Democracy and the Neutrality of Public Bureaucracy

  • Michiel S. de Vries


The average civil servant lasts approximately 30-40 years in an Administration. Opinions about him change three to four times during this period, from seeing him as a useful instrument, then as an obstructive force and finally as a full-fledged interlocutor. This paper discusses changing views on the neutrality of public administration and different ideas on the appropriate role of the bureaucracy in a democracy. It will go into the subjects of subservience, representativeness, the division of responsibilities by specialization and the reduction of the size of bureaucratic tasks as ways of avoiding the paradox of bureaucracy and democracy. March and Olsen put the problem aptly when they said: ‘Everyone “knows” that policy making and administration should be kept distinct. At the same time, everyone “knows” that policy making and administration cannot be kept distinct and that the distinction itself is difficult to make precise’ (1989 p.141).


Political Party Civil Servant Public Administration Advisory Board Administrative System 
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© the estate of the late Haile K. Asmerom 1996

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  • Michiel S. de Vries

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