Hollowing the brokers: Street level bureaucracies, network failures, and their implications for American industrial policy.

Authors: Joshua Whitford*,
Topics: Economic Geography
Keywords: Economic Development, Regions, reinstitutionalizing equity
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Maryland B, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The paper explores the potential (and, arguably, incipient) implications for American science and technology and industrial policies of hollowing out and skill losses among “street-level” bureaucrats at federal agencies construed as part of what Ansell defines as a “networked polity.” It takes as its starting point the demonstration in recent neo-Polanyian analyses, that: (1) the activities targeted by those policies are increasingly governed by decentralized production networks rather than markets or hierarchies, (2) “network failures” are therefore no less threatening to industrial dynamism than market or organizational failures, (3) the spatial and organizational decentralization of production have simultaneously increased the demand and broadened the support for American industrial policy, and (4) political decentralization is particularly amenable to the functioning of industrial policies designed to combat network failures. The paper builds on this established finding by linking it: (1) to a distinction in the forms of brokerage that street-level bureaucrats perform, where they are sometimes “market-making” and sometimes “network-making”; (2) the finding that the skills and relationships that are required for these different tasks only partially overlap; and (3) to the consequent hypothesis, grounded in an analysis of organizational and network structure, that some agencies are more vulnerable than others to rapid declines in their effectiveness in the wake of hollowing out.

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