Governance: An international journal of policy, administration and institutions

Miller and Whitford win Levine Prize

Each year, the International Political Science Association’s Research Committee on the Structure of Governance sponsors the Levine Prize. It is named in honour of Charles H. Levine, who was a distinguished member of the Research Committee and served on the editorial board of its official journal, Governance. The prize is awarded on the recommendation of a distinguished committee. This year’s committee was composed of Professors Tobias Bach (University of Oslo), Caspar van den Berg (Leiden University), and Ting Gong (City University of Hong Kong).

9781107008755The Award Committee has selected Above Politics: Bureaucratic Discretion and Credible Commitment by Gary J. Miller and Andrew B. Whitford as the 2017 recipient of the Levine Award. This interesting book turns much of the conventional wisdom about opportunistic and self-interested bureaucrats as the main problem of democratic governance upside down. Through a series of insightful vignettes and case studies, the authors powerfully argue that the moral hazard faced by politicians is a more serious problem than the proverbial runaway bureaucracy. They emphasize the benefits of a professionalized bureaucracy as a key element of checks and balances in the US system of separated powers and highlight the problematic effects of politicization on policy effectiveness. Written in an accessible style, the book will be useful as a reading for courses in different fields.

The analytical leverage of the volume’s theoretical arguments is demonstrated in a case study of financial regulation in the US. The authors skilfully document how an emerging consensus favoring deregulation of financial markets gradually undermined financial regulators’ professional autonomy. The book demonstrates that exercising more control over bureaucrats may eventually lead to worse, not better performance. Miller and Whitford argue that the conventional principal agent perspective underestimates how professionalism makes autonomous bureaucracies predictable and constrains their actions. This book’s theoretical insights are highly relevant for scholars of executive politics both inside and outside the US, as it demonstrates the importance of professionalized and autonomous bureaucracies for achieving good governance.

The Award Committee is pleased to see this year’s Levine Prize go to this interesting book which makes a contribution of great academic and policy significance.


Written by Governance

July 12, 2017 at 11:30 am

Posted in Levine Book Prize

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