Automated Discretion

  • Stavros ZouridisEmail author
  • Marlies van Eck
  • Mark Bovens


This contribution discusses the impact of information technology (IT) and algorithms on discretion in large-scale bureaucracies. It shows that IT has both transformed and reshuffled traditional street-level discretion. Discretion has shifted from the level of individual cases such as welfare benefits, traffic fines or construction permits to the design of IT that deals with welfare benefits, traffic fines or construction permits. Street-level discretion first became screen-level discretion and it can nowadays be framed as system-level discretion. Some recent developments even show a transformation of discretion beyond system-level discretion. Inter-organizationally connected IT, the rise of data science techniques and continuous small-scale ‘bricolage’ of the increasingly complex systems have given rise to new types of discretion. As this chapter shows these transformations of discretion in public organizations require rethinking of the constitutional and democratic embeddedness and foundation of IT-driven large-scale bureaucracies.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stavros Zouridis
    • 1
    Email author
  • Marlies van Eck
    • 2
  • Mark Bovens
    • 3
  1. 1.Tilburg UniversityTilburgThe Netherlands
  2. 2.eLaw—Center for Law and Digital TechnologiesLeiden UniversityLeidenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Utrecht University School of GovernanceUtrechtThe Netherlands

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