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Russell Sage Foundation
Street-Level Bureaucracy: Dilemmas of the Individual in Public Services

Street-Level Bureaucracy: Dilemmas of the Individual in Public Services

by Michael LipskyMichael Lipsky
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First published in 1980, Street-Level Bureaucracy received critical acclaim for its insightful study of how public service workers, wielding considerable discretion in how to execute their jobs, function as policy decisionmakers. Three decades later, public urgency to bolster the availability and effectiveness of healthcare, social services, education, and law enforcement has intensified, making Street-Level Bureaucracy more relevant now than ever. In this thirtieth anniversary expanded edition, Michael Lipsky revisits the territory he mapped out in the first edition to reflect on significant policy developments and show that street-level bureaucracies can be improved and work in public service fields can be rewarding.

Street-Level Bureaucracy examines how discretionary services, work conditions, and work practices interact to influence client outcomes. Street-level bureaucrats-from teachers and police officers to social workers and legal-aid lawyers-interact directly with the public and so represent the frontlines of government policy. Lipsky argues that these relatively low-level employees in human service agencies labor under huge caseloads, ambiguous agency goals, and inadequate resources. When combined with substantial discretionary authority and their ability to interpret policy on a case-by-case basis, the difference between government policy in theory and policy in practice can become vast.

This seminal study tells a cautionary tale of how decisions made by overburdened workers in underfunded government agencies translate into ad-hoc policy changes impacting peoples' lives and life opportunities. This expanded edition of Street-Level Bureaucracy underscores that, despite its challenging nature, street-level work can be a conduit for, rather than a barrier to, providing services to citizens.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780871545442
Publisher: Russell Sage Foundation
Publication date: 05/28/2010
Pages: 299
Sales rank: 547,186
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

MICHAEL LIPSKY is senior program director of Demos, a non-partisan public policy research and advocacy organization, and an affiliate professor at Georgetown University.

Table of Contents

Preface: Dilemmas of the Individual in Public Services xi

Acknowledgments xxi

Part I Introduction

1 The Critical Role of Street-Level Bureaucrats 3

Conflict over the scope and substance of public services 4

Conflict over interactions with citizens 8

2 Street-Level Bureaucrats as Policy Makers 13

Discretion 13

Relative Autonomy from Organizational Authority 16

Differences Between Street-Level Bureaucrats and Managers 18

Resources for Resistance 23

Part II Conditions of Work

Introduction 27

3 The Problem of Resources 29

Demand and Supply, or Why Resources are Usually Inadequate in Street-Level Bureaucracies 33

4 Goals and Performance Measures 40

Goals 40

Performance Measures 48

5 Relations with Clients 54

Nonvoluntary Clients 54

Conflict, Reciprocity, and Control 57

The Social Construction of a Client 59

6 Advocacy and Alienation in Street-Level Work 71

Advocacy 72

Alienation 75

Implications of Alienation 79

Part III Patterns of Practice

Introduction 81

7 Rationing Services: Limitation of Access and Demand 87

The Costs of Service 88

Queuing 95

Routines and Rationing 99

8 Rationing Services: Inequality in Administration 105

A Comment on the Ubiquity of Bias 111

9 Controlling Clients and the Work Situation 117

Husbanding Resources 125

Managing the Consequences of Routine Practice 133

10 The Client-Processing Mentality 140

Modifications of Conceptions of Work 142

Modifications of Conceptions of Clients 151

Part IV The Future of Street-Level Bureaucracy

11 The Assault on Human Services: Bureaucratic Control, Accountability, and the Fiscal Crisis 159

Holding Workers to Agency Objectives 162

Accountability and Productivity 170

Street-Level Bureaucrats and the Fiscal Crisis 172

12 The Broader Context of Bureaucratic Relations 180

Contradictory Tendencies in Street-Level Bureaucratic Relations 188

13 Support for Human Services: Notes for Reform and Reconstruction 192

Directions for Greater Client Autonomy 193

Directions for Current Practice 196

The Prospects and Problems of Professionalism 201

Keeping New Professionals New 204

14 On Managing Street-Level Bureaucracy 212

An Evolving Policy Environment for Street-Level Bureaucracy 212

Shaping Street-Level Bureaucrats' Performance 221

Investing in Street-Level Bureaucrats 229

Conclusion 236

Notes 239

Index 267

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