All CDDRL Events Seminars

Defining Bureaucratic Autonomy

Tuesday, November 1, 2022 | 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM (Pacific)

Virtual to Public. Only those with an active Stanford ID with access to E008 in Encina Hall may attend in person.


One of the most undertheorized issues in all of government today is the question of bureaucratic autonomy, that is, the degree of discretion that political principals should grant to bureaucratic agents. This article reviews the literature on bureaucratic autonomy both in US administrative law and in political science. It uses the American experience to define five mechanisms by which political principals grant and limit autonomy, then goes on to survey the comparative literature on other democratic systems using the American framework as a baseline. Other democracies use different mixtures of these mechanisms, for example by substituting stronger ex post review for ex ante procedures or using appointment and removal power in place of either. We find that the administrative law and social science literatures on this topic approach it very differently, and that both would profit from greater awareness of the other discipline.


Katherine BerschKatherine Bersch is a Kellogg Fellow at the University of Notre Dame (2022-23) and the Nancy Akers and J. Mason Wallace Assistant Professor of Political Science at Davidson College. A research affiliate of the CDDRL Stanford Governance Project, she is also a co-founder of the Global Survey of Public Servants. Her research focuses on democratic quality in developing countries, with an emphasis on governance reform and state capacity in Latin America. She is the author of When Democracies Deliver: Governance Reform in Latin America (Cambridge University Press, 2019), which won the Van Cott Best Book Prize from LASA, the Levine Book Prize from IPSA, and the ASPA Prize for the Best Book Published in Public Administration.

FrankFrancis Fukuyama has written widely on issues in development and international politics. His 1992 book, The End of History and the Last Man, has appeared in over twenty foreign editions. His most recent book, Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment, was published in September 2018. His latest book, Liberalism and Its Discontents, was published in the spring of 2022.

Dr. Fukuyama received his B.A. from Cornell University in classics, and his Ph.D. from Harvard in Political Science. He was a member of the Political Science Department of the RAND Corporation, and of the Policy Planning Staff of the US Department of State. From 1996-2000 he was Omer L. and Nancy Hirst Professor of Public Policy at the School of Public Policy at George Mason University, and from 2001-2010 he was Bernard L. Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University. He served as a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics from 2001-2004.

Dr. Fukuyama holds honorary doctorates from Connecticut College, Doane College, Doshisha University (Japan), Kansai University (Japan), Aarhus University (Denmark), and the Pardee Rand Graduate School. He is a non-resident fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and at the Center for Global Development. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Rand Corporation, the Board of Governors of the Pardee Rand Graduate School, and the Volcker Alliance. He is a member of the American Political Science Association and the Council on Foreign Relations. He is married to Laura Holmgren and has three children.

Virtual to Public. Only those with an active Stanford ID with access to E008 in Encina Hall may attend in person.