How Politicians See Their Relationship with Top Bureaucrats: Revisiting Classical Images

Martin Bækgaard*, Jens Blom-Hansen, Søren Serritzlew

*Corresponding author for this work

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The relationship between politicians and bureaucrats is an enduring concern in political science. Central to this debate, Aberbach, Putnam, and Rockman (APR) in 1981 developed four images to characterize political‐bureaucratic relations. We argue that the one‐dimensional focus on roles in their images comes with important limitations. To deal with these limitations, we collect survey responses from 3,384 local politicians from four countries on seven dimensions of the political‐bureaucratic relationship. We then use cluster analysis to develop six images bottom‐up. Five of our images are largely consistent with APR's image II and III. Yet, they differ in the extent to which politicians trust the bureaucracy, consider them loyal, and see them as an important source of information. A sixth image is not consistent with any of APR's images. We find that both systemic (country, municipality size) and individual factors (ideology, position, seniority) contribute to differences in images. Overall, our images suggest that political‐bureaucratic relations vary more between and within political systems than suggested by APR's images.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGovernance: An international journal of Policy, Administration, and Institutions
Pages (from-to)5-24
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


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