Call for papers : International conference on public policy

La conférence ICPP 2015 aura lieu à Milan du 1er au 4 juillet 2015. Frederica Infantino est co-chair du panel The bureaucrat and the law: policy implementation and interpretation in front-line public administration.

For this panel, we invite papers that focus on the process and context of policy implementation in front-line public services. We are specifically interested in papers that analyse how laws are interpreted and communicated among officials, and how this affects the original outcomes of policies. While the existence of an “implementation gap” is widely known, in-depth analyses of the black box of public administration are few and far between. We thus invite contributions from various policy fields in order to facilitate a wide discussion on practices at the “street-level” of bureaucracy. Through this, we seek to critically evaluate the relevance of frameworks like the one provided by Michael Lipsky 35 years ago. How does “law-in-action” deviate from the original text, and why? How are the objectives of law reconstituted in local settings? Do street-level bureaucrats achieve objectives that are tacit or unspecified? How is the application of discretion influenced by political conflicts and internal disputes about the meaning of law? How have the advent of new public management and recent austerity measures affected the autonomy of public servants? Is management or law the foundation of administrative action? Are the objectives of street-level bureaucrats law-driven or management-driven? In the panel, we seek to discuss these and related questions.

This panel proposes to analyse the ways in which officials working in “street-level” settings of public administration make sense of the legal basis of their work. It follows a “law-in-action” perspective that is interested in the way laws manifest themselves in their implementation, often causing effects that were unforeseen by policy makers (cf. Falk Moore 1978, Scott). Following Lipsky’s seminal work on “street-level bureaucracy” (1980), we seek to analyse the ways in which administrators use their discretionary powers. However, following more recent interpretative accounts of governance (see Rhodes 2009, Bevir and Rhodes 2010), accounts of policy implementation cannot stop at formal discretionary practices, but have to address how the meaning of law is interpreted and communicated among bureaucrats. This is particularly true for front-line services that are often far removed from those disseminating policies (Dubois 2010), and in which “occupational survival” strategies (Satyamurti 1982) can highlight “muddling through” over formal procedures. While knowing that an implementation gap is to be expected, there is still a dearth of in-depth analyses in this field. The studies that exist tend to address specific policy fields without addressing a wider audience. In order to fill this gap, we invite papers from different policy areas that focus on practices of legal implementation, highlighting mechanisms that help to explain differences in decisions and outcomes. We are particularly interested in exploring the practices of legal implementation in different policy domains. While the street-level policy implementation in welfare agencies has received much scholarly attention, other policy fields remains understudied. In the field of migration/border control policies, some researchers have addressed local implementation (Ellerman 2009, Eule 2014)) or encouraged research agendas that focus on the everyday practices of the plurality of power-brokers involved in the securing of borders (Kôté-Boucher, Infantino, and Salter 2014). However, researches of the street-level implementation in distinct policy areas rarely speak to each other. With this panel, we would like to bring more focus on mechanisms and processes of legal implementation across specific policy areas.


– Federica Infantino , université Libre de Bruxelles/Sciences Po Paris ,

– Tobias Eule, University of Bern,

Plus d’informations et faire une proposition sur le site de la conférence

. Deadline : 15 janvier 2015