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Michael Lipsky

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Title: Michael Lipsky  
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Subject: Policy alienation, List of public administration scholars, Public administration theory, Guggenheim Fellows, 1940 births
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Michael Lipsky

Michael Lipsky (born April 13, 1940) is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Demos, a public policy institution based in New York with offices in Washington, D.C. and Boston. He was a program officer at the Ford Foundation after serving as a professor of political science at MIT.

He is well known in the field of public administration for his classic book about street-level bureaucracy.

Street-level bureaucracy

The concept of street-level bureaucracy was popularized by Michael Lipsky in 1980. He argued that "policy implementation in the end comes down to the people who actually implement it".[1] He argued that state employees such as police and social workers should be seen as part of the "policy-making community" and as exercisers of political power.

Lipsky identified several problems with street-level bureaucracy, including "the problem of limited resources, the continuous negotiation that is necessary in order to make it seem like one is meeting targets, and the relations with (nonvoluntary) clients".[1] However, some commentators have challenged Lipsky's model. Tony Evans and John Harris argue that "the proliferation of rules and regulations should not automatically be equated with greater control over professional discretion; paradoxically, more rules may create more discretion."[2] They also argue that the exercise of professional discretion by street-level bureaucrats is not inherently "bad", but can be seen as an important professional attribute.[2]


  1. ^ a b Lipsky, M., Street-level Bureaucracy; Dilemmas of the Individual in Public Services, 1980, view summary
  2. ^ a b Evans, T.; Harris, J. (2004). "Street-Level Bureaucracy, Social Work and the (Exaggerated) Death of Discretion".  

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