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Palgrave Macmillan

The Blind Spots of Public Bureaucracy and the Politics of Non‐Coordination

  • Book
  • © 2019


  • Provides important theoretical insights into the organizational underpinnings of successful coordination
  • Identifies causes of supposedly irrational or dysfunctional behaviour of public organizations
  • Discusses implications for institutional design, indiciating how to deal with inherent biases in organizational decision making

Part of the book series: Executive Politics and Governance (EXPOLGOV)

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About this book

How to better coordinate policies and public services across public sector organizations has been a major topic of public administration research for decades. However, few attempts have been made to connect these concerns with the growing body of research on biases and blind spots in decision-making. This book attempts to make that connection. It explores how day-to-day decision-making in public sector organizations is subject to different types of organizational attention biases that may lead to a variety of coordination problems in and between organizations, and sometimes also to major blunders and disasters. The contributions address those biases and their effects for various types of public organizations in different policy sectors and national contexts. In particular, it elaborates on blind spots, or ‘not seeing the not seeing’, and different forms of bureaucratic politics as theoretical explanations for seemingly irrational organizational behaviour. The book’s theoretical tools and empirical insights address conditions for effective coordination and problem-solving by public bureaucracies using an organizational perspective.

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Table of contents (12 chapters)

  1. Blind Spots and Attention Bias

  2. Bureaucratic Politics: Reputation, Blame, and Turf

  3. Achilles’ Heels and Selective Perception

  4. Implications


“This volume sheds fresh light on the shortcomings of the evergreen phantasm of synoptic rationality in and across public organizations that still inform expectations to public decision makers. The book is a valuable reminder that in times of information overload, critical awareness of the perspective through which both knowledge, action and analysis are conceived is more important than ever.” (Lotte Jensen, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark)

“This book is a treasure trove for those interested in getting fresh, intelligent, and thought provoking accounts of some of the most important recurrent and debilitating pathologies of public administration: attention biases, blind spots, and a chronic failure to operate in a collaborative and coordinated fashion. Leading scholars cast fresh eyes on classic and emerging frameworkssuch as bureaucratic reputation, collaborative governance and institutional leadership. These highly readable essays also offer us glimmers of hope that if we better understand these mechanisms, we can make them work for rather than against the smart and reliable government that citizens expect and deserve.” (Paul ‘t Hart, Utrecht University, The Netherlands)

Editors and Affiliations

  • Department of Political Science, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

    Tobias Bach

  • Hertie School of Governance, Berlin, Germany

    Kai Wegrich

About the editors

Tobias Bach is Associate Professor of Public Policy and Administration at the Department of Political Science, University of Oslo, Norway.

Kai Wegrich is Professor of Public Administration and Public Policy at the Hertie School of Governance, Berlin, Germany.

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