Myths, Markets, and the <i>Visible Hand</i> of American Bureaucracy

H. George Frederickson and Edmund C. Stazyk

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

Myths, Markets, and the Visible Hand of American Bureaucracy

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This article presents an overview of the logic of neoclassical economics as applied to market-based administrative reforms. Next, it summarizes the thinking of three scholarly titans whose work has been marginalized in recent debates. Specifically, it discusses Alfred Chandler's theory of the visible hand, its relation to Oliver Williamson's work on hierarchy, and then on to Herbert Simon's work on bounded rationality as premises for a normative theory of bureaucracy. Chandler's findings suggest that the manager must have management expertise. Williamson argues that the advantages of hierarchy are most important with respect to the issues of rationality and uncertainty, and that substantial theoretical and empirical effort should be directed toward examining hierarchies. Simon's analysis suggests that organizations have become the primary mechanism for coordinating human action. Furthermore, the manner in which the work of each scholar might be applied profitably to the study of American bureaucracy is described.

Keywords: American bureaucracy; Alfred Chandler; visible hand; Oliver Williamson; hierarchy; Herbert Simon; rationality; neoclassical economics; administrative reforms; markets

Article.  10129 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Public Administration ; US Politics

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