Which countries have bureaucracy in their system?

Governing the EU

Kai-Uwe Schnapp

To person

Dipl.-Pol, born in 1966; research assistant in the DFG project "German Elite 1995"; since 1997 research assistant at the Social Science Research Center Berlin.

Address: Science Center Berlin, Reichpietschufer 50, 10785 Berlin.
e-mail: [email protected]

Publications including: (together with Christian Welzel) Where is the political system of the united Germany heading? On the effectiveness and legitimacy of institutional power shifts, in: Roland Czada / Hellmut Wollmann (eds.), Von der Bonner zur Berliner Republik, Opladen 2000.

Ministerial bureaucracies can influence political decision-making processes. Depending on the structure of the administrative apparatus and the distribution of competencies between the political actors, they have greater or lesser leeway for this.

I. Introduction [1]

In most OECD countries, state administration is not a central object of the constitutional standardization of the political order [2]. At the same time, administrations are an indispensable functional component of any political system. Their frequent failure to mention them in constitutional documents results from the fact that bureaucracies are not a direct element of the elected government bodies, but merely their "tools". It is indisputable that the proper functioning of this "instrument" is a central requirement for the functioning of political systems. There is also no question that ministerial bureaucracies in particular - as administrations directly involved in political shaping processes - have great opportunities to influence political decisions. These possibilities for influencing are not harmless in terms of democratic theory, and the "right" amount of bureaucratic influence is always the subject of debate [3]. However, this contribution is not a continuation of this important normative discussion. Rather, its aim is to use structural features of national administrative systems to describe the potential of ministerial bureaucracies to exert political influence.

  • PDF version: 93 KB





  • An answer is approximated with the help of a comparative analysis of the ministerial administrations of 21 member countries of the OECD [4]. This comparison seems necessary mainly because of the fact that there is no absolute measure for assessing the potential influence of bureaucracies on political decision-making processes. The comparative analysis provides a relative yardstick in this situation, because the situation in each individual country can be assessed in relation to the situation in the other countries.

    The empirical material available, however, only enables one to observe the potential of the ministerial bureaucracies to influence political decisions. Whether and how it is used depends on other factors, such as the interests of the employees of these devices. Sufficiently comparable information is currently not available for these factors. Therefore, no statements can be made here about the realization of the potential for influence.

    The article is divided into four arguments:

    1. First, a theoretical consideration is used to clarify which types of influence bureaucracies can exert. These types of influence are each assigned to a pre-political, a political and a post-political or implementation phase.

    2. Based on this phase presentation, an insight into the tasks of the federal ministerial administration in the legislative process is given for the Federal Republic of Germany. In this description, reference is made to a number of features that define how great the potential influence of the ministerial administration on political processes is.

    3. In the third step, empirical material for 21 OECD countries is presented, which enables a comparison of the potential political influence of the ministerial bureaucracies in these countries.

    4. As a summary, a typology of administrative systems is presented in the last section, which allows an overall assessment of the influence potential of the administrations in the countries mentioned.