Learning to be Political or Above Politics: The Case for Public Managers in Taiwan's Democratic Transition

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Learning to be Political or Above Politics:

The Case of Public Managers in Taiwan’s Democratic Transition

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By Don-yun Chen*

Tong-yi Huang**

Chilik Yu***

Abstract

In the field of public administration, the relation between democracy and bureaucracy is one of the focal points of scholarly research. However, these studies are mainly grounded in democratic states such as U. S. We seldom have chances to systematically apply these theories into a state moving from an authoritarian rule to a democratic polity. In this article, authors use Taiwan as a critical case to show how these theories can be applied to a politically dynamic environment. Since the early 1980s, Taiwan has been transforming from authoritarian into democratic rule. The peak of Taiwanese democratization is when DPP defeated fifty-year ruling KMT in the 2000 presidential election.

In this paper, authors first depict the controversies in theories of bureaucratic autonomy in a polity. On the meaning of instrumentality, bureaucracy is the delegated agent to work according to its principal’s will. The principal can be a popular-elected president or an emperor. Institutional restrictions on bureaucratic autonomy are necessary for this purpose. However, theories of public administration also point to the necessity for bureaucratic autonomy by pursuing professionalism. As a result, certain institutional insulation should be established in order for bureaucracy to work in the strife of politics. To show how the balance is changing after Taiwan’s first-ever power transfer at central government in 2000, authors analyze two surveys conducted in 1999 and 2005 on public managers about their political tolerance and programmatic commitment.

+ Paper prepared for the Annual Meeting of the Chinese Political Science Association, Taipei, TAIWAN, 2005.10.1~2.

*Associate professor at the Department of Public Administration, National Chengchi University in Taiwan. (paper correspondence; e-mail: donc@nccu.edu.tw)

**Associate professor at the Department of Public Administration, National Chengchi University in Taiwan.

***Professor and Chair at the Department of Public Policy and Management, Shih Hsin University in Taiwan

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