American administrative capacity: Decline, decay, and resilience

M. Ernita Joaquin, Thomas J. Greitens

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This volume proposes a capacity-centered approach for understanding American bureaucracy. The administrative institutions that made the country a superpower turned out to be fragile under Donald Trump's presidency. Laboring beneath systematic accusations of deep statism, combined with a market oriented federal administration, bureaucratic capacity manifested its decay in the public health and constitutional cataclysms of 2020, denting America's global leadership and contributing to its own people's suffering. The authors combine interviews with a historical examination of federal administrative reforms in the backdrop of the recent pandemic and electoral tumult to craft a developmental framework of the ebb and flow of capacity. While reforms, large and small, brought about professionalization and other benefits to federal administration, they also camouflaged a gradual erosion when anti-bureaucratic approaches became entrenched. A sclerotic, brittle condition in the government's capacity to work efficiently and accountably arose over time, even as administrative power consolidated around the executive. That co-evolutionary dynamic made federal government ripe for the capacity bifurcation, delegitimization, and disinvestment witnessed over the last four years. As the system works out the long-term impacts of such a deconstruction, it also prompts a rethinking of capacity in more durable terms. Calling attention to a more comprehensive appreciation of the dynamics around administrative capacity, this volume argues for Congress, citizens, and the good government community to promote capacity rebuilding initiatives that have resilience at the core. As such, the book will be of interest to citizens, public reformers, civic leaders, scholars and students of public administration, policy, and public affairs.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages217
ISBN (Electronic)9783030805647
ISBN (Print)9783030805630
StatePublished - Sep 29 2021


  • Administrative capacity
  • Administrative conservatorship
  • Capacity-centered reform
  • Civil service
  • Decline
  • Deconstruction of the administrative state
  • Public management reform
  • Reorganization
  • Resilience
  • Transactional reform


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