitutional Checks on the Executive
All-Powerful Leaders?: The Concentration of Power in Modern Executives
Bureaucracy and the Formulation of Public Policy
Canadian Intergovernmental Structures and Operating Processes
Conceptual and Theoretical Foundations of Third Sector Governance and Management
Courts, Judicial Review, Rights and Democracy
Emergence of the Nation State
Executive Authority, Cabinet and Leadership
Executive Leadership in Government
Executive-Legislative Relations
Federal-Provincial Fiscal Relations
Federal-Provincial-Municipal Relations
Game Theory and Rational Institutionalism
Indigenous Rights and Institutions
Institutional Architecture: Federalism
Institutional Designs and Paths
Machinery of Government
Media, Framing and Agenda Setting
New Public Management
Parliamentary, Presidential and Decentralized Unitary Systems
Political and Administrative Responsibilities
Political and Administrative Responsibilities
Political Parties and Elections
Probing the Accuracy of Rational Decision Making Models: Alternative Accounts
Public and Para-Public Institutions
Public Institutions, Organizing Principles and Democratic Control
Public Opinion, Ideas and Policy Frames
Representation and Accountability
Representation and Responsiveness
Representation, Accountability and Policy
The Architecture of the Canadian State
The Bureaucracy and Bureaucratic Behaviour
The Changing Role of the State
The Democratic Deficit: Ethics, Responsiveness and Performance
The International Context of Domestic Institutions
The Policy Cycle
The Political Context of Policy Making
Weber: Rationalization and Bureaucracy
Westminster Parliamentary Systems
Who are the Players in the Policy Process?


A Teaching Topic in Democratic Institutions and Policy Process

Bureaucracy and the Formulation of Public Policy

This topic explores the philosophies and theories that have sought to describe and define the appropriate role of the public service (or “bureaucracy”) in policymaking, as distinct from other actors or institutions of government.  Some of these theories include public, rational, or social choice theory, and game theory, and may reference the works of such scholars as Marx, Weber, Wilson, and/or Merton. Sessions covering this topic also explore a variety of theories that seek to explain the motivations and power dynamics that have been seen within bureaucracies, as well as the various decision-making concepts that may help students to understand and contextualize how and why particular policy processes are followed (or not followed). This topic will allow students to identify the similarities and differences between the public service, elected officials, and for-profit organizations with respect to such issues as organizational behaviour, power dynamics, incentives for action and inaction, and their role(s) in government and society.

Core Concepts associated with this Topic: Line Departments; Weberian Bureaucracy; Bureaucracy; Bureaucratic Independence.

Topic Learning Outcome: Upon mastering this topic, students will understand the role of the bureaucracy in the policy process in Canada. They will be aware of the contours of longstanding theoretical debates about the appropriate role of the public service in the policy process.

Recommended Reading

American PUAD 603

John W. Kingdon. 1999. America the Unusual. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.

B. Guy Peters. 2010. American Public Policy: Promise & Performance. Washington, DC: CQ Press.: Chapter 2 (The Structure of Policymaking in American Government); Chapter 3 (Explaining Policy Choices); Chapter 4 (Agenda Setting and Public Policy); Chapter 5 (Legitimating Policy Choices); Chapter 6 (Organizations and Implementation)

Catherine Smith. 2010. Writing Public Policy: A Practical Guide to Communicating in the Policy Making Process. 2nd edition. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Chapter 3 (Definition: Frame the Problem)

Xun Wu, M. Ramesh, Michael Howlett, and Scott Fritzen. 2010. The Public Policy Primer: Managing the Policy Process. London: Routledge: Chapter 2 (Agenda Setting); Chapter 3 (Policy Formulation); Chapter 4 (Decision-Making); Chapter 7 (Toward Integrated Public-Making)

David Robertson. 2010. “Historical Institutionalism, Political Development, and the Study of American Bureaucracy.” In Robert F. Durant, The Oxford Handbook of American Bureaucracy (OHAB), Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Miller and Whitford (Experimental Methods, Agency Incentives, and the Study of Bureaucratic Behavior-OHAB)

Kerwin, Furlong, and West (Interest Groups, Rulemaking, and American Bureaucracy-OHAB)

American PUAD612

Jay M. Shafritz and Albert C. Hyde, Classics of Public Administration, 6th ed. (2007).

James Q. Wilson, Bureaucracy (1989).

David H. Rosenbloom and Robert Kravchuk, Public Administration: Understanding Management, Politics, and Law in the Public Sector, 7th ed (2008).

David Osborne and Peter Plastrik, Banishing Bureaucracy, 2nd ed. (2006).

Henri Fayol, General and Industrial Management (1916). selections. (Retrieve from the class Blackboard site or look at pages 19-26, 33-36 in the original.)

Luther Gulick, “Notes on the Theory of Organization” from Papers on the Science of Administration (1937). (selection in Shafritz and Hyde)

Frederick Taylor, Scientific Management (1911), selections.

Louis Brownlow et al., “Report of the President’s Committee on Administrative Management,” pp. 3, 5-6, 29-32

Max Weber, “Essay on Bureaucracy” (1911).

Robert K. Merton, “Bureaucratic Structure and Personality” (1940).

Anthony Downs, “The Life Cycle of Bureaus,” from Inside Bureaucracy (1967).

Warren Bennis, “Organizations of the Future” (1968).

Frank J. Goodnow, “Politics and Administration,” (1900).

Paul Appleby, “Government is Different,” from Big Democracy (1945).

Philip Selznick, “The Cooptative Mechanism,” (1949).

Theodore J. Lowi, The End of Liberalism (1969).

Frank R. Baumgartner and Bryan D. Jones, Agendas and Instability in American Politics (1993), selections.

David Osborne and Ted Gaebler, Reinventing Government: How the Entrepreneurial Spirit is Transforming the Public Sector (1992), contents, xixxxi, 12-16, 34-37.

Mark H. Moore, Creating Public Value (1995), 13-21, 65-76

Larry D. Terry, “The Thinning of Administrative Institutions” (2007).

Herbert Simon, “The Proverbs of Administration,” (1946); also in Administrative Behavior (1947);

Charles Lindblom, “The Science of ‘Muddling Through’” (1959).

Harlan Cleveland, Nobody in Charge (2002), 16-31.

Michael Hammer and James Champy, Reengineering the Corporation (1993), 39-44.

Russell M. Linden, Seamless Government: A Practical Guide to Re-Engineering in the Public Sector (1994), excerpts from chap. 4 (“Principles of Reengineering”)

Carleton – PADM5116

Leslie A. Pal, Beyond Policy Analysis 4th ed. (Toronto: Nelson Education, 2010), chaps. 2, 3 & 4

Stephen Brooks, “The Policy Analysis Profession in Canada,” in Laurent Dobuzinskis, Michael Howlett, David Laycock, eds., Policy Analysis in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007), 21-47.

Michael Howlett, (2009). "Policy analytical capacity and evidence-based policy-making: Lessons from Canada." Canadian Public Administration no. 52 (2):153-175. doi: 10.1111/j.1754-7121.2009.00070_1.x.

Michael J. Prince, “Soft Craft, Hard Choices, Altered Context: Reflections on Twenty-Five Years of Policy Advice in Canada,” in Laurent Dobuzinskis, Michael Howlett, David Laycock, eds., Policy Analysis in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007), 163-185.

Colin Crouch, “Privatised Keynesianism: An Unacknowledged Policy Regime,” British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 11 (2009): 382-399.

Peter Aucoin, “The Policy Roles of Central Agencies: Bruce Doern’s Approach to the Policy Process,” in Policy G. Toner, L.A. Pal, and M.J. Prince (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010), 59-76

Susan McDaniel and Paul Bernard, “Life Course as a Policy Lens: Challenges and Opportunities” Canadian Public Policy, Supplement Vol. XXXVII, 2011

Katherine L. Milkman, Todd Rogers and Max H. Bazerman 2008 “Harnessing Our Inner Angels and Demons: What We have Learned About Want/Should Conflicts and How That knowledge Can Help Us Reduce Short-Sighted Decision Making” Perspectives on Psychological Science 3(4)

Carleton – PADM5115

H. Gerth & C. W. Mills, From Max Weber (Oxford, 1946) Selections

M. Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Introduction, Chapters 1&5

A. Giddens & D. Held (eds) Chap. 3 Max Weber

Callinicos, Alex. 1999. Social Theory: A Historical Introduction, New York, New York University Press. Chapter 7: Weber.

Giddens, Anthony. 1971. Capitalism and modern social theory: An analysis of the writings of Marx, Durkheim and Max Weber, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. Part II: Weber.


Thomas E. Patterson, We the People (New York: McGraw-Hill, 10th edition 2013) pp. 297-303 and 451-461

Johnson-Shoyama JSGS801

Max Weber. 1946. “Bureaucracy,” in From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, eds. H.H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills New York: Oxford University Press, 1,2,3,4,6,7.

James Q. Wilson. 1989. Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do and Why They Do It. New York: Basic Books, chapters 1,2,7,9.

Miller, Gary J. 2005. “The Political Evolution of Principal-Agent Models.” Annual Review of Political Science 8: 203–225.

James C. Scott. 1998. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. New Haven: Yale University Press: introduction and chapters 9 and 10.

Robert K. Merton. 1957. Social Theory and Social Structure. New York: Free Press, chapter 6, “Bureaucratic Structure and Personality.”

Lynn, Laurence E. 2001. "The Myth of the Bureaucratic Paradigm: What Public Administration Really Stood For." Public Administration Review 61: 144-160.


Kamensky, J. (1996). Role of the “reinventing government” movement in federal management reform. Public Administration Review, 56(3), 247-255.

Savas, E. (2000). “Introduction.” In Privatization and Public Private Partnerships. New York and London: Chatham House Publishers. pp 3-17.

Globerman, S. & Vining, A. (1996). A Framework for Evaluating the Government Contracting-Out Decision with an Application to Information Technology. Public Administration Review, 56(6), 577-586.

Boyne, G. (1998). Bureaucratic theory meets reality: Public choice and service contracting in U.S. local government. Public Administration Review, 58(6), 474-484.

Moe, R. (1994). The “reinventing government” exercise: Misinterpreting the problem, misjudging the consequences. Public Administration Review, 54(2), 111-122.

U of T PPG1000

Borwein, Sophie, Gold, Jennifer; and Hjartarson, Josh, Incentivizing Public Service (forthcoming 2012). Mowat Centre, 2012.

Savoie, Donald J. 2003. Breaking the Bargain: Public Servants, Ministers, and Parliament. Toronto: UTP, 3-20.

Possible Assessment Questions:

  1. What is public choice theory? What are some alternatives to public choice theory that can help us understand why bureaucracies and bureaucrats behave as they do?
  2. Identify three of the features of bureaucracy as described by the philosopher Max Weber.
  3. Discuss some of the differences between the public service and elected officials with respect to such issues as organizational behaviour, power dynamics and their incentives for action and inaction. This question is broad, and you may focus on any type of difference that you believe is important.

Page Created By: Katherine Valiquette, 21 September 2014 edited by Ben Eisen 22 October 2014.


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School of Public Policy and Governance