Reputation-Sourced Authority and the Prospect of Unchecked Bureaucratic Power

Anthony M. Bertelli, Madalina Busuioc

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


We explore the democratic implications of a reputational account of bureaucratic authority. While an influential literature has examined the relevance of reputation—and mutual exchange between principals and agents in public organizations generally—the normative implications of these insights have largely escaped scrutiny. We discuss how reputation-building impacts both the ability and the motivation of principals to oversee administrative policymaking. We argue that reputation-sourced authority eschews ex ante incentives through the claims-making and maneuvering of bureaucrats as they develop reputations with audiences. At the same time, it de-legitimizes ex post oversight because monitoring and compliance must compete both with reputational authority and with resistance from the audiences that are the very sources of such authority.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-48
Number of pages11
JournalPublic Administration Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Marketing


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