Dismantling Democratic States

In This Review

Dismantling Democratic States

By Ezra N. Suleiman
Princeton University Press, 2003
368 pp. $39.50

In this powerful defense of the modern bureaucratic state, Suleiman argues that decades of attacks on government bureaucracy by Western politicians have undermined their own authority, weakened citizenship, and imperiled democratic governance. The remarkable spectacle of leaders denigrating the very institutions they were elected to run reinforces the view that bureaucracy is wasteful, parasitic, and unaccountable. Reform movements, in turn, have championed privatization and decentralization. Suleiman chronicles the resulting deprofessionalization and politicization of public bureaucracies, while emphasizing the relationship between efficient bureaucracy and democratic governance. The modern democratic state, he argues, has depended on the simultaneous construction of a professional civil service. All the great endeavors of Western democratic polities -- public education, democratic procedures, the conduct of war, the welfare state -- have required complex, highly organized, and nonpolitical public administration. Suleiman acknowledges that a leaner, more efficient state may be necessary today, but he makes a compelling case for the continuing necessity of the bureaucratic machine.

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