The endurance of the pre-bureaucratic and eGovernment hybridity at the street-level : An ethnographic study

Alshallaqi, Mohammad and Hayes, Niall and McCabe, Darren (2019) The endurance of the pre-bureaucratic and eGovernment hybridity at the street-level : An ethnographic study. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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How is a post-bureaucratic reform under the rubric of eGovernment enacted at the street-level in a Middle Eastern, specifically, Saudi Arabian context? And ‘what insights can be gained from describing this enactment to advance debates on bureaucracy versus post-bureaucracy as well as debates on street-level bureaucracy?’ These questions underpin the focus of this ethnographic study. The conventional wisdom in the debate on bureaucracy versus post-bureaucracy is that the outcomes of post-bureaucratic reforms indicate hybridisation of bureaucratic and post-bureaucratic characteristics. In this thesis, I argue that this debate is limited by its overlook of the ‘pre-bureaucratic’ (Weber, 1978). The pre-bureaucratic manifests clearly at the street-level (Lipsky, 1983), where it has been argued that street-level bureaucrats exercise discretion in ways that deviate from the formal bureaucratic rationality toward the pre-bureaucratic. In the Middle East, the pre-bureaucratic at the street-level is intermeshed with local cultural practices that suffuse everyday work in bureaucratic organisations. Public sector post-bureaucratic reforms in the guise of eGovernment were poised to overcome not only bureaucratic inertia but also pre-bureaucratic practices in this context. The findings of this thesis demonstrate that eGovernment at the street-level is enacted through a negotiated order (Strauss, 1978) that indicates hybridisation of the pre-bureaucratic, the bureaucratic, and the post-bureaucratic. The emerging pattern is characterised, drawing on Gouldner (1954), as a ‘mock post-bureaucracy’ pattern. The theoretical contributions of the thesis are discussed in relation to the debates on bureaucracy versus post-bureaucracy and street-level bureaucracy. The thesis also extends empirical and methodological contributions.

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25 Nov 2019 11:05
Last Modified:
22 Nov 2023 01:03