Bureaucracy and the Policy Process

POLS 330 – Spring 2006


I.  Introduction                                                                                                                                  

In order to adequately evaluate the American political environment, as a political scientist one must take on the challenge of understanding bureaucracy.  In this course we will examine a number of questions surrounding public bureaucracies, including:  What is the origin of the American bureaucratic system?  How has it progressed and evolved into its current form?  Has bureaucracy been corrupted by the advancement of “technical rationality” and, if so, should bureaucracy be considered inherently evil?  Why are bureaucrats reviled in some instances and revered in others?  How can or should unelected government officials be made more accountable to their elected counterparts and to the citizens they serve?  Do unelected government officials ‘make policy’ and, if so, what is the policy process?  Is it accurate, or even fair, to carve out public bureaucracy as the “fourth branch of government”? 


In addressing these and many other questions, we will rely on the blending of classic and contemporary public administration theory.  Also, we will discuss real-life cases in several areas of public policy, including homeland security, education, the environment, law enforcement, and social welfare.


II.  Contact and Meeting Information                                                                                                           


Trent J. Davis

Office: DuSable 476

Phone: (815) 753-1818

E-mail: tdavis2@niu.edu

Office Hours: T/Th 10:00 to 11:00am, or by appointment


Class meetings

T/Th 11:00 to 12:15pm, DuSable 461


III.  Required Course Materials                                                                                                                   

The following textbooks are required for this course:





IV.  Course Assignments and Grading Policy                                                                                                                                    

This section provides an outline of the assignments/exams required for this course and the point value each exercise will carry.  In addition, an overview of each assignment/exam has been provided below.




The following grading scale will be utilized:

Chapter Outlines


405 - 450


Analysis/Research Paper


360 - 404


Midterm Exam 


315 - 359


Cumulative Final Exam


270 - 314





Below 270



The attendance/participation grade will be based on the frequency of a student’s attendance and his or her level of participation (including in-class group exercises and take-home assignments).  Each student will be permitted one unexcused absence; any unexcused absence beyond that will result in a 5-point grade reduction per absence.  Excused absences, so long as the class attendance policy is adhered to, will not count against a student’s grade.  Bear in mind that it is up to the student to provide the instructor with advance notice (whenever possible) and the proper documentation (within one week) validating a student’s absence from class.


That being said, students are strongly encouraged to attend all regularly scheduled class lectures and any special study sessions or exam review periods that may occur.  It is also expected that students will arrive to class on time and remain for the duration of the class period (unless prior arrangements have been made with the instructor).  In addition, students should come to class prepared and make every effort to become actively engaged in the class discussion.


Chapter Outlines and Analysis/Research Paper

Overview:  Over the course of the semester we will make extensive use of the Adams and Balfour text, Unmasking Administrative Evil.  Using this text, students will take part in examining the field of public administration and its relationship, if any, to the notion of evil.  In addition, readings critical of or counter to the aforementioned text will be explored.


This assignment requires each student to draft four chapter outlines and one analysis/research paper.  Collectively, these papers are designed to facilitate reading comprehension and in-class discussion, as well as strengthen one’s knowledge of various concepts related to the study of public administration.


Chapter Outline Requirements:  Each chapter outline should summarize the primary or key points of the chapter(s) being discussed.  For example, we will discuss Adams and Balfour chapters one and two in-class on April 11, which is the same day that the first chapter outline is due.


Specific requirements/expectations will be discussed in-class on March 7.  In general, however, the outlines need to conform to the following guidelines:


  1. Include a title page containing your name, date submitted, and a full citation for the chapters being outlined.


  1. In two to three pages, outline the key points of the chapter(s).  Identify the primary question or thesis statement found in each chapter and discusses how they fit with the overall theme of the book.  Carefully summarize the most important or compelling examples used by the authors to support their argument.  If possible, identify other ‘real life’ examples that either support or refute the authors’ argument.  Identify key ideas or theories pertaining to the field of public administration that either support or refute the authors’ argument.


  1. The chapter outlines must be typed, double-spaced, in 12-point Times or Times New Roman font, with 1” margins.  Also, be sure to use a style guide, such as MLA or APA, consistently throughout the paper.


Analysis/Research Paper Requirements:  Specific requirements/expectations will be discussed in-class on March 7.  In general, however, the paper needs to conform to the following guidelines: 


  1. Include a title page containing the title of your paper, your name, course number, and paper submission date.  A works cited page should be included at the conclusion of the paper.


  1. The first section should be a two to three page description of the key themes and ideas found in Unmasking Administrative Evil.  Do not attempt to address every theme or idea; rather, you should identify those you feel are most important for clarifying the authors’ purpose.  Begin this section with the subhead: Identification of Key Themes.


  1. The second section should be a three to four page analysis of the key themes identified in the first section.  The analysis should be both positive and negative, as well as evaluative.  In other words, do not simply repeat what you discussed in the first section; rather, develop an assessment of the authors’ key themes.  The assessment should not rely upon your personal opinion (i.e., do not state “I think…” or “I feel…” or “I believe…”).  Rather, you need to provide outside evidence (i.e., scholarly articles, books, or current ‘real-life’ events) that either supports or refutes the authors’ key themes.  In essence, your job is to develop an analysis based on outside evidence (and void of personal opinion) that leads ‘your reader’ down a path to some desired conclusion.  Begin this section with the subhead: Analysis of Key Themes.


  1. The book review must be typed, double-spaced, in 12-point Times or Times New Roman font, with 1” margins.  Also, be sure to use a style guide, such as MLA or APA, consistently throughout the paper.


Grading:  Grades will be based on a number of criteria, including: demonstrated knowledge of the assigned reading(s); correct identification and assessment of key themes; integration and quality of outside sources; quality and style of writing (i.e., grammar and spelling); and adherence to the required paper format (i.e., margins, font, style guide, and etcetera).


It is strongly recommended that each student take his or her paper to the University’s Writing Center. While much of your grade will be based on the substance of your work, quality of grammar and style should by no means be overlooked.  Visiting the Writing Center is not mandatory; however, students who choose to take advantage of this resource will receive an automatic 5-point increase on their book review grade (staple proof of session to your paper).  The Writing Center is located in Stevenson Towers South, Lower Level.  For more information or to make an appointment call 753-6636.   


Midterm and Final Examinations

There will be a midterm and a final exam.  Both exams will consist of any combination of multiple choice, true/false, short answer, and essay questions.  The format for the midterm and final exam will be closed-book/note.  The midterm exam is scheduled for March 9 and the final exam is scheduled for
May 9.  The format for the final exam will differ from the midterm in that it will be cumulative in nature; however, material covered during the second half of the semester will be emphasized.


Extra Credit

Students wishing to earn extra credit may speak to the instructor regarding the opportunity to make a short (i.e., 10 minute) class presentation regarding some aspect of bureaucracy and public policy.  In order to earn extra credit, you must demonstrate both an interest in and knowledge of your topic.  Depending on the quality of your presentation, up to 10 points may be earned.  Please see me for further details.


V.  Undergraduate Writing Awards                                                                                       

The Department of Political Science will recognize, on an annual basis, outstanding undergraduate papers written in conjunction with 300 and 400 level political science courses or directed studies.  Authors do not have to be political science majors or have a particular class standing; however, winners are expected to attend the Department’s spring graduation ceremony where they will receive a certificate and $50.00.  Papers, which can be submitted by students or faculty, must be supplied in triplicate to a department secretary by February 28.  All copies should have two cover pages – one with the student’s name and one without the student’s name.  Only papers written in the previous calendar year can be considered for the award.  However, papers completed in the current spring semester are eligible for the following year’s competition even if the student has graduated.


VI.  Academic Integrity and Rules of Decorum                                                                                

Honesty is the essence of the intellectual life of the University.  Students who copy the work of another on an assignment, paper, quiz, or examination are guilty of cheating.  The misrepresentation of another's work as your own, copying material from books, magazines, or other resources without acknowledgement and identification of those sources is plagiarism.  If a student is guilty of either cheating or plagiarizing, or of assisting other students in cheating or plagiarizing on an assignment, paper, quiz, or examination, the student may receive a grade of “F” for the course and be suspended or dismissed from the University.  Please consult the University’s website, the Student Judicial Code, or speak to the course instructor if you have further questions concerning this policy.


In addition to the University’s Rules of Decorum, there are a few additional policies that each student should observe.


- Always demonstrate courtesy and respect toward all others in class.  This includes respecting the opinions of others and refraining from talking while they are speaking.


- Make every effort to come to class on time and be prepared.  Habitual tardiness will not be tolerated, as it is an unfair disruption to all others in the class. 


- If you must leave the class early, please let me know before class begins.  Leaving and then returning to class, unless for a valid and necessary reason, will not be tolerated.  


- Turn off all electronic devices (i.e., cell phones, pagers, PDAs) prior to entering class.  If you accidentally leave a phone on and it rings during class, do not answer it.  Hang up the phone.


- While the class is in progress do not read newspapers or books for another class.  Moreover, do not engage in side conversations with other students in the class.


- During an exam, there are to be no electronic devices, including but not limited to cell phones, pagers, and PDAs, left on or visible to you or I.  If for any reason you are caught with an electronic device during an exam, you will receive an automatic “F” on the exam and be turned in to the University for academic misconduct.


- During an exam, all backpacks, briefcases, purses, and etcetera are to be closed and stored under your seat.  If for any reason during the exam you must access one of these items, raise your hand and let me know prior to doing so. 


VII.  Statement Concerning Students with Disabilities                                                                    

Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, NIU is committed to making reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities.  Those students with disabilities that may have some impact on their coursework, and for which they may require accommodations, should notify the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR) on the fourth floor of the Health Services Building.  CAAR will assist students in making appropriate accommodations with course instructors.  It is important that CAAR and instructors be informed of any disability-related needs during the first two weeks of the semester.


VIII.  Department of Political Science Website                                                                                

Undergraduates are strongly encouraged to consult the Department of Political Science website on a regular basis.  This up-to-date, central source of information will assist students in contacting faculty and staff, reviewing course requirements and syllabi, exploring graduate study, researching career options, tracking department events, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities.  To reach the site, go to http://polisci.niu.edu.


IX.  Weekly Class Schedule                                                                                                              

Week 1:  Class Introduction and Perceptions of Bureaucracy

Tuesday, January 17

-Course Introduction


Thursday, January 19

-Small group exercise – Perceptions of Bureaucracy

-Overview of the Blackboard Course Server


Week 2: Bureaucratic Myths and Realities 

Tuesday, January 24

-Debunking common myths and realities about bureaucracy?

-Size of the American bureaucracy and the “shadow government”

-Read: Kettl and Fesler, chapter 1


Thursday, January 26

-Bureaucratic myths and realities, continued

-Understanding the functions and tools of government

-Read: Kettl and Fesler, chapter 2


Week 3: Rise of the Administrative State

Tuesday, January 31

-Overview of the American Administrative State

-American Bureaucracy formally defined


Thursday, February 2

-The American Administrative State, continued


Week 4: Politics-Administration Dichotomy

Tuesday, February 7

-What is the Politics-Administration Dichotomy?  Why does it matter?

-Read:  Wilson, W. (1887), “The Study of Administration” pgs. 197-222 [on-line] and
Goodnow, F. (1900), “Politics and Administration: A Study of government” pgs. 1-22 [on-line] and Svara, J. (1985), “Dichotomy and Duality:  Reconceptualizing the Relationship between Policy and Administration in Council-Manager Cities” pgs. 221-232 [on-line]


Thursday, February 9

-Small group exercise – bring readings from 2/7 with you to class.


Week 5: Politics-Administration Dichotomy, continued

Tuesday, February 14

-The Revisionist Debate

-Read: Martin, D. (1988), “The Fading Legacy of Woodrow Wilson” pgs. 631-636 [on-line] and
Svara, J. (1998), “The Politics-Administration Dichotomy Model as Aberration” pgs. 51-57 [on-line]


Thursday, February 16

-Conclude discussion on the Politics-Administration Dichotomy and revisionist debate

-Overview of the policy process


Week 6: The Policy Process and Policy Typologies

Tuesday, February 21

-Overview of the policy process, continued


Thursday, February 23

-Regulatory, Redistributive, Distributive, and Constituent Policy

-Read: Kettl and Fesler, chapter 12


Week 7: Policy Typologies, continued

Tuesday, February 28

-Conclude discussion on Policy Typologies

-Bureaucracy as a policymaking institute, a “fourth branch” of government?


Thursday, March 2

-Bureaucratic policymaking continued

-‘Our model’ of bureaucratic policymaking


Week 8: Midterm Examination

Tuesday, March 7

-First half course wrap-up

-Midterm examination Q & A

-Chapter Outline and Analysis/Research Paper Q & A


Thursday, March 9

-Midterm Examination – Bring Blue Book


Week 9: Spring Recess

Tuesday, March 14

-Spring Recess – No class


Thursday, March 16

-Spring Recess – No class


Week 10: Decision Making Models

Tuesday, March 21

-Overview of most prominent models of decision making

-Read: Kettl and Fesler, chapter 9 (first half)


Thursday, March 23

-Overview of most prominent models of decision making, continued

-Read: Kettl and Fesler, chapter 9 (second half)


Week 11: Public Choice Theory

Tuesday, March 28

-Overview of public choice theory – guest lecturer

-Review: Kettl and Fesler, pages 247-251


Thursday, March 30

-Public choice theory, continued – guest lecturer


Week 12: Implementation and Evaluation

Tuesday, April 4

-Class canceled due to conference


Thursday, April 6

-Common factors affecting implementation

-Judging implementation success or failure

-Read: Kettl and Fesler, chapter 11


Week 13: Unmasking Administrative Evil

Tuesday, April 11

-Introduction to Unmasking Administrative Evil

-Read: Adams and Balfour, chapters 1 and 2

-First Chapter Outline due


Thursday, April 13

-Small group exercise – Unmasking Administrative Evil

-Read: Adams and Balfour, chapters 3, 4, and 5

-Second Chapter Outline due


Week 14: Unmasking Administrative Evil, continued

Tuesday, April 18

-Small group exercise – Unmasking Administrative Evil,

-Read: Adams and Balfour, chapters 6 and 7

-Third Chapter Outline due


Thursday, April 20

-Small group exercise – debating and critiquing Unmasking Administrative Evil

-Read: Dubnick, M. (2000), “The Case for Administrative Evil: A critique” pgs. 464-474 [on-line] and Vickers, M. (2000), “A New Concept” pgs. 474-478 [on-line] and Locke, H. (2000) “Unmasking Administrative Evil: The book and its critics” [on-line].

-Fourth Chapter Outline due


Week 15: Controlling the Bureaucracy

Tuesday, April 25

-Internal and external controls

-Read: Kettl and Fesler, chapter 13 and pages 394 - 406


Thursday, April 27

-Internal and external controls, continued

-Is it possible to effectively control the bureaucracy?

-Analysis/Research Paper due


Week 16: Reforming the Bureaucracy: The Future

Tuesday, May 2

-Why is reform so difficult?  Is reform necessary?

-Read: Kettl and Fesler, chapter 4 and 6


Thursday, May 4

-Course wrap-up, final Examination Q & A


FINAL EXAMINATION – Tuesday, May 9 from 10:00 to 11:50am.  Bring Blue Book.


Important Dates

- March 9 – Midterm Examination

- March 14 and 16 – Spring Recess

- April 4 – Class canceled

- April 11, 13, 18, and 20 – Chapter outline due dates

- April 27 – Analysis/Research paper due

- May 9 – Final Examination


Please note:  The instructor reserves the right to change the course schedule/requirements as necessary.