The Partisan-Professional-Dichotomy revisited: Politicization and Decision-Making of Senior Civil Servants

Falk Ebinger, Sylvia Veit, Nadin Fromm

Publikation: Wissenschaftliche FachzeitschriftOriginalbeitrag in FachzeitschriftBegutachtung

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Politicization has an ambivalent reputation among public administration scholars. While considered an effective instrument to safeguard political control over ministerial bureaucracy, partisanship of senior civil servants is likewise associated with patronage and deemed detrimental to professionalism and meritocracy. To scrutinize this contradiction, the article examines how a party‐political background of senior civil servants influences their decision‐making behavior. Two theoretically derived conceptions of loyalty are put therefore to the test: responsiveness and responsibility. Effects are captured by using vignette technique in 40 in‐depth interviews with former senior civil servants from ministerial departments at federal and state level in Germany. The results are surprising insofar as they reveal that politicized senior civil servants neither act more responsive nor less responsible than their non‐politicized peers. These findings challenge common assumptions and call for a more refined analysis of the conditions under which politicization leads to negative effects.
Seiten (von - bis)861 - 876
FachzeitschriftPublic Administration
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 2019

Österreichische Systematik der Wissenschaftszweige (ÖFOS)

  • 506014 Vergleichende Politikwissenschaft
  • 506009 Organisationstheorie
  • 502024 Öffentliche Wirtschaft
  • 509004 Evaluationsforschung


  • Politicization; Senior Civil Servants; Responsiveness; Responsibility; Patronage; Decision-making