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Technocracy within Representative Democracy. Technocratic Reasoning and Justification among Bureaucrats and Politicians

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Title: Technocracy within Representative Democracy. Technocratic Reasoning and Justification among Bureaucrats and Politicians
Authors: Ribbhagen, Christina
Issue Date: 19-Apr-2013
University: University of Gothenburg. Faculty of Social Sciences
Göteborgs universitet. Samhällsvetenskapliga fakulteten
Institution: Department of Political Science ; Statsvetenskapliga institutionen
Parts of work: Essay 1: Ribbhagen, C. ‘What Makes a Technocrat? Explaining Variation in Technocratic Thinking among Elite Bureaucrats’, Public Policy and Administration, 2011, 26(1): 21–44, originally published online 15 November 2010.

Essay 2: Ribbhagen, C. ‘Public Policy-Making in the Minds of Technocratic Elite Bureaucrats: Preferred and Assessed Importance of Different Decision-Making Criteria’, Interna- tional Political Science Review (revise and resubmit January 2013).

Essay 3: Ribbhagen, C. ‘Science on Tap: The Use of Expert Knowledge in Parliamentary Debate’, Scandinavian Political Studies (resubmitted January 2013).
Date of Defence: 2013-05-24
Disputation: Fredagen den 24 maj 2013, kl. 13.15, sal 10, Universitetsbyggnaden, Vasaparken, Göteborg.
Degree: Doctor of Philosophy
Publication type: Doctoral thesis
Series/Report no.: Göteborg Studies in Politics
Keywords: de-politicisation
political communication
knowledge utilization
policy type
institutional context
Government Offices
parliamentary debate
hypothetical scenarios
content analysis
economic and social steering
Abstract: The terms ‘technocracy’ and ‘technocrat’ are becoming part of common usage and it is frequently argued that technocratic decision-making is increasing due to the growing complexity of political matters. However, there is a lack of research into this matter and the concept is underdeveloped. The thesis departs from a more subtle interpretation of technocracy suggesting that technocracy is not equal to government by (technically trained) experts. The crucial issue for the definition of technocracy... more
ISBN: 978-91-89246-56-0
ISSN: 0346-5942
Description: Abstract Essay 1: Abstract This article challenges the assertion that civil servants with technical training can be assumed to be technocrats. Contrary to previous findings, the article argues that type of higher education is not a key determinant of variations in technocratic mentality among elite bureaucrats; instead, post-socialization provides a better explanation. One suggested post-socialization mechanism is politicisation, so the more politicized a ministry is, the less technocratic the mentality of the bureaucrats working in it. These suggestions are tested empirically by both re-analysing Putnam’s data from the late 1970s and analysing data from a total survey of elite bureaucrats working in the Government Offices of Sweden. As well as demonstrating that the ‘type of training hypothesis’ is poorly supported, the empirical analysis demonstrates that the technocratic mentality of bureaucrats varies depending on ministerial affiliation. Furthermore, the level of politicisation is connected to the degree of technocratic mentality among the bureaucrats, though not exactly as hypothesized: more politicisation indeed leads to higher ‘tolerance for politics’ among bureaucrats but, counter intuitively, also makes bureaucrats more likely to advocate neutrality rather than political advocacy among civil servants. Abstract Essay 2: Departing from the claim that beliefs and values of bureaucrats are a powerful determinant of the extent to which bureaucracy can be compatible with democracy, this study sets out to increase our knowledge of public policy-making in the minds of technocratic bureaucrats, arguing that these pose the largest threat towards the compatibility of bureaucracy and democracy. Drawing on the theoretical framework of the technocratic mentality (Putnam, 1977), and the empirical studies of technocratic bureaucrats (Aberbach et al., 1990; Gregory, 1991; Putnam, 1977), this study seeks to explore the importance of different decision criteria in the minds of technocratic bureau- crats. Despite previous research, we still know little about which criteria these bureaucrats consider important when making decisions on public policy. By means of a survey using hypothetical scenarios, the empirical evidence provided demonstrates that ‘technocratic bureaucrats’ overall prefer ‘technocratic’ to ‘democratic’ criteria. At the same time they assess that the ‘democratic’ criteria will be more important. However, the study also presents more unexpected and important nuances, that technocratic bureaucrats are not equally hostile towards all democratic criteria; this is especially true considering ‘ideology’. Finally, there is no strong evidence that the rated importance varies systematically depending on policy mode. Abstract Essay 3: While previous studies have examined the use of expert knowledge in policy shaping, we still know little about the symbolic role of such knowledge in lending legitimacy to policy positions. This is especially true considering the context of party politics and political mobilization. Recent research offers several suggestions as to when politicians are likely to use expert knowledge in public policy debate. While these studies provide important theoretical insights and rich examples, further research is obviously needed. Based on previous studies, this paper presents several potential explanations of when we can expect politicians to use expert knowledge to legitimize their positions. Empirically testing the hypotheses by analysing the content of 142 legislative debates (a total of 1,183,729 words) held in the Swedish parliament suggests that many of the hypotheses are empirically supported. Perhaps the most interesting finding is that incumbents are less inclined to invoke knowledge claims in debate than are opposition members. This finding supports Bos- well’s (2009b) argument that incumbents, knowing that they can be held ac- countable for decisions made, also aware of the shortcomings of scientific research, avoid excessive reliance on expert knowledge. The analysis also reveals large differences between the parties, apart from their parliamentary roles, suggesting that party culture also ought to be considered an important factor in explaining variations in knowledge use in public policy debate.
Appears in Collections:Doctoral Theses from University of Gothenburg / Doktorsavhandlingar från Göteborgs universitet
Doctoral Theses / Doktorsavhandlingar Statsvetenskapliga institutionen



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