Bureaucratic Structure and Decisionmaking

by Anthony Downs

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An analysis of the behavior of bureaucratic organizations in a wide variety of situations and a definition of bureaus as organizations. The study has three central axioms: (1) All social agents pursue their goals rationally and efficiently. (2) The internal structure and operations of each bureau are greatly influenced by the nature of its social functions. (3) Bureau officials are motivated at least in part by their own self-interest, even when performing official duties. Officials are divided into five types: climbers, conservers, zealots, advocates, and statesmen. The study explores how bureaus behave in a realistic world where information is costly and uncertainty exists. Facets of bureau behavior are examined extensively. Several testable hypotheses about bureau behavior under various circumstances are presented.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation research memorandum series. The Research Memorandum was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 1973 that represented working papers meant to report current results of RAND research to appropriate audiences.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.