Agency Design and Evolution

Amy B. Zegart

in The Oxford Handbook of American Bureaucracy

Published in print October 2010 | ISBN: 9780199238958
Published online January 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of American Politics

Agency Design and Evolution


This article describes the insights and limitations of rational choice institutionalism in political science. It then shows that organization theory offers insights into agency evolution but has limited explanatory power for public sector agencies. Moreover, a general model of agency adaptation failure that combines elements of the two theoretical perspectives is provided. The literatures in organization theory, political science, public administration, and public management that appear most relevant for studying agency adaptation failure do not offer any off-the-shelf approaches. The article looks at adaptation from the perspective of agency leaders, and then represents the substance and logic of the model of adaptation failure. It finally presents some thoughts about promising avenues of future research on agency design and evolution.

Keywords: agency design; evolution; rational choice institutionalism; organization theory; agency adaptation failure; political science; public administration; public management

Article.  11046 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; US Politics ; Public Policy

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