Bureaucrationality Behind the Scenes Field Study of Bureaucrats’ Balance Between Objectivity and Compassion

University essay from Lunds universitet/Statsvetenskapliga institutionen

Abstract: Considering the depersonalization that the bureaucratic role entails, it is interesting to analyze the bureaucratic role-play that occurs between public and private sphere from a dramaturgical perspective. In order to investigate the personal shift of bureaucrats’ attitude, I conducted participant observations and interviews at an office of a Swedish Agency. Based on critical theory and feminist critique, the main research question regarded how a bureaucrat is balancing between objectivity and compassion in their daily work. The findings show that fragmentation of bureaucratic system entails a distribution of accountability for each element of the process, however, absence of responsibility for the final outcome. Bureaucrats deciding upon cases are physically distanced from their customers, whereas street-level bureaucrats are mostly information providers. The system constitutes a precondition for emotional detachment and imbalance between objectivity and compassion. Expressing compassion is considered as belonging to the private sphere, among intimate relationships. Expressing objectivity, which represents reason, is considered as belonging to the public sphere.

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