Research

 

You will find a complete range of our monographs, muti-authored and edited works including peer-reviewed, original scholarly research across the social sciences and aligned disciplines. We publish long and short form research and you can browse the complete Bristol University Press and Policy Press archive of over 1,500 titles.

Policy Press also publishes policy reviews and polemic work which aim to challenge policy and practice in certain fields. These books have a practitioner in mind and are practical, accessible in style, as well as being academically sound and referenced.
 

Books: Research

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Most research on street-level bureaucracy has historically been conducted in countries generally characterised by high levels of administrative capacity, professional bureaucracies, stable rules of law, and in industrialised and often liberal democratic societies. However, most of the world’s street-level bureaucrats work under very different social and institutional conditions. Politicised bureaucracies, low social trust in government, systematic corruption, precarious labour conditions, and limited state capacities are common traits of bureaucracies in developing countries and post-authoritarian regimes. The contributions in this book explore how such institutional conditions affect street-level bureaucracies, public service delivery, policy implementation, and law enforcement. Often, significant gaps appear in the alignment between street-level practices on the one hand and formal rules, guidelines, and policy designs on the other hand. Institutional deficiencies are often left unresolved and subsequently pushed towards the street level, where public servants must deal with them in diverse ways. Thus, citizens are as likely to encounter transit police officers seeking a bribe as they find primary school teachers investing their time and money to provide the best education possible under challenging conditions. Thereby, this book also complements our current understanding of street-level bureaucracy and challenges implicit assumptions about professionalism, state capacity, and trust in government common for advanced democracies.

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Frontline work in weak state institutions is influenced by administrative, political, social, and professional factors that make SLBs face more complex conditions to carry out their jobs. One of the primary sources of complexity and ambiguity for SLBs is their interaction with citizens. Previous studies have contributed to understanding how uncertainty affects SLBs while interacting with citizens. However, the relationship between bureaucratic encounters and frontline work in weak institutional contexts remain understudied. This chapter focuses on bureaucratic encounters in weak institutional contexts and how citizens develop their agency through repeated interactions with SLBs. Drawing on qualitative data on the implementation of a CCT programme in Mexico, the chapter argues that repeated interactions between citizens and SLBs reduce ambiguity and uncertainty. However, paradoxically, this process increases complexity for SLBs because it increases citizens’ capacity to act as agents.

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Most research on street-level bureaucracy has historically been conducted in countries generally characterised by high levels of administrative capacity, professional bureaucracies, stable rules of law, and in industrialised and often liberal democratic societies. However, most of the world’s street-level bureaucrats work under very different social and institutional conditions. Politicised bureaucracies, low social trust in government, systematic corruption, precarious labour conditions, and limited state capacities are common traits of bureaucracies in developing countries and post-authoritarian regimes. The contributions in this book explore how such institutional conditions affect street-level bureaucracies, public service delivery, policy implementation, and law enforcement. Often, significant gaps appear in the alignment between street-level practices on the one hand and formal rules, guidelines, and policy designs on the other hand. Institutional deficiencies are often left unresolved and subsequently pushed towards the street level, where public servants must deal with them in diverse ways. Thus, citizens are as likely to encounter transit police officers seeking a bribe as they find primary school teachers investing their time and money to provide the best education possible under challenging conditions. Thereby, this book also complements our current understanding of street-level bureaucracy and challenges implicit assumptions about professionalism, state capacity, and trust in government common for advanced democracies.

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How do police officers cope, both behaviourally and emotionally, with the double challenge of precarious working conditions and a dangerous social context? And how does this impact the nature of law enforcement and the police’s interactions with citizens? In this chapter, we discuss the case of the municipal police of Morelia, a large city in central Mexico, among the world’s 50 most dangerous cities, and where municipal police officers face shortages in basic materials, receive low salaries, work long shifts, and have limited training and psychological support. Based on original interviews with police officers and complementary document analysis, we demonstrate that such conditions can lead them to move away from dangerous situations, act out aggressively towards citizens, and rely on colleague support and substance abuse to deal with their everyday reality at work. Their response to social and institutional complexities fundamentally changes the face of law enforcement and leaves police officers to fend for their own physical survival and mental health.

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Most research on street-level bureaucracy has historically been conducted in countries generally characterised by high levels of administrative capacity, professional bureaucracies, stable rules of law, and in industrialised and often liberal democratic societies. However, most of the world’s street-level bureaucrats work under very different social and institutional conditions. Politicised bureaucracies, low social trust in government, systematic corruption, precarious labour conditions, and limited state capacities are common traits of bureaucracies in developing countries and post-authoritarian regimes. The contributions in this book explore how such institutional conditions affect street-level bureaucracies, public service delivery, policy implementation, and law enforcement. Often, significant gaps appear in the alignment between street-level practices on the one hand and formal rules, guidelines, and policy designs on the other hand. Institutional deficiencies are often left unresolved and subsequently pushed towards the street level, where public servants must deal with them in diverse ways. Thus, citizens are as likely to encounter transit police officers seeking a bribe as they find primary school teachers investing their time and money to provide the best education possible under challenging conditions. Thereby, this book also complements our current understanding of street-level bureaucracy and challenges implicit assumptions about professionalism, state capacity, and trust in government common for advanced democracies.

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This chapter analyses the implementation conditions of one of Chile’s central social protection system programmes: the Families programme. Successor to the Puente Programme (2002–2011) and the Ethical Family Income (2011–2016), the Families programme consists of preferential access to state social programmes, conditional and unconditional cash transfers, and a psychosocial support component for families living in situations of extreme poverty. This programme is Chile’s most significant state action in the ‘fight against poverty’. However, despite almost 20 years of experience, the highly precarious working conditions of the professionals who implement the programme and the territorial differences in implementation conditions are critical and persistent issues discussed in this chapter. Based on the findings from 17 individual and six group interviews with frontline professionals who implement the Families programme in six municipalities and the descriptive results of a nationally representative survey of frontline professionals implementing the programme, we discuss how weak institutions – specifically administrative/organisational and professional factors – contribute to undesired policy outcomes. We conclude the chapter by reflecting on the challenges of implementing social policies in weak institutional contexts and suggest recommendations for policymakers.

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The contributions in this volume explore how structurally adverse working conditions that prevail in many places affect street-level bureaucrats’ (SLBs) decisions and behaviour and how they, consequently, shape the everyday experience of law enforcement, policy implementation, and public service provision for citizens worldwide. In this concluding chapter, we formulate several key lessons and findings from the preceding chapters. Furthermore, we outline what we believe to be the main contributions of the book and add some concluding remarks on the crucial role of SLBs in advancing the functioning of public administrations in weak institutional settings. Finally, we offer a comment on avenues for future research, including identifying the conditions under which frontline workers can constructively perform the role of brokers, understanding the institutional preconditions and vulnerabilities for frontline working conditions, analysing the consequences of democratic backsliding, and including the citizen’s perspective of policy implementation and street-level interactions.

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This chapter discusses the origins and effects of institutional weakness on the work of SLBs in a pension programme for old persons in Uganda. Institutional weakness stems from conflicts between promoters and critics of pensions within the bureaucratic and political fields, resulting in low investments in capacities. Thus, the programme does not rely on a professional, specialised bureaucracy but on local political and administrative authorities that are linked to recipients of pensions through local networks of ‘relationality’, although socially distant from them. Institutional weakness and social inequality have strong effects, as local authorities successfully impose a paternalist control on recipients’ financial practices. As a consequence, recipients understand pensions as a favour rather than a right and adapt their behaviour in search of material gains, social respectability, and moral affirmation of the self. The chapter thus highlights the importance of administrative design on street-level bureaucracy and implementation.

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This chapter argues that institutional weakness is not only a function of weak fundamentals but can also be caused by a shift in the goals of the institution. In particular, if weak institutions are those that fail to work as intended, regime transitions can create weak institutions by changing the very objectives of the state. To illustrate how a relatively strong institution can quickly turn into a weak one during a regime transition, this chapter considers police reform in the early 1990s Poland, a typical case of a police state that has transitioned into a democracy. We discuss how the challenges faced by the reformers relate to four aspects associated with institutional weakness, framing them temporally as challenges stemming from the past (authoritarian legacies, including low trust in the police and personnel issues), from the present (the change in objectives and skill incompatibility), and from new challenges (the increase in crime).

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In this book, street-level bureaucracy scholars from South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America analyse the conditions that shape frontline work and citizens’ everyday experience of the state.

Institutional factors such as political clientelism, resource scarcity, social inequality, job insecurity, and systemic corruption affect the way street-level bureaucrats enforce rules and implement policies. Inadvertently, they end up implementing inequities in citizens’ access to rights and services – despite efforts to repair organisational deficiencies and broker relations between vulnerable citizens and a distant state. This book illuminates these realities and challenges and provides unique insights into critical themes such as resource scarcities, bureaucratic corruption, control practices, and the complexities of dealing with vulnerable population groups.

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