Thursday, March 31, 2011

An old comment on CIVICUS

Comments from e-CIVICUS 304 Poll Question

By Heidi Jane M. Smith, Inter-American Foundation ( comments: Do you think that civil society is doing enough to strengthen global Information and Communications Technology policy formulation? Results from 94 CIVICUS voters say “no” suggesting with clear 86 percent majority, that they should do more. It’s a chronic failure for civil society representatives to think they do not work together or hard enough; yet it is their biggest achievement when they do.

Consequently, on 8 September 2006, Federal Computer Week, ( a US based Web publication for federal employees and business that works with the American government, published, 'Army of bloggers' helps Senate pass bill, an article highlighting the grassroots efforts of programmers Do you have a friend who works for a more just world? and computer gurus to keep the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (S. 2590) alive. Would you like to share this “The bill would create a Google-like search engine and database to track approximately $1 trillion in newsletter with them? federal grants, contracts, earmarks and loans.”

The article cites American senators and lawmakers, but forgets to reference a blogger’s opinion or potential users. Civil society is composed of a myriad web of diverse interest, belief and ideas. They must act together and concert their efforts in a single cord to make change. What is the ultimate objective for civil society is to work together; a gargantuan triumph at best. So why do most believe they aren’t doing enough? Maybe it’s too difficult to identify civil society for a comment. Are civil society representatives expected to work harder than the rest?

Florida International University Shows Strong Presence at LASA

FIU Shows Strong Presence at LASA
Friday, Oct 15 2010

Florida International University Shows Strong Presence at

Latin American Studies Association XXIX International Congress

The XXIX International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) was held in Toronto, Canada from October 6-9, 2010. LASA is the largest professional association in the world for those engaged in the study of Latin America. With over 5,500 members, 35 % of whom reside outside the US, LASA brings together experts from across the globe and from all disciplines. This year’s congress attracted nearly 4,000 participants and highlighted three major themes: “Crisis, Response and Recovery,” the “Independence Bicentennial,” and the “Centennial of the Mexican Revolution.” Among the many attendees from prestigious Latin American, Canadian, European and American universities were associated faculty and administrators of the Latin American and Caribbean Center (LACC) at Florida International University (FIU).

The University was well represented by distinguished faculty of its various departments. Dr. Bianca Premo, Associate Professor in the Department of History, chaired the panel, Hierarchies in Crisis in Bourbon Spanish America and presented the paper, An Equity against the Law’: Slave Rights, Equality, Freedom and Enlightenment in 18th-Century Spanish America. Associate Professor in the Department of History, Dr. Victor Manuel Uribe-Uran served as Chair of the panel, Gendered Violence in Times of Crisis: Public v. Private Dynamics in Ibero-American History and presented the paper, From Private to Globalized Patriarchy: Physical Aggression Against Female Spouses, and the Law in the Spanish American World, 1780s-2000s.

Also among the FIU participating scholars, was Dr. Jean M. Rahier, Director, African and African Diaspora Studies and Associate Professor, Department of Global & Socio-Cultural Studies. Dr. Rahier presented the paper, Hypersexual Black Women in the Ecuadorian Press and Other Media: An Examination of Visual Representations from the Late 1950s through the Late 2000s, as part of the panel entitled, Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Ecuador. FIU Research Assistant, Heidi Jane M. Smith, presented the paper, Evaluating and Explaining Local Economic Development Success in Latin America as part of a panel discussing inequality and poverty.

From FIU’s Department of Modern Languages, Associate Professor, Dr. Santiago Juan-Navarro, presented on the panel entitled, The Absolution of His(s)tory: The Mythologization of the Past in Cuban Cinema, where he presented his paper, Historia, mito y propaganda: La pasión, muerte y resurrección de José Martí, según Santiago Álvarez. Additionally, Dr. Juliet Pinto, Assistant Professor, School of Journalism and Broadcasting, and Dr. Paola Prado, Visiting Assistant Professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, co-presented the paper Environmental Conflict and New Media in South America: The Social Construction of International Environmental Disputes as part of a panel on environment and democracy in Latin America.

Two distinguished members of the Department of Politics & International Relations were also present at the conference. Dr. Barry Steven Levitt chaired the panel, Confianza, Confidence, Confiança: New Research on Trust and Institutions in Latin America and presented his paper, Institutional Trust in Peru and Beyond: Expectations, Performance, and Confidence in Legislatures. Also, Visiting Associate Professor in the Department of Politics & International Relations, Dr. Jose Miguel Cruz Alas, served on the panel, U.S. Criminal Deportation Policies and their Implications for Central America and presented his research, Maras and Violence in Central America, Gang Violence in Central America: Exclusion, Resistance, and the Struggle for Democracy.

LACC was also represented by members of its own faculty and administration, with the presence of its director, Dr. Cristina Eguizabal, who presented her research on U.S.-Central America relations as part of on the panel, Oxford Handbook on Mexican Politics II: Elections, Movements and the Media, explaining U.S. Relations with Central American Countries and also served as discussant for the panel U.S. Relations with Brazil, Mexico, and Venezuela. LACC Associate Director, Liesl Picard and Digital Library of the Caribbean Coordinator, Brooke Wooldridge presented as part of the panel, Outreach Collaborations: Expanding the Scope of Latin American Studies across the United States.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Meet the Finalists of the Sustainable Urban Housing Competition

On Web site

We are thrilled to announce 11 finalists chosen from nearly 300 entries in Ashoka’s Changemakers Sustainable Urban Housing: Collaborating for Liveable and Inclusive Cities competition.

After careful deliberation, an international panel of expert judges recognized these top finalists as the most innovative, scalable entries that tackle the critical shortage in affordable, sustainable, and inclusive urban housing.

“These finalists’ solutions will stimulate economic growth, combat poverty, and build environmentally savvy, transit-rich, walkable urban cities,” said Benjamin de la Peña, associate director for urban development at the Rockefeller Foundation. “They will unleash economic opportunities for the urban poor by creating inclusive developments around the world for years to come.”

Now we turn the decision over to you. Now through 6 April 2011, YOU can vote to determine the three winners that will be awarded US $10,000 each to continue to build more resilient, livable communities worldwide. The winners will also be showcased at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C in June 2011.

“We were looking specifically for entries that were inclusive, transferable, and sustainable—financially, organizationally, and environmentally,” said Stewart G. Sarkozy-Banoczy, director, philanthropic research and initiatives at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). “Selecting the finalists was especially difficult for the judges, because there were so many fantastic entries that were incredibly innovative and hit all of those marks.”

An initiative of HUD, the U.S. Department of State, and the American Planning Association, and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, the Sustainable Urban Housing competition was launched in anticipation of the 2012 Summit of the Americas and as part of U.S. President Barack Obama’s Energy and Climate Partnership for the Americas (ECPA)

“This competition communicates the necessity of looking for solutions that meet the needs of the urban core,” said Heidi Jane M. Smith, economic analyst at the U.S. Department of State. “And it was particularly exciting to see entries that really showed how Latin America is one of the leading areas in the world for pioneering sustainable urban housing.”

The 11 finalists are:

Sume Materiales (“Incorporate Materials”) - Reutilization of Materials to Facilitate Access to Housing– Argentina

Slum Networking – Transforming Slums and Transcending Poverty without Aid with an Innovative Water and Sanitation Paradigm– India

Developing Real Estate for Squatters and Tenants of the City of Buenos Aires– Argentina

Social Franchising for Development of Sustainable Housing at the Bottom of the Pyramid– Mexico

Programa Bem Morar– Brazil

Kibera Public Space Project: Sustainable Housing through “Productive Public Space”– Kenya

Zero Waste, Sustainable Architecture, Renewable Energy: Unlimited Source of Renewable Materials for Sustainable Housing– Brazil

Green Development Zone– USA

Micro Home Solutions: Safe & Affordable Home Upgrading in Low-Income Urban India – India

Transforming the Low-Income Housing Development Paradigm– Mexico

Building a Culture of Earthquake Resistant Construction Practices Among Day Laborers in Haiti

Thursday, March 24, 2011

XVII Conferencia Interamericana de Alcaldes y Autroidades Locales

XVII Conferencia Interamericana de Alcaldes y Autoridades Locales
“Los Retos de la Democracia, el Desarrollo y la Prestación de Servicios:
El Nuevo Rol de los Gobiernos Locales de las Américas”
6 al 9 de Junio de 2011 • Miami, Florida • e-mail:

La Conferencia es un excelente foro anual donde se reúnen representantes de gobiernos locales, regionales y nacionales, ONGs, organismos y agencias multilaterales y todos aquellos interesados en el fortalecimiento de los gobiernos locales para compartir experiencias, información y mejores prácticas, para discutir políticas públicas y objetivos comunes que ayuden al fortalecimiento de los gobiernos locales y a la promoción de la descentralización en el hemisferio.

La conferencia analiza la situación de los gobiernos locales de nuestro hemisferio y el estado de las relaciones intergubernamentales, reconociendo la importancia de las tareas pendientes. Además, tendremos sesiones que examinarán el fortalecimiento de la sociedad civil, la expansión de la participación ciudadana y la democracia, la reducción de la pobreza y desigualdad, el mejoramiento de la infraestructura urbana, entre otros. La Conferencia ofrece a los participantes la incomparable oportunidad de poder compartir nuevas experiencias, técnicas y herramientas que permitan enfrentar con éxito los problemas que afectan a nuestras comunidades y gobiernos locales.

Adicionalmente la XVII Conferencia reconocerá algunas de las mejores prácticas innovadoras implementadas en el hemisfe­rio. Para ello se planea una sesión especial en donde cuatro mejores prácticas elegidas por concurso serán presentadas al plenario de los participantes.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The future of the state...

Text from a Special Report by the Economist:

"The shape of the state could be the main issue in America’s presidential election next year. Even left-wing governments are increasingly looking at the spending side of the ledger.

Globalisation is another. Commerce has proved stickier than the proponents of borderless capitalism proclaimed in the 1990s, but it is less sticky than it was. The mobility of talent, technology and capital surely puts some limit on governments’ ability to keep on raising taxes. Government is becoming a more competitive business, not just in terms of lower spending but also in what it offers for the money.

Above all, the incremental benefits of ever bigger government, even assuming it was somehow affordable, become ever smaller. Decent-sized government can reduce inequality and poverty, but most of the evidence is that gargantuan government merely gets in the way of social progress. A state that takes up more than half the economy begins to deliver an ever worse deal to ever more people in the middle: the extra benefits become harder to detect, the extra costs harder to hide.

Guessing when this penny will eventually drop is a little like speculating when an investment bubble will burst or a dictator will fall. There are always reasons for delay but, once things begin to move, they do so quickly. A revolution in government would come in three stages.

The first, which this special report has concentrated on, might simply be described as good management. Purely by copying what other countries (or bits of their own system) do well, governments could save a huge amount of money. The path forward is pretty clear—towards a small central state buying in services from a variety of different providers. Technology could speed things up. A huge quantity of information about just how poorly bits of government are doing is becoming available—and, thanks to Facebook and other new media, shareable. Transparency will also affect demand. Too many voters are “Californians”: they think they can enjoy ever more services without paying for them. When they see the true cost of government, they may change their minds.

Within the public sector, mayors and senior civil servants could play a pre-eminent role. Not only do many public services, such as education and the police, work best at city level; cities are natural test-tubes for experimentation. In the urban West, mayors can still change things visibly: think of what Rudy Giuliani did for crime in New York. As for senior civil servants, most feel despised, underpaid and deeply frustrated. More than anybody else, they stand to gain from a world where government works.

Good management sounds a little worthy, but it could achieve a lot. Imagine, for instance, that Mr Cameron succeeds in creating a “post-bureaucratic” state in Britain. You might end up with a government that delivered the same range of services—defence, justice, education, health care and so on—but consumed perhaps 40% of GDP, roughly ten points less than it does now.

Could it go further? The second stage is more difficult: limiting the scope of those services, especially the universal benefits enjoyed by most Western voters. Social transfers have accounted for a large part of the growth in the state: they also explain why even a well-run version of Britain’s all-you-can-eat “buffet” state would be twice the size of Singapore’s. Unless Western governments start to reform entitlements, the state will swell again in line with their ageing populations.

Some universal benefits can be trimmed across the board. State pension ages, for instance, are on the rise. But governments also need to start redirecting social programmes at the truly needy.

Persuading middle-class voters to give up their perks will be extremely hard. One possible avenue is to hand them greater control over their own benefits, perhaps by switching pay-as-you-go systems to individual savings accounts (like Singapore’s Central Provident Fund). That has not had much success yet—in part because most people, especially the young, are in the dark about how much the current system is really costing them. Tax simplification would help. A bipartisan commission on fiscal reform last year said that if the American government abolished all tax breaks (including middle-class ones like mortgage-interest relief), it could reduce the top individual tax rate from 35% to 23% and still generate $80 billion more revenue. Again, limiting benefits will be a colossal struggle.

Rules not OK

The final stage—untangling the web of rules—would on the face of it be less controversial. Everybody agrees that there are too many regulations. But in practice it could be the most fiddly to sort out. The European Parliament does not cost much to run, but it litters the continent with expensive rules. One in five American workers needs a licence to do his job. Sunset clauses to make laws expire in the absence of political reapproval would help.

This special report has tried to be pragmatic, focusing on what works. At the moment it is hard to see that society would gain much from even larger government, and easy to spot the gains in productivity, efficiency and personal freedom that would come from smaller government. States exist not only to lead society towards common goals; they must also provide people with the liberty to live their own lives. Over the past century government has moved too far towards the former. Now is the time to turn the dial back. Nothing would add more to the sum of human happiness in the West than a smaller, better state."

Text pulled from the Special Report "The future of the state" by the Economist.
Other articles in the report are:

Sunday, March 06, 2011

A Discussion of Temporality, Critical Junctures, and Path Dependency

“At every step along the way there [are choices]—political and economic—that provide…real alternatives. Path dependency is a way to narrow conceptually the choices set and link decision-making through time. It is not a story of inevitability in which the past predicts the future.” -Douglass North

Methodology is the means in which to study and determine how and why a phenomenon occurred. Social scientists use rigorous deductive logic to develop both intuitive and counterintuitive hypotheses about the dynamics of causal mechanisms. There are three predominate methods used in the social sciences today, they include: using statistical analysis as a purely quantitative approach; two, using case studies in a comparative perspective; and third, and finally, creating formal modeling (George and Bennett, 2005). Inductive logic is used for theory building. Etymologically these are all the same, you look at what are the implication of actions, but the focus, however, is still on how you go about to get them.

For the majority of the empirical methods class we have focused the controversy started by King, Keohane, and Verba’s (KKV) book Designing social inquiry (1994). In which the authors try to promote social inquiry used in statistical analysis and apply it to case study research. By doing so, KKV set to encourage hypothesis testing, increase large N analysis, explore causal mechanisms and promote conceptual validity as a means to avoid case selection biases and non-rigorous qualitative research. Furthermore, they supported the decreasing degrees of freedom as a way to promote tighter or more rigid analysis within case studies approach. Although this application of quantitative approaches into qualitative studies provided a structure for debate, it also developed into a large body of criticisms by many political scientist, international relations specialist, sociologist, and anthropologists, who view KKV as inaccurate and an over simplification of their work.

As a result, the class has focused on the application of various methods used as a criticism or an alternative to KKV’s assumptions. For example many social scientist have criticized KKV for the way they have conceptualized descriptive, causal inference, and causal mechanisms, as well as concept formation and the methods of measurement within comparative methods and case study analysis. Additionally, the class looked at ways to select cases, including developing typologies or narrative cases and using preventative measures for selection biases such as not claming “too much”. Furthermore, we have learned methods “within cases” such as process tracing, congruence testing, differences between differences, and examined how to develop a counterfactual analysis. Temporality, critical junctures, and path dependency are just other empirical methods to understand why phenomena occurred, but it uses time as its key unknown quantity or condition.

Path dependency, which will be the focus of this paper, provides another way to look at what is happening within the black box and sheds light why possible outcomes occurs, even if they are not always the most efficient. It describes why history matters and provides information about the possible sequencing of events. This method provides in-depth rational as to whywhy things occur and not whether their historical background impact, but how it does. Its main goal is to inform what is going on within and between independent variables in order to better understand empirical tests of causal mechanisms. independent variables matter. Developed further in the paper, the use of path dependency in case study analysis is not just concerned with inputs and outcomes, which are so provided in a typical quantitative study—defined by identify a dependent variable and regressing them on the most valuable independent variables, watching out for heteroskasticity, multi-colinearity and/or omitted variables. But rather, this method seeks to identify

The reason why I have selected Temporality, Critical Junctures, and Path Dependency for the topic of my critique essay is that I believe that it is ultimately impossible to completely isolate independent variables. Whether an empirical test has carefully and meticulously selected its independent and dependent variables, there will always be a place for spurious and or omitted variables arguments because of interaction between the independent variable in society, which are so difficult to separate. Social systems at the micro-level are constantly bleeding and blending within their political, economic and cultural systems. No one social system is neither ubiquitous, nor is one solely independent, rather we are all interdependent. Yet, an essence of time can provide a social scientist with a constant in which to provide comparisons.

Rueschemeyer and Stephens (1997) argue that comparative research can benefit from historical sequences, when it takes into account the varied historical consequences of a particular event. Furthermore, a study which uses this comparative approach can help with macro-sociological studies by eliminating problems like the small n, lack of independent cases and provide a more solid explanation of their association for further causal exploration. They suggest that the uses of historical accounts are important because phenomena are shaped by environment. Oftentimes the sequences of events may determine its causation. The authors suggest that its better to know the history than just a few data points without the context.

Yet, the authors know that history can also be subjective. Especially when social scientist look into only relevant evidence and operationalized variables measured at the appropriate time. Although it is argued that this helps to avoid multicollinaritity among independent variables, even better than with pool data cross-sectional with time series. It may also create questions of spuriously correlated results. Finally, Rueschemeyer and Stephens suggest that there can be different theoretical explanations for a given correlation when analyzing vary complex patterns of historical propositions. There is not just a single correlation but complex patterns of segments in different national contexts. They conclude by suggesting that “Data analysis simple tweaks theory and one must go back to the qualitative research to also verify if it’s correct…. This is the difference in deterministic vs. probabilistic theory, when selecting a single case…. History was not predetermined…. Cases not a single dot on a scatter gram, but always a deviate case that may be contingent on an open variation” (Rueschemeyer and Stephens 1997: 69).

Pierson (2000) furthers their analysis of why history maters and suggests that its not just timing but also sequencing that is important in understanding a phenomenon. Pierson’s almost obsession with path dependency rails other political scientists over-usage of rational choice theory for the explanation of social and political phenomena. Pierson cites Charles Tilly (1984) statement “when things happen in a sequences, it affects how they happen.” An important observation by Pierson and others is that sometimes the most logical outcomes (with rational decisions made) are not a product of the process.

In his first article, Pierson describes sequencing, path dependent processes, non-reinforcing events, historical conjunctures and temporal effects. His second article describes economic and political perspectives of why increasing returns and path dependency are so important. Finally, he describes historical institutionalism and provides an analysis of why history matters for policy studies. This paper will summarize his arguments by using Arthur (1989) Mahoney (2000) and David (1985) for more information. In addition, it will present Kay (2005) counter argument for the use of path dependency in policy studies and finally, I will present my perspective to this debate.

Path dependency is at work when there are self-reinforcement or positive feedback loops. Once something occurs its goes down a particular road and does not take another route because it becomes intertwined with the first decision. Furthermore an event may be iterative, but an analyst can always return to the critical juncture—or the starting point of when a decision was made. Pierson then argues that when a particular event within a sequence takes place, it also makes a difference. As suggested in class with that example of the WMDs in the Iraq war, “small” events early on my have “larger” impacts, while large events later may be less consequential (Bossinger). Pierson cites Mahoney, “these feature of comparatively ‘open’ processes at the outset, followed by a more constrained choice-set once reinforcement sets in, are precisely the features that make this type of process distinctive and underpin the claim that temporal sequences is crucial” (Pierson 2000:75).

Pierson further suggests that there are various sources of path dependency. He builds this argument from Brian Arthur’s study of technology and the evaluation of increasing returns. First, there are large set-up fixed costs; next possible learning effects; later to have coordination effects; and finally, the adaptive expectations of a new invention/ product that goes into the market place. The example used is from David (1985) with the story of the adoption of the QWERTY keyboard. The background describes why the DSK version of the keyboard that Dvorak and Dealey patented in 1932 was never massively adopted within society even though their system was much more efficient form of typing. The story identifies critical conjectures taken within the US and Britain and why the socialization of the more efficient keyboard was not adopted. Pierson later identifies other technologies have had the same fate as the keyboard such as “the battles between Betamax and VHS video recorders and between DOS-based and Macintosh computers, earlier automobile designs, and competing standards for electric current” (Pierson 2000: 254). Therefore this argument of path dependency as key for the increasing returns of technology within micro-economic theory can also be transcribed into political world.

Mahoney furthers that self-reinforcing sequences once inserted into institutions, “as enduring entities that cannot be changed instantaneously or easily” modified create a locked-in effect (Mahoney 2000:512). Once a critical juncture has created a lock-in, a researcher can explore other outcomes for example the “what if” of counterfactual analysis. Mahoney provides a typology of path dependent explanation for institutional reproduction. He suggests that the mechanism of reproduction, potential characteristics of institutions, and the mechanism of change are different on the various explanations of utilitarian, functional, power or legitimation of a particular outcome. This identifies the type and how “tied” the path of locked-in outcome might have. This typology provides a way to think about when path dependent outcomes interact with an institution. This is easily seen in daily life for a public administrator, who knows that once rules have been in place, they fill them within their jobs. If some individual wants to change how things are run within the institutionalized system, it becomes vary difficult for them.

Mahoney later defines that two independent sequences of events may have
“no effect.” While a conjuncture may have no enduring consequences, other conjunctures may have a lasting effect and thus enduring consequences (Mahoney 2000:529). These critical junctures are what analysts should focus their attention. That moment within the sequences is important because those junctures create different outcomes. Temporal effects may not have had lock-in where the conjuncture occurred. Therefore large events studied should be large enough for greater change to happen within a system.

With that, Pierson furthers his argument of why path dependency is important to the political world. He highlights that timing is important for when public policies are implemented and introduced into the system. Political resources are often limited with many constraining factors. For example, time constraints of politicians within the election cycle depend on when they can maximize their opportunities. Another application is John Kingdom's often cited quote “the window of opportunity” for when a policy change enters into the political environment. Furthermore, Pierson argues that the complexity of power authority and power asymmetries also complicate path dependency with policy studies. He suggests the there is a collective action problem within politics, which is much like a common-pool resource in economics where everyone benefits from the public good. Yet, the struggle of politics is much different than economics, its much more complex, lumpy and nuanced.

Adrian Kay critiques the use of path dependency in policy studies because he suggests, although it’s fashionable to label history mater, without clear and convincing accounts of the decision-making process, there can be no understanding of a phenomenon (Kay 2005). He suggests that it’s hard to operationalize temporal dynamics that operate in a policy world. Contrary, he explains stability and not change should be an analyst focus. Emphasizing that point, he reiterates that the normal implication of social life are confused and often left unexplored. Whereas the ideas of path dependency are good, he adds, “We want to move to a world of moving pictures not static snapshots.” (Kay 2005) Furthermore, he inserts that the functional moves of how thing happen and when they occur affecting their trajectory is undeniable. Kay finally argues that path dependences isn’t useful for policy studies because it lacks convincing accounts of decisions making over time, it has bounded rationality and it lacks a normative focus.

These arguments ultimately fit into the broad institutionalist framework developed by North set at three levels: the macro conditional level; the collective degree or policy decision making level; and finally, the operational level of individual decisions people make on the ground. Kay suggests that the theories of path dependency hint at the macro-environment but when he tries to ground them into the mezzo level, their meaning is somewhat lost. This ties into the lock-in of an outcome once an institution has adopted a particular policy, and later, if it must be change creates complex problems for possible remedies.

Finally, Kay highlights Pierson suggestion that most people focus on macro theoretical level, but what is key is to look at the policy level. Once an outcome becomes taken over by the public administration/ institution its outcomes are locked-in. The institution takes over and it’s collectively accepted. The adapted rules or constrains of a particular outcome are then governed by the behavior of the institution. Therefore, Kay suggests, path dependency might help to support theory building but it’s hard to test empirical policy work. This is relevant since there is little empirical evidence to-date, which uses this method. Finally, Kay emphasizes the application of a theorized concept of a policy development might be sui generis, that it is un-functional to anything but its self.

Kay misses the policy process as a particular way to evaluate path dependency. This messylumpy is hard to judge. arrange of interests that Pierson highlights as being Pierson suggests politics does not have the simple measurement of “price” to evaluate political interests. I would agree that once a policy has been institutionalized (and become a self-reinforcing process), by becoming law, funded by congress, or a regulation set within the bureaucracy, it becomes very difficult to change. But the political realm of making decisions is where political scientist focuses their attention. This messy environment is exactly what the studies of path dependency do to help study why a particular decision was made and why another maybe more efficient decision was not.

But my critique of the use of path dependency for a method of political analysis is also mixed and somewhat nuanced. I would argue that there is subjective bias in case selection of critical junctures of a particular phenomenon, which an analyst selects for various reasons to study. Yet, the last effects of research may create greater understating of why and how things occur, but they may not be able to be replicated into the future. An example, which came to mind, is that of Graham Allison’s study of Kenney’s decision making progress for the Bay of Pigs. No doubt, did this single event create a critical juncture in the Cold War and could have aided or explained the prediction with the arms race the US had with Russia in the 1970s and 1980s. But as North suggest in the introduction quote, “no one can predict the future” (Pierson 2000).

Yet, the subjective bias of case selection is the nature of social sciences. When you select a particular case, and which ones to comparative it to, is ultimately the trick. What KKV suggest is that you can create larger N for comparative study or you can apply various cases into a typology for a more robust analysis. These techniques needed to be done within the political realm of policy studies to have a better understand of how path dependency works.

Path dependency, as an empirical method, does describe how to select points in an analysis link together and it does describe the independent variables and how they interact within a model. The method is successful to directly attacking rational choice as the “only” plausible outcome of a phenomenon within economics and political science. There, of course are more nuances to be understood and more empirical studies need to be taken into consideration before one can draw final conclusions.


Arthur, B. (1989). Competing Technologies, Increasing Returns, and Lock-in By Historical Events. Economic Journal, 99(394), 116-131.

David, P. (1985). Clio and the Economics of QWERTY. American Economic Review, 75(2), 332-337.

George, A. and Bennett, A. (2005). Case studies and theory development in the social sciences. Cambridge, MA: MIT press.

Kay, A. (2005). A Critique of the Use of Path Dependency in Policy Studies. Public Administration, 83(3), 553-571.

King, G., Keohane, R., and Verba, S. (1994). Designing social inquiry. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Mahoney, J. (2000). Path Dependence in Historical Sociology. Theory and Society, 29(4), 507-548.

North, Douglass. (1990) Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pierson, P. (2000). Not Just What, but When: Timing and Sequence in Political Processes. Studies in American Political Development, 14, 72-92.

Pierson, P. (2000). Increasing Returns, Path Dependency, and the Study of Politics. American Political Science Review, 94(2), 251-267.

Rueschemeyer, D. and Stephens, J. (1997). Comparing Historical Sequences: A Powerful Tool for Causal Analysis. Comparative Social Research, 16, 55-72.

The History of American Public Administration

Discuss the trends that American Public Administration has gone through with respect to its development as a field of study. In the course of your answer, discuss the theoretical approaches that have had impact on the field and analyze their contributions (and their detriments) to the development of the field. As a result of your evaluation, discuss where the field is going next and what you expect to come out of this next stage in the field’s evolution.

Public Administration is broadly defined as the study, development and implementation of governmental policies and structures. In general, the field is concerned with providing public goods to the people it serves in a democratic and efficient way. In the United States, the academic field was established in the 19th century with the foundational essay by Wilson (1887), the “Study of Administration,” where he argued for the separation of politics from administration. In a sense, the field of public administration consists of three principal oscillations. The first pertains to the establishment of the separation of politics and administration. The second derives from the distinctions between efficiency and democracy. Finally, there is a constant oscillation between the methods that are used to study the field, whether observations of the public administration should be positivist and tested or should be theorized and analyzed by normative methods. This essay will describe these paradoxes and provide suggestions as to where the field is headed into the 21st century.

Writing after the civil war, at time when American political patronage was at its highest, Wilson’s essay called for the separation of politics from administration. His essay was a response to the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act, which was a federal law that established the merit base system for bureaucrats. Wilson’s essay argued that public administration should take a business-like approach in performing its work in order for it to become more appropriate, efficient and cost effective. The political/administrative dichotomy provided a strong argument to better governmental management. At the turn of the 20th century, academics like Gulick, Goodnow and White found Wilson’s essay and used it as the bases of the progressive movement, which advocated for the improvement of the quality of government, and in particular, local governments. The group set up the New York Bureau of Municipal Research to study how the government was using city resources. The Bureau Men, as Stivers (2000) later coined, not only created an independent government watchdog, but they also envisioned training future bureaucrats to manage city governments, budget and policies.

Many academics took an orthodox view that government administration was free of politics and therefore the field took a very scientific approach to understanding and improving government services. They used materials from other fields such as Taylor’s (1923) scientific studies of how to mechanisms made production more efficient, Webber’s ideal type of bureaucracy or Gulick’s (1937) work on describing the creation of agencies to be efficient with his famous acronym POSDCORB—planning, organizing, staffing, directing coordinating, reporting and budgeting. These types of scientific studies provided a firm base for developing positivist arguments for analyzing efficiency of an administrative agency.

A distinctive change and fluctuation in the field came in the 1940s when political scientists began to study behavioral factors of men in the bureaucracy and the organizational theories that pertain to them. Specifically, Waldo (1948) transformed the field with his analysis of human behavior within an organization. He disliked the positivist’s behavior of the hierarchical control over an individual and suggested that an organization had both leaders and followers within a democratic system. Additionally, Simon’s (1957) critique of administrative behavior describing the field of proverbs, and not principles, radically changed the thinking of many in the field. He suggested that Urwick’s principles—specialization, unity of command, span of control, and organization by purpose, process clientele and place—were nothing more than proverbs because they were unattainable. Dahl (1947) had a similar point suggesting that the field was missing the public aspect of public administration and that it must be based on human behavior within the organizational structure.

Denhardt (2008) points out that this opened the field to a more humanistic study of public organizations. The management of people is not just controlling civil servants to perform better but also engaging them. Barnard’s (1949) study of human motivation using Harvard’s Hawthorne experiences of productivity described how behavior and engagement of subordinates encouraged them to also work harder. Additionally, McGregor’s (1960) study of the human side of enterprise also evaluated behavioral norms of working in a bureaucracy. In his research, McGregor creates a typology of theory X that workers are perceived as lazy, apathetic and needed authoritative command, which was distinctive than theory Y that described workers as self-motivated and enjoying their work. McGregor was one of the first to describe this humanistic approach to engage workers. This research provided a distant move from the first writings of the separation of politics from the administration and the strict scientific management approach to making bureaucracy more efficient, but still focused on how to improve government services.

The second major oscillation within the field of public administration comes from this clash between efficiency and democracy. Democracy comes at cost. Democratic theory suggests that when more people are making a decision, it will take more time and becomes more costly. One of the fundamental principals of the American government is that there are checks and balances within the system. Traditionally, the field of public administration was concerned about the efficiency of the bureaucracy and often left the ideas of the American democracy behind. This became accentuated with the field began using economic theory as a basis for evaluating efficiency.

Many academics began to evaluate the field through a rational choice framework, which separates administrative man from economic man. Simon made this distinction by highlighting that administrative man seeks to suffice and not maximize personal benefits, as would a rational economic man in a free market place. Lindblom’s (1959) theory of “muddling though” and the incremental approach to policymaking added to this approach. The study of bureaucracy evolved into an analysis of an organization, which did not change quickly and actually made institutional disincentives for bureaucrats to do so. Therefore, the study of public policy was separated from public administration.

For example, one of the first studies of public policy was Allison’s (1971) study of decision-making and policy implementation. In his study, Allison created three rational models to understand the 1962 Cuban missile crisis and tried to explain what happened. Furthermore, Selnick’s (1949) study of the Tennessee Valley Authority evaluated the decentralization of policy by state and local actors and its effects on implementation. Additional positivists used rational choice models to evaluate the public good and separated the policymaking process into formation and agenda setting (Kingdom 1997), implementation and evaluation (Dry). Ostrom’s Crisis of an Intellectual helped to shine a light of the conflict between the rational and intuitive approaches to evaluating policy and finally promoted the rational model.

In the 1980s, the field used this rational model and administrative sciences to develop the theory of New Public Management (NPR). The field brought back the Wilson and Taylor’s business-like model of management along with concepts like decentralized government structures, independent authority and rational-based decision making in order to make government more effective. Captured in Osborne and Gaebler’s book (1993) Reinventing Government the ideas was adopted by the Clinton Administration and was advertised by Al Gore within the United States. The NPM movement again swung the study of public administration to seek efficiency over democracy.

The reaction to NPM comes with Janet and Robert Denhardt (2007) proposal of the New Public Service model (NPS). With the motto “serving not searing,” these authors argue that democratic principles are important and the field needs to change its focus back to the citizen whom they serve. Additionally, King and Stivers’ (1998) book Government is Us promoted democratic ideals at a time of anti-government fervent. One main point of this book encourages street-level bureaucrats to utilize democratic processes by engaging citizen and beneficiaries to participate in the implementation of public policy. The field’s new focus on governance highlights this involvement of various social actors—such as business people, general citizens and public officials—into the creation of better public goods by the government. This involvement engages people at the local, regional, national and supranational levels into the making of public policy.

These arguments corroborate with Frederickson’s (1997) book The Spirit of Public Administration and Rawls’ (1999) book A Theory of Justice. Both highlight that democracy does not seek efficiency but it is the system of government that promotes equity for everyone in a society. These authors agree with Lowi’s (1964) typology of distribution, regulation and redistribution is necessary in order to ensure that every member of society benefits from public policies and that different policies have different functions. Frederickson and Rawls argue for a fair society. Democracy may not be the most efficient way of making a decision, but it is the most fair.

Finally, the last oscillation in the field of public administration is the method to analyze public problems. This major tension derives from a positivist versus more normative methods. The method of analysis may originate from how an author treats the other two tensions. For example, whether they view politics as being separated from the administration and how important they see democracy from studies of efficiency. Clearly, the method used either subscribe to more rational modeling like public choice theories and more positivist evaluations, to a more normative view of describing how politics and democratic influences how inefficient a bureaucracy is at implementing public policies.

Apparently, after each step towards a more rational model, the field’s response has been a more humanistic approach to the problem. First, for example, is the scientific approach to administration from Taylor to McGregor’s’ humanistic approach to management. Alternatively, Wilson’s separation of politics from administration to Waldo’s response that administration is politics. Furthermore, the proliferation of New Public Management into the field of New Public Service often generate more empirical research that question these theories, but also generate more normative views of how the American administration actually works.

As outlined above, the last contradiction is the method to evaluate a governmental organization or policy. Purely rational responses yielded scientific method, testing data with systematic results. This, however, often resulted in non-practical responses to be too rational and not close to reality. The field has academics and practitioners; therefore, studies need to not only be tested, but they also must reflect society’s human side. For example, Fox and Miller’s (2007) postmodern view and Stiver’s (2000) use of feminist approach to study public problems both question the epistemology of the field, as well as the method used to analyze public problems. Therefore, the method of analysis and how to evaluate public problems often describes contentions within the field of public administration.

To conclude, the field of public administration will not resolve these tensions in the future but will expand across the globe. For example, the field will analyze the same old problems but will do so through different lenses including increased representation by genders, multiple races or different classes in academia. It will also expand the different techniques (narratives, path dependency, comparative case study or quantitative data analysis) utilized to analyze the wicked problems. The next cohort of public administration theories and academics will need to evaluate issues such as climate change, terrorism, transnational migration, economic decline and global governance. The field will expand globally through the analysis of promoting democracy and global institutions within the context of supranational governance like the United Nations. Furthermore, there will be a proliferation of schools of public administration and development, which will span throughout the developing world. Because these schools will become stronger academic institutions, due to such documents like the Standard’s of Excellence (Rosenbaum 2007), developing countries will be able to evaluate public problems for themselves. Therefore, the field will continue to have these same contentions between politics and administration, democracy and efficiency or positivist and nominative methods, and they will expand abroad and not only look at American institutions alone.

The political/administrative dichotomy

Discuss in some detail the major theoretical perspectives listed below. In this discussion, first, identify the position of these perspectives towards the politics/administration dichotomy. Second, highlight the most important empirical propositions stemming from these theories and whether the research in the field supports these propositions.

1.1. Political Control of Bureaucracy

1.2. Representative Bureaucracy

The study of the bureaucracy is at the heart of public administration, given that it is the organism that executes the policies created by the politicians. Theories of Political Control of Bureaucracy and Representative Bureaucracy originate from the foundational writings in the field—namely Wilson’s (1887) dichotomy of administration from politics and Waldo’s (1947) rebuttal statement that “Administration is politics.” Particularly these theories stem from how much influence politics has on the bureaucracy in the policy-making process. This essay will first provide the epistemological positions towards the politics/administrative dichotomy, second, it will describe these theories, and finally, it will provide a few examples of the empirical research done to prove or disprove them.

Arguably the father of American political administration, Wilson, in his essay “The Study of Public Administration,” suggested that in order to have objectivity and progress, the administration must be separate from politics. He wrote his essay in 1887, just after the passing of the Pendleton Service Act of 1883, which sought to eliminate nepotism and political cronyism from the bureaucracy. The political/administration dichotomy aimed to separate the power between political leaders and the merit-based appointment of professional permanent civil servants in the administrative state. Shortly after his essay, the field of public administration entered into a stage of rational modeling that advocated government efficiency. At the turn of the 20th century, the field focused on making the bureaucracy more effective by highlighting Weber’s ideal type and Taylor’s scientific management theories. The field’s basic premise was to take a business-like approach to government and its activities.

The idea that politics are interwoven into the administration was not addressed until Simon (1948) pronounced that the field consisted of proverbs and not principles. Simon was among the first to point out that the field of public administration needed to be more practical. Furthermore, Waldo was among the first to evaluate and provide empirical evidence that the administration was not value-neutral but rather often carried the political values. Waldo’s criticism of the politics/administrative dichotomy led to a challenge for the field, which predominated its arguments with this orthodoxy of the separation (Fredrickson and Smith 2003). Thereafter, scholars became more careful to define the roles of each side of the dichotomy. Additionally, scholars began to study more intently the effects of the political domination on the bureaucracies themselves and vice-versa. Next, I will define the theories and thereafter will provide examples of empirical tests to prove or disapprove them.

The political control of the bureaucracy theory simply asks, “Does bureaucracy comply with the laws and the preference of lawmakers?” (Fredrickson and Smith 2003:230). The idea emphasizes the top-down perspective of how government is responsive to the public whom it serves. The theory also questions whether elected officials manipulate the bureaucracy to implement specific policies over others. Often, scholars study the decision-making processes to evaluate the effects elected politicians have on the bureaucracy’s procedures and functions.

Furthermore, the theory of political control of the bureaucracy comes from principal-agent theory. Specifically, the principal is either congress or the president and the agent typically refers to the civil servants. This theory is associated with matters of compliance or responsiveness of elected officials’ wishes. Within this hierarchy, principals try to buy the services of the agents and politicians may attempt to be in command of the activities of the bureaucracies. Agents typically are more knowledgeable about a particular policy, and therefore seek control and autonomy from the political system (Fredrickson and Smith 2003). Often, academics study the outcomes of policies and evaluate the political relationship and influence to that particular agency that provided the service. A related theory is the idea of bureaucratic capture, which argues that an agency may be ruled by a particular set of bureaucratic elites who drive public policy by lobbying the president, congress and other institutional actors for more funds and/or discretion over decision making abilities.

Representational bureaucracy theory suggests that the bureaucracy is another way to represent the people they serve. Elected officials are chosen by “the people” they represent and their actions are held “in check” by periodic elections, which is not typically the case for most bureaucrats. The theory of representational bureaucracy argues that policy implementers may also represent the public whom they serve. This can be done by active versus passive representation, which is a theory that suggests that bureaucrats will more likely to represent their own ethnicity or gender when making public policies. Sometimes this may be favoritism (passive), but it may also form biased decisions (active).

Seeing as how bureaucracies are ultimately organizational structures managed by humans, their behavior is studied in bureaucratic politics. Since most bureaucrats are not elected, the public should scrutinize their actions to ensure they are working for the public good and not for their own benefits. Wilson (1989) studied how and why bureaucratic discretion is exercised to better understand how government action is produced. In his work, he distinguishes between managers and executives to examine administrative compliance. In addition, he theorized that bureaucracy’s reputation is based on an agency’s autonomy. Once an organization has become legitimate, based on the uniqueness of its purpose, it will be able to forge new relationships with other public agencies and a broad range of political actors. This requires political legitimacy, which later enables the bureaucracy to demonstrate its capacity to provide the public (Carpenter, 2001).

Empirical work tests theories to confirm their validity as actually occurring in society. Results can often be seen as inconclusive with various theories finding different conclusions depending on the circumstances. For example, Ringquist (1995) addresses the issue of political control by studying the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Water Act from 1974 to 1987. He found evidence for the political control of bureaucracy, but suggested that for the control to be lasting, it must be institutionalized between congress and the bureaucracy. An agency’s political appointees must share the same political values and goals as the management in order to control their policy efforts. Finally, Ringquist confirms that more salient policy areas will be more likely to have political involvement.

Furthermore, Balla (1998) evaluated if Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) was able to “stack the deck” and influence the outcome of notice and comment process in congress. He sought to evaluate whether this administrative procedure meant more political accountability and enhanced the political control of the bureaucracy. He found that the agency was responsive to physicians (not lobbyists) and did not necessarily mean that congress influenced over the decision making process.

Moe (2005) studied the source of bureaucratic power. He tested the bureaucratic control theory by studying teacher unions in California. He found that politically active, unionized teachers provide evidence of influencing an agency’s policy outcomes. He found that the rank-and-file bureaucrats could also exercise their power in local elections and coordinate their behavior through collective action to change a policy outcome.

O’Leary (1994) studied the Department of Interior (DOI) attempts to implement a bill pertaining to an irrigation project in Nevada. She found that the DOI rank-and-file bureaucrats were able to override the higher-ranking administrators’ directive. In her qualitative study, Department of Wildlife employees ignored agency protocol and formed partnerships with outside groups like the Chambers of Commerce, environmentalist, conservation and Native American groups to lobby support to change the bill. Her study found bureaucratic administrators specializing in environmental matters were not only able to outpace Washington’s laws, but also use their specialization to change the policy outcome.

Additionally, Coleman and Selden (1998) examined passive versus active bureaucratic representation of minorities in the Farmer’s Home Administration (FmHA) by evaluating whether its policy outcomes reflected minority interests. They found that policy outcomes depended on a bureaucrat’s education, age, perception of their work and political identification. These finds suggests that a bureaucrat may not necessarily produce favorable policies for those groups. Government representatives might have interests that do not necessarily relate to their own gender, race or ethnic identification.

Finally, to conclude, Waldo’s efforts to break the political/administrative dichotomy have been successful and many academics have since found additional ways through which an administration can be political. Through this essay, I have provided the academic background for the political/administrative dichotomy, have defined the theories of bureaucratic control and representative bureaucracy, and finally, have provided empirical evidence that have tested these theories.

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