Course level: Undergraduate

Université de Montréal

Civil servants are subject to contradictory characterizations. They are sometimes portrayed as omnipotent or, on the contrary, inefficient, too many or too few in number, servants of the public good or in the pay of special interests… It is not for the political scientist or sociologist to comment on these value judgments. They can, however, shed light on the debate by trying to identify a few major trends. As its name suggests, comparative public administration aims to identify the salient features of the “bureaucratic phenomenon” by comparing administrative systems past and present (comparison in time) and those of different countries (comparison in space).

In particular, this approach will address the following questions: have bureaucracies always existed? Have civil servants always played the same role throughout history? Why is it that in some countries, the administration has managed to emancipate itself from political arbitrariness, while in others, patrimonial practices (clientelism or patronage) are still present? Why is it that, in some countries, the administration enjoys a wide margin of autonomy from political power, while in others, its actions are more subject to pressure from partisan and social forces? Are we witnessing a profound transformation of public administrations today, under the combined effects of decentralization, supranational integration, globalization, etc.?

Course syllabus in French (32.34 KB)