The Contributions Of Anthony Downs’ “The Inside Of Bureaucracy” To Public Administration Essay


Anthony Downs was born on November 21, 1930 in Illinois. He is one of the prominent scholars who have contributed significantly to the field of public administration and policy. Since the year 1977, Anthony Downs has been working at Brookings Institution as a Senior Fellow.

This paper examines the contribution of Anthony Downs’ “The Inside of Bureaucracy” to Public Administration. He has other publications on the same field of public administration.

The contributions of Anthony Downs’ “The Inside of Bureaucracy” to Public Administration

Anthony Downs has written extensively on bureaucracy. It is incongruous that bureaucracy is still a common term of disparagement even though it is amongst the crucial institutions all over the globe. According to Downs, bureaucracy is defined as a structure of hierarchy. He argues that there are superiors, subordinates and equals for every official working in an organization.

The relationship between superiors and their subordinates is especially described by Downs as important for the reason that the chances for every official to improve his or her level within the bureau favor specific actors1; these actors may get a chance for promotion, increased salary and opportunities to further policies.

According to Downs, officials have four kinds of goals2. These are social conduct goals, basic personal goals, ultimate goals and basic political goals. Downs argues that there is a specific “type” of goal which is particularly bureau-oriented. They are sectioned into;

  1. Social function goals: this consists of the values of officials regarding the wide social functions accomplished by the bureau to which the officials belong3.
  2. Bureau-Structure goals: entails the values of officials with regard to the design of constitution of the bureaus to which the officials belong4.
  3. Broad bureau policy goals: comprises the long term objectives the bureau tracks so as to undertake its main social obligations5.
  4. Specific bureau policy goals: this entails the specific actions the bureau undertakes in its attempt to realize its broad policy objectives6.

According to Downs, there are five kinds of officials7. First type includes wholly self-interested officials who are mainly motivated nearly entirely by goals that only benefit either their constituents or just themselves.

Self-interested type is further divided into two sub-types: climbers who regard power, money and the prestige that come with the positions as the most important in their value structure and there are also conservative sub-type8. This sub-type regards security and convenience as the most crucial.

The second type, according to Downs is mixed motivated officials9. This type is composed of officials who merge humane allegiance to broader values and self-interest. The third type is zealot. Downs argue that this type is normally dedicated to moderately narrow concepts.

The fourth type is the advocates; they are usually loyal to a broader group of functions than their zealot counterparts. The last type is the statesmen. Statesmen play allegiance to the society in its entirety10.

Anthony Downs has also described the behaviors of each type of officials11. He argues that climbers are always in search of promotions and seek to find new opportunities with more benefits than their current positions12. Conservers, according to Downs, are not happy with any form of losses in their current power, prestige and money. Advocates encourage and support all they can within their authority.

They tend to have double-faced attitudes. Downs argues that each advocate greatly appears to take sides on the outside but appears to be impartial arbiters from inside. Zealots like to upset other officials by their inability to be partial. Statesmen are described by Downs to be doomed to be misfits in an office. They may exhibit behaviors of other types, especially the advocates13.

Downs’ contributions to public administration also include the determinants of the types of public officials. One of the determinants is psychological predisposition14. According to this determinant, an ambitious individual is inclined to be a climber while a nervous individual tends be more of a conserver than a climber.

The other determinant is the nature of position an official occupies. According to this determinant, every bureaucratic position occupied exercises a given amount of pressure on the occupants of the position to yield a desired behavior. The last determinant, according to arguments by Downs, is the prospect that an official essentially achieves the goals related to a specific style toward which an official is cognitively inclined.


Anthony Downs has made great contributions to the field of public administration through his book “The Inside of Bureaucracy” which has gained popularity within the field. Downs has written extensively on bureaucracy and public policy.

Some of his contributions include the goals of the officials within a bureaucracy. He has also written on what officials within a bureau may want. He has also given an in-depth discussion on the types of officials in different levels within a bureau. Besides, Downs has discussed the determinants of the types of officials. He has also given his ideas on the behavior associated with each type of officials.


Clark, William. Crime and Punishment in Soviet officialdom: Combating Corruption in the Political Elite, 1965-1990. New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1993.

Downs, Anthony. Inside Bureaucracy. Illinois, Waveland Press, 1993.

Downs, Anthony. Inside bureaucracy. Michigan: Little, Brown, 1967.

Stearns, Peter. The Oxford encyclopedia of the modern world, Volume 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Terry, Larry. Leadership of public bureaucracies: the administrator as conservator. New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2002.


1 Anthony Downs, Inside Bureaucracy (Illinois: Waveland Press, 1993), 80-81.

2 Peter Stearns, The Oxford encyclopedia of the modern world, Volume 1 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 1-67.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid.

7 Larry Terry, Leadership of public bureaucracies: the administrator as conservator (New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2002), 38-39.

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid.

11 William Clark, Crime and Punishment in Soviet officialdom: Combating Corruption in the Political Elite, 1965-1990 (New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1993), 23-31.

12 Ibid.

13 Ibid.

14 Anthony Downs, Inside bureaucracy (Michigan: Little, Brown, 1967), 25-59.

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