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Understanding street-level bureaucracy$
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Peter Hupe, Peter Hupe, Michael Hill, and Aurèlien Buffat

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781447313267

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447313267.001.0001

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‘Playing the rules’

‘Playing the rules’

Discretion in social and policy context

(p.169) Ten ‘Playing the rules’
Understanding street-level bureaucracy

Michael Musheno

Steven Maynard-Moody

Policy Press

This chapter draws on 15 years work in which the authors have been pursuing an empirical rendering of the social, legal, and cultural dynamics of doing work on the frontlines of public service and the implications of our findings for a democratic polity. This work looks beyond the ‘state-agent’ or implementation-control-discretion narrative that is ingrained in much research focusing on policy variation. Here, the rendering of an alternative to ‘discretion’ is deepened by squaring grounded discoveries of frontline work with theorizing about culture, agency, and structure. With a theoretical framing of the worker as agent in hand, the chapter draws upon current fieldwork to offer a second alternative, a normative one, that pushes against attention to policy fidelity, and encourages focus on the conditions whereby frontline work produces both local equities and inequities.

Keywords:   equity, human agency, institutionalized schemas

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