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Chapter

8. The European Commission:  

the cabinets and the services

Frédéric Mérand

Focusing on the services and the cabinets, this chapter analyses the European Commission as a complex organizational, political, and social institution. Organizationally, it describes the Commission as a unique international bureaucracy which puts its French administrative tradition, consensus-based, and law-heavy internal procedures under the growing influence of an Anglo-American style of management. Politically, the chapter shows that the Commission increasingly behaves like a political executive that seeks to establish its own legitimacy vis-à-vis public opinion and member states by addressing partisan dynamics in the European Parliament. In terms of social relations, the chapter draws from the author’s ethnographic work to explore the transnational life of Commission civil servants and cabinet staffers who have made the Berlaymont their home.

Chapter

This chapter explores the central government departments, executive agencies, and other public bureaucracies in operation in the UK today, such as those in local and territorial governments. These bodies help make and implement public policies and run public services. The chapter reviews more general work on bureaucracy and public administration, and sets out the theory of politician–bureaucrat relationships (going back to the principal–agent model), before addressing the classic question of civil service influence over public policy. It then takes account of the diversity of bureaucratic organizations operating in Britain today. The chapter also looks at the evidence of how politicians manage to satisfy their political objectives through delegating authority to these bodies.

Chapter

4. Leave It to the Experts  

Administrative Rationalism

Complex environmental issues have to date mostly been addressed by administrative means such as regulation, impact assessment, and planning that harness expertise in institutions such as pollution control agencies and resource management bureaucracies. Administrative rationalism is defined as the problem-solving discourse that emphasizes the role of the expert rather than the citizen or producer/consumer in social problem solving. Experts can be scientists, social scientists, or policy analysts who can deploy techniques such as cost-benefit analysis and risk analysis. Recent variations on the discourse involve evidence-based policy making and ‘nudge’. Administrative rationalism figures more strongly as an institutional style in some political systems than in others. The chapter focuses on the United States, as it pioneered many of the practices of administrative rationalism in environmental policy, and China, where administrative rationalism now finds its strongest application. Administrative rationalism is in crisis as its limits when confronting complexity become exposed, and it is arguably giving way to more networked and less hierarchical governance.

Chapter

Wolfgang C. Müller

This chapter examines the decision-making modes of governments and their capacities to govern, with particular emphasis on bureaucracies that support governments in their tasks of ruling and administrating the country. It first presents the relevant definitions before discussing different modes of government that reflect the internal balance of power: presidential government, cabinet government, prime ministerial government, and ministerial government. It then considers the autonomy of government, especially from political parties and the permanent bureaucracy, along with the political capacity of governments, the relevance of unified versus divided government, majority versus minority government, and single-party versus coalition government. The chapter concludes with an assessment of the bureaucratic capacities of government, focusing on issues such as classic bureaucracy, the politicization of bureaucracies, and New Public Management systems.

Book

British Politics provides an introduction to British politics with an emphasis on political science to analyse the fundamental features of British politics, and the key changes post-Brexit. Part A looks at constitutional and institutional foundations of the subject. Chapters in this part look at leadership and debating politics and law creation. The second part is about political behaviour and citizenship. Here chapters consider elections, the media, agenda setting, and political turbulence. The final part is about policy-making and delegation. The chapters in this part examine interest groups, advocacy, policy-making, governing through bureaucracy and from below, delegating upwards, and British democracy now.

Chapter

This chapter examines administrative rationalism, a discourse of environmental problem solving which captures the dominant governmental response to the onset of environmental crisis. Administrative rationalism emphasizes the role of the expert rather than the citizen or producer/consumer in social problem solving, and which stresses social relationships of hierarchy rather than equality or competition. The chapter first considers the manifestations of administrative rationalism in various institutions and practices, including environmental impact assessment, planning, and rationalistic policy analysis techniques, before discussing the discourse analysis of administrative rationalism. It then explains the justification of administrative rationalism and problems of administrative rationalism, caused in part by its association with bureaucracy. It also explores the implications of the transition from government to governance for administrative rationalism.

Chapter

This chapter examines the components that constitute the Council system: the European Council and the Council of the EU. Together, these institutions form the part of the Union that unabashedly represents national interests in the European integration process. The EU Council is a site of intense negotiation, compromise-building, and at times acrimonious disagreement among the member states. The EU Council is not a single body, but a composite of national officials working at different levels of political seniority and policy specialization. From the heads of state and government to the ministers, down to the expert-level fonctionnaires (officials), the EU Council and the European Council embed governments of the EU into a networked club of collective decision-making that penetrates into the national capitals and domestic politics of the member states. In authority, scope, and procedural methods, the Council system represents the most advanced, intensive forum of international cooperation between sovereign nation states in the modern world.

Chapter

This chapter examines how executives, bureaucracies, and policy studies influence governance. It first provides an overview of the relations between the legislature and the executive, with emphasis on the competing claims of presidentialism versus parliamentarianism, before discussing the civil service and its traditional role in building up the effective power of the state. Using examples from economic policy-making, it argues that embedded autonomy is an appropriate way of characterizing the civil service's relationship with the rest of society. The chapter goes on to consider theories of bureaucratic policy-making, focusing in particular on policy innovation, public administration, and New Public Management, the more recent proliferation of agencies in government, and the concept of good governance. Issue networks, the notion of iron triangles, and policy communities are also explored. The chapter concludes with an analysis of the ‘network state’ and its implications for civil servants.

Chapter

This chapter examines the components that constitute the Council system: the European Council and the Council of the EU (henceforth ‘the EU Council’ or simply ‘the Council’). Together, these institutions (the European Council and EU Council) form the part of the Union that unabashedly represents national interests in the European integration process. The EU Council is thus a site of intense negotiation, compromise-building, and at times acrimonious disagreement among the member states. Confusing to many academics and observers alike, the EU Council is not a single body, but rather a composite of national officials working at different levels of political seniority and policy specialization. From the heads of state and government, to the ministers, and all the way down the ladder to the expert-level fonctionnaires (officials), the EU Council and the European Council embed governments of the EU into a networked club of collective decision-making that deeply penetrates into the national capitals and domestic politics of the member states. In authority, scope, and procedural methods the Council system represents the most advanced, intensive forum of international cooperation between sovereign nation states in the modern world.

Chapter

This chapter examines the functions and organization of the European Commission services, arguing that they are a bureaucracy with unique agenda-setting powers at the heart of the European Union polity. It begins with an overview of the origins and evolution of the Commission services, focusing on the influence of Jean Monnet, first President of the High Authority of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), and how the services were shaped by national bureaucratic models as well as international organization models. The chapter proceeds by discussing the Commission services’ powers, structure, and functioning and what the officials think about the role of the institution with respect to agenda-setting, nationality, and EU governance. It argues that while the Commission bureaucracy has become more circumspect of bold political initiatives, neither its capacity nor its will to play a strong policy role in Europe have been significantly weakened.