When politics meets bureaucracy

Rules, norms, conformity and cheating

By Christian Lo

When politics meets bureaucracy


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-3668-8
  • Pages: 208
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: January 2021
  • BIC Category: Politics, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / Cultural, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Social Services & Welfare, POLITICAL SCIENCE / General, Society & social sciences / Comparative politics, Society & social sciences / Social & cultural anthropology, ethnography, Society & social sciences / Politics & government
  • Series: Political Ethnography


This book is based on a study of the strategies and tactics applied by municipal bureaucrats and local politicians in the pursuit of political goals in two small Norwegian municipalities. The enactment of a bureaucracy within these small and close-knit communities offer an insight into how formal and informal relations intersect during the production of public policy. By analysing the relation between normative and pragmatic rules regulating political action, Christian Lo demonstrates how the efforts to resolve these tensions and dilemmas involve a balancing of alternative sources of political legitimacy.

Through ethnographic accounts of policy-making in action, When politics meets bureaucracy offers novel perspectives to the interdisciplinary debate about local governance. Most significantly, these accounts demonstrate how processes of hierarchical government are inextricably intertwined with broader processes of governance during policy processes, thereby dissolving the theoretical and normative separation between the two concepts characterising large parts of the literature. By centring its focus on the interconnections between government and governance, Lo explores the cultural and historical conditions informing this intertwinement, which, the author argues, enable horizontal alignments that can modify the hierarchical logic of bureaucratic organisations.

Combining approaches and perspectives from political science, sociology and anthropology, this book is essential reading for those interested in the inner workings of bureaucratic organisations and how such organisations interact with their societal surroundings.


1 Introduction
2 From government to governance? Re-examining the transformation thesis
3 Narratives of local government
4 An introduction to municipal policy development
5 Normative hierarchy: the rules of political struggle
6 Pragmatic egalitarianism: tales of municipal entrepreneurship
7 Conclusions: between government and governance


Christian Lo is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences at Nord University and Senior Researcher at the Nordland Research Institute (Nordlandsforskning)

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