Delmer Dunn's important new book is a shorter, Australian version of Hugh Heclo's Government of Strangers—really more a government of friends in this case. . . . Politics and Administration at the Top is a provocative and insightful work that should be read by scholars and practitioners.
Winner of the 1998 Charles Levine Award for best book on administration and policyDunn focuses on two levers of power in modern democracies, the elected party politician and the professional state bureaucrat, using Australia as his example. Dunn uses interviews with Cabinet ministers, members of their staffs, and department heads of two governments in Australia to see how ministers seek to provide political direction to the bureaucracy. He examines the extent to which they succeed and how their direction is both influenced by and acted on by the departments. Dunn's analysis provides a rare look at high-level relationships between politicians and executive departments in one democratic government and offers insights into issues of accountability and responsibility in democratic governments. His findings, based on his in-depth look at a government that blends many features of both U.S. and British governments, reveal the fundamentals that are necessary to make this key relationship work well and are thus pertinent to public administration in all democracies.
It is refreshing that Delmer Dunn, a well-known US public administration academic, . . .[in] a reversal of the usual process, looks at the administrative system in Australia for its implications on American government. . . . There is much value in the insights that a well-informed outsider can have and often more than insiders. For this reason, it is hoped that Politics and Administration at the Top: Lessons from Down Under gains an Australian audience as well.
The book is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in efforts to improve the way in which modern democracies make and carry out policy decisions.
Politics and Administration at the Top is an extraordinary examination of the broader issues of Australian reform. . . . It is also an artful wedding of the lessons of the Australian experience with the problems now confronting those who would reform American public bureaucracies. . . . notable for drawing important lessons for those who would teach future and present members of the public service . . . this is a book that embodies the values and the scholarship that Charles Levine held dear.
Drawing on a rich set of interviews with top Australian officials, Dunn provides new insight into the interplay between politics and administration. His work will make scholars rethink their notion of how bureaucrats and politicians define their roles and responsibilities.
This excellent book provides not only a sophisticated analysis of politics and administration at the top Australian national government, but also valuable lessons for improving governance in the United States. . . . I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in the theory and practice of public administration.