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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.


Petra Schleiter

This chapter offers a clear introduction to the history, constitutional structure, and powers of the modern executive in European countries. It provides an overview of the constitutional position of the political executive in parliamentary and semi-presidential democracies, then charts variations in the powers of key actors (including prime ministers, cabinets, and presidents) and their political implications for conflict within government, cabinet stability, and policy processes. The text complements its coverage of the political executive with an analysis of the civil service and the political challenges of controlling it, and concludes with a comprehensive assessment of the rise in executive autonomy and its political implications in the twenty-first century.


This chapter examines two closely connected institutions that lie at the epicentre of UK politics and these are the Cabinet and the Prime Minister (PM). The chapter considers the basic characteristics of both. It describes the way in which they operate, including policy, the functions of the Prime Ministerial role, the supporting staff, and the place of both in the UK constitution and system of government. The principle of the collective responsibility of ministers is touched upon. The chapter gives some practical examples of how selective PMs have worked with their Cabinets to demonstrate how these theories can play out in practical terms. The chapter also provides historical material to illuminate the background to the issues it considers. Finally, the chapter asks: is collective government, that is, government by a group rather than a single leader, the right approach for the UK today? The chapter also touches on the issue of Brexit and questions what we have learnt from the Brexit experience in terms of the UK political system.