Bureaucracy and Street-level Bureaucrats

Essay by cheungCollege, UndergraduateA, December 2002

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Do the Street-level bureaucrats (SLB) perform well?


According to Michael Lipsky (1993), street-level bureaucrats (SLB) are the civil servants who interact with citizens directly and have wide discretion over the allocation of services. They act as the agency between the government and the public in which their activities affect the way of the bureaucracy in fulfilling its responsibilities. These street-level bureaucrats occupy a critical role in the society, especially those who work at the lower level interacting with citizens directly.

Apart from the public, the street-level bureaucrats also have a very close relationship with the government. They act as the agency between the government and the public. The government will use system of authority, people, offices, and methods to achieve its objectives and this is what we called bureaucracy. It is actually the executive branch of the government to carry out the policies. Yet, there are many criticisms towards both bureaucracy and the street-level bureaucrats claiming their inefficiency as well as inflexibility.

We are now going to focus on the street-level bureaucrats to see whether they should be responsible for these complaints.

The role of the street-level bureaucrats

Street-level bureaucrats are the people who directly deal with the citizens and who have the power or discretion to carry out these works. They are the professionals in low level of the bureaucratic hierarchy of public services. For example, the police force, social workers and teacher etc. Ideally, they have to respond to the individual needs of their clients. However, in practice, they have to deal with a mass basis since works required and this prohibits individualized services.

The general criticisms towards the SLB

The work, services and policy carried out by the street-level bureaucrats are often immediate and personal and focus mainly on individuals. Hence, it will directly intervene people's...