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

Falk Ebinger, Sylvia Veit, Nadin Fromm

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review

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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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)861 - 876
JournalPublic Administration
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 506014 Comparative politics
  • 506009 Organisation theory
  • 502024 Public economy
  • 509004 Evaluation research


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

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