Living Reference Work Entry

Global Encyclopedia of Public Administration, Public Policy, and Governance

pp 1-8

Date: Latest Version

Bureaucracy and Policy Alienation

  • Lars G. TummersAffiliated withSchool of Governance, Utrecht University Email author 


Anomie; Change cynicism; Identification; Resistance to change


Policy alienation can be defined as a cognitive state of psychological disconnection from the policy program to be implemented.


Public service workers often have problems with new policies. This ranges from teachers striking against school reforms, professors protesting against cost-cutting in higher education, and physicians feeling overwhelmed by a constant flow of policy changes, resulting in conflicts and burn-outs.

An illuminating quote – cited in a leading Dutch newspaper – comes from an insurance physician who had to implement stricter rules for work disability insurance, causing many former citizens classified as work disabled to lose their benefits, while nothing substantially changed in the situation of these citizens:

The UWV [Dutch organization for employees’ insurance] is nowadays called the Lourdes of the North: you visit the agency as work-disabled, you leave able to work… It is becom ...

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