Street-Level Bureaucrats in a Catch-All Bureaucracy

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Since 2015 Dutch street-level bureaucrats have ample discretionary space to determine how to help clients. Simultaneously, resources were reduced. According to Zacka SLBs should avoid three pathological positions: indifference, caregiving, and enforcing. At the individual level SLBs supposedly accomplish that by a gymnastics of the self. We observed SLBs. They avoided the pathological positions by (1) reframing the reigning policy for clients (enforcing caringly) and (2) managing clients’ self-image, bolstering their confidence, or tempering their expectations (caring forcefully). SLBs practice a gymnastics of the client alongside a gymnastics of the self. SLBs thus make the reigning policy palatable for clients.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2021-2047
Number of pages27
JournalAdministration and Society
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jun 2022


  • Zacka
  • catch-all bureaucracy
  • decentralization
  • street-level bureaucrats
  • the Netherlands

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