Street‐Level Bureaucracy Theory

Steven Maynard‐Moody and Shannon Portillo

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

Street‐Level Bureaucracy Theory

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This article first summarizes the foundational works in Street Level Bureaucracy Theory (SLBT) written in the late 1970s and early 1980s by Lipsky and his colleagues. Key characteristics are highlighted related to the work situation, characteristics that offer a sense for the bases of organizational and policymaking power posited by early street-level bureaucracy theorists. The article then describes the developments, extensions, and elaborations of SLBT that have occurred over the past thirty years. Finally, several current issues and trends in research on SLBT that appear most challenging and profitable to pursue in future research are discussed. Future research needs to focus more directly on how discretion is nested within rule-based systems. Street-level bureaucrats are the ‘ultimate policymakers’ in two senses: they are the final or last policymakers and they have the greatest influence.

Keywords: Street Level Bureaucracy Theory; organizational power; policymaking power; ultimate policymakers

Article.  11917 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Public Administration ; US Politics

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