Evolving Bureaucracy


This study argues that in order to fully understand the role of Public Administration in the United State (U.S) government, it is compulsory to go back to the beginning of how it all started. We must inspect the differing views of Public Administration scholars, and of the state held by the founding fathers of this great nation.

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We also have to inspect how those views were established, and how they affect the way we view the administrative state of today. Such an understanding of the framer’s past can help us trace the establishment of the Administrative state in the U.S. As Richard Stillman contends that after the implementation of the U.S constitution, America’s inability to govern itself at the federal level with an administrative capacity was due to our founding fathers omission of any mention of administrative state in the U.S constitution.

Since the formation of the Administrative State, most of the public administration theorist’s attentions have been specifically directed to the matters of whether or not the constitution and its founding and principles are consistent with modern bureaucracy. It is highly required that we examine these disciplines from multiple perspectives.

In the following paper, we will discuss Stillman’s views on the founding fathers position on the state of administrative system, the public administration theorist views, and its current state. As we take a closer look at our bureaucratic system through scholarly literatures that dates in chronological order (Woodrow Wilson, Frank Goodnow, Jane Addams, Fredrick Taylor, Max Weber, Brownlow commission to John Kingdon, and a critical review of the documentary films, The Meltdown and The Warning will aid in explaining the evolution of bureaucracy in the U.S government.

Literature Review


The dominant nineteenth-century discourse about bureaucracy focused on bureaucrats as a class. It would reach its fullest expression in the writings of John Stuart Mill, who defines bureaucracy along recognizably Laingian lines as “government in the hands of the governors by profession.” Believing that such government is necessarily more efficient than government in the hands of the people’s representatives, Mill concludes On Liberty (1859) by arguing that the central problem for representative governments is finding a way to draw on the knowledge of bureaucrats without undermining the people’s capacity for self-rule(Stillman, 1996).

This question would return in the later nineteenth-century campaigns, in both Britain and the United States, for civil service reform. The inability of America to govern itself at the federal level with an administrative capacity was due to our founding fathers omission of any mention of administrative state in the U.S constitution (Fried, 1976).

These challenges have often been quite severe, and have forced government systems to undertake considerable efforts to adapt to the changing conditions of political environment. They have also affected politics in the United States by facilitating the emergence of new types of parties and strategies associated with social movements. But in no instance have they led to the disappearance of public administration or follow the constitutional clauses. Thus, much of the alarmist literature regarding the decline of government systems must be reassessed (Fried, 1976).


As Stillman (1990, 253) has pointed out, the literature on the relationship between public administration and the modern bureaucracy has been undermined by an overestimation of the distance between those two sets of actors, as well as an underestimation of the ability of individuals to adapt to the demands of the modern bureaucracy. Locke (1690) is even more sweeping in his reassessment of this literature, suggesting on the origin and purposes of legitimate and free government.

To an even greater extent, United States political societies have been, and still seem to be, able to successfully meet these challenges through processes of adaptation over the past three decades. Indeed, Locke (1690, 298) have suggested that men should be free to create government of their will (Durant, 2010).

Additionally, they should be able to impact on the emergence of new social movements has been to force parties to adapt and initiate evolutionary processes of change that have helped to guarantee the long-term stability of the political system. This may very well be true, but if it is, it certainly suggests that the literature on government decline should be substantially reformulated in several ways (Durant, 2010). First, it should abandon the deterministic quality of its assessment of the negative impact on parties of a wide variety of causal factors such as individualism. Second, it should acknowledge the important roles played by party elites in adopting strategies to meet external challenges and in successfully maintaining reasonably cohesive and electorally competitive organizations (Durant, 2010).

To date, the net effect has been that, despite suffering through periods of electoral dealignment over the past three decades, most available indicators suggest that “constitutions are alive and well within the governing process” (as described by Locke and Huntington, 1981, 273). And contrary to predictions of constitutional declines in the 1980s, citizens remain the most important actors in democratic systems. In the words of Huntington (1981, 2), “all citizens must be involved as they were there during the sounding times. Parties continue to survive. The old era which were around well before the American political life elaborated its freezing proposition which is still around today, and, despite the challenges from new political structures, and new social movements, most of them still remain in powerful and dominant positions.


Following the three paradigms of American politics, the progressive theory indicates that conflict will still remain between the poor and the rich in America. Alternatives on the Progressive theory indicates that it should be names as the class conflict theory as it involves two extremes. Thirty years on, these self-same conflict still continue to dominate mass politics. Other contributors in the public administrative panel included Woodrow Wilson that introduced a theory of idealism where bureaucracy would be given the chance to rule independently through elected government branches.

The progressive theory was also supported by theorist Frank Goodnow who advocated for the adoption of the European dichotomy in public administration. Frank admired the way the Europeans run their government from different governmental departments and wished for the same in bureaucracy. Another view of bureaucracy emerged, however, in response to war, Fredrick Taylor bring the aspect of time and motion in ensuring efficiency in bureaucracy operations. He wanted that each operation in the bureaucracy system to have time limits in effecting its strategies. He also suggestion the active ability of the government structures to be in motion in order to catch up with the political demands.

Max Weber brought about the issues of religion and capitalism in relation to Marxism as a way of influencing the structural makeup of the bureaucracy structure. Capitalism was the main differential point in the progressive theory therefore he wished to have the gap between the two to be present in order to identify social classes in the society. Brownlow commission to John Kingdon mainly focused on the management structure that the bureaucracy should adopt if they need to have a different strategy in governing the states. According Brownlow, following the active management structure where there are different departments with one overall head was the aim of Brownlow in bureaucracy. He advocated to have a bureaucracy divided into different departments for easy management.

The Adams (1853-56) made the British recognize that they did, in fact, have a bureaucracy by drawing public attention to the military and governmental administrations. More importantly, however, the obvious failures of those administrations prompted observers to think of bureaucracies in a new way. For the problem posed by the difference between the simple man and the gentleman as shown by the political structures was not the tyranny of bureaucrats as a class, but rather the inefficiency of certain bureaucratic institutions. To attack this inefficiency, some historians borrowed existing tropes used to satirize the law, such as the red tape that bound legal documents and the pigeonholes in which they were filed, while other historians (1855-57) attacked the federalist politics by identifying themselves with the poor. This brought two new tropes into common currency, the Circumlocution Office and How Not to Do It that gave birth to the main currents of American thoughts.


In these tropes, we see an attempt to describe, if only to condemn, the characteristic workings of bureaucratic institutions and they therefore mark the first efforts to grasp what Max Weber would later describe more neutrally as the techniques of rational administration.

The other crucial trope was paperwork, which figured the army’s techniques of rational administration and thereby pointed toward the question of how bureaucracies actually work. The Civil War drew attention, as the Crimean War had done, to the institutional aspects of the army, in particular its infrastructure. The two movies The Meltdown and The Warning will aid shows the actual struggle that exist in gaining a stable bureaucracy structure. The regular army retained an administrative and supply apparatus in peacetime so that the army could expand rapidly for war, but this apparatus had to grow and further centralize in order to transport and supply more than a million soldiers across a territory that extended from Maryland to Texas. Even so, the apparatus was still not sufficient.

A voluntary association, the Sanitary Commission, formed to supply the army hospitals, organize the army camps, and tend to the wounded soldiers. Some observers viewed the administering of the army and the supplying of the soldiers as impeding the army’s true function: fighting battles. And nowhere was the impediment clearer than in the paperwork this apparatus required. When the war ended, the army soon shrank to a mere constabulary force, but new federal bureaucracies emerged.

Writers and researchers began recording the events of the political trends. The first and most visible of these was the Freedmen’s Bureau, which was the subject not only of bitter debate in Congress, but also of considerable attention in the northern magazines. Much of this attention focused on its status as a bureaucratic institution. There were some descriptions of the elaborate hierarchy of bureau officials and some account of the many regulations that governed the bureau’s actions, but particular attention was paid to its paperwork.

Paperwork became the bureau’s defining trope, so much so, indeed, that the bureau’s commissioner would describe the moment of assuming control of the bureau as a transfer of papers: he recalls that the Secretary of War approached him, holding a “large, oblong, bushel basket heaped with letters and documents” in his hands and saying with a smile, “Here, general, here’s your Bureau!” Some of these papers were property receipts of the kind that army bureaucracy required to track the flow of goods, but most attempted to gather and disseminate information about the people and conditions in the occupied southern states. This was an unprecedented thing for the federal government to do. Prior to the war, the federal government gathered little information, such as only what was needed to justify Indian removal and westward expansion. The historian Oz Frankel has argued that the 1860s efforts to gather information about the freed people were initiated by elites who wanted to remake US social policy along more continental lines.

The most striking about the 1860s descriptions of bureau paperwork is how positive they are. Contemporary observers approved of the bureau’s project of gathering information, and the northern magazines summarized many of the bureau’s reports: the Nation and Harper’s Weekly even established regular columns for this. Bureaucratic reports were no longer confined to the bureaucracy but instead circulated information more widely. In addition to summarizing the bureau’s reports, these magazines also adopted some of the conventions of bureau paperwork, in particular those that sought to ensure comprehensiveness and objectivity.

We can see this most clearly in the writings of the many northern reporters who went south in the aftermath of the war. For the most part, these reporters follow the familiar conventions of nineteenth-century travel writing, going from one place to another, recording their chance observations and conversations along the way, seeking to paint a complete picture from a subjective perspective and many brief glimpses. But when they visit the local bureau office, as they do whenever they enter a new town, their writing falls under the influence of paperwork. Some adopt its conventions by reproducing the actual forms, as when one reproduces a report on violent outrages. “Complaint is made,” the catalogue begins, with the passive voice removing the agent’s subjectivity from the record.

The catalogue then goes on to offer a comprehensive account of all the acts of violence committed against the freed people in the first two weeks of September 1865 in Davidson, North Carolina. Other reporters acknowledge the superiority of paperwork by using the bureau agent to focalize a perspective more comprehensive and objective than any other, including the reporters’ own.

According to Stillman, a second line of potentially fruitful research that emerges from speculations about absence of American public administration at nation birth lays within the public administration theory. The concerns the nature of the challenges facing contemporary citizens, as well as their reactions to those the challenges faced in understanding the public administration can be rooted from the stateless nation origins. Some of these challenges have their origins in the changing nature of society (Eccles, 1991). And the reason behind all this is the silence present in the U.S constitution regarding public administration. In many countries, levels of affiliation with political structures and public administration are always highlighted in the constitution, but the case is different with the United States constitution (Eccles, 1991).

Trends towards public administration have sapped the strength of denominational parties, at the same time that increasing affluence and expanding middle classes have shrunk the potential electoral base of working-class parties. The greater participation of women in the labor force has both placed new demands on the policy agendas of parties, and created a transformed constituency in need of bureaucracy representation. Therefore indicating that the American government have been revolving within the administrative misdeed of the forefathers such as George III (Eccles, 1991).

Massive problems have been introduced as a result of the American inability to accept administration as part of their constitutional governing frameworks. This problems are seen as originating from Tudor institutions, republican ideas and crises of events that occurred in the 1780s. Other challenges to public administration have emerged as consequences of higher levels of personal resources possessed by citizens (individualism) (Robison, 1991).

Better educated individuals who had never experienced economic deprivation have tended to adopt post materialist values that both conflicted with the traditional ideologies of many parties and have given rise to participatory expectations better suited to new social movements, single-issue interest groups, and unconventional forms of political involvement. Better informed citizens are also able to enhance their participatory capabilities, expand the range of their access to independent channels of information, and develop their own attitudinal orientations towards politics and parties independent of guidance from secondary associations or “opinion leaders” (Robison, 1991).

Some of these trends have weakened the structural and administrative linkages between constitution and what the founding fathers stated, as reflected in lower levels of public administration identification, and increases in feelings of political dissatisfaction, cynicism and even alienation. Still other challenges have their origins in Marxism developments (Woll, 1963).

According to Gordon wood, republicanism revolved and began to be used as Marxism between the nineteenth and twentieth century due to the presence of countercultural ideologies from radical protests. Such protests were the only avenues of criticizing and putting off the self-fish and luxury nature seen with the kings available. The ideas used by republican were seen as inconsistent and inchoate from a constitution point of view (Woll, 1963).

The communications channels opened up new channels for direct access between republicans and their political leaders that need not pass through traditional political channels. The rapid republican information enabled of access and growth of vision by the republican to have a republic (Woll, 1963). The downside of these communications advances involves the enormous spread of information regarding establishments of an extended republic. Of establishing such networks of either the federalist or the antifederalist paying attention for the purpose of crafting a state system or an administration with an extended republican value for politicians discussion (Woll, 1963).

The Tudor institutions viewed the fundamental laws as foundations for an upcoming good government. Finally, the trend towards devolution of governmental authority from center to regional or local levels of government in United States has posed new challenges associated with bureaucracy at both the national and subnational levels (Stillman, 1996). The cumulative effects of these challenges have given rise in some Western democracies to a literature characterized by its somewhat fatalistic analysis of the organizational, electoral, cultural and institutional symptoms of government failure. Some scholars regard these challenges as so serious as to threaten the very survival of constitutional laws (Woll, 1963).

As Stillman (1988b, 3) have noted, “it may be that the institution of government is gradually disappearing, slowly being replaced by new political structures more suitable for the economic and political realities of twenty-first-century politics”. Structures in new bureaucracy have had to confront an additional set of challenges, in addition to those described above. With the “third wave” of modern bureaucracy, political institutions have been born or re-established in dozens of political systems that had either lacked a tradition of bureaucracy stability or never experienced truly constitutional governance (Stillman, 1996).

Not only do they have to perform the standard functions of political activities in established bureaucracy (including the recruitment of candidates for public office, the mobilization of electoral support, the structuring of policy agendas, and the formation of governments), but have also been key actors in the establishment and consolidation of new political regimes, at the same time that they must institutionalize themselves as viable modern bureaucracy (Stillman, 1996).


In conclusion, the finding from the study have indicated that the conflicts available in the current governing bodies are as a result of the view put forward by the founding fathers. Additionally, the route and characteristics observed with the political structures and differentiation among them also seem to have originated form the founding fathers. The theorists also offers the best picture of why there still difference in political arena between the poor and the rich. Everything evident today is as a result of the founding fathers (Stillman, 1996).


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Durant, R. F. (2010). The Oxford handbook of American bureaucracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Eccles, J. R., & United States. (1981). The Hatch Act and the American bureaucracy. New York: Vantage Press.
Fried, R. C. (1976). Performance in American bureaucracy. Boston: Little, Brown.
Robinson, G. O. (1991). American bureaucracy: Public choice and public law. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Stillman, R. J. (1987). The American bureaucracy. Chicago: Nelson-Hall.
Stillman, R. J. (1996). The American bureaucracy: The core of modern government. Chicago: Nelson-Hall Publishers.
Woll, P. (1963). American bureaucracy. New York: Norton.

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