Street-Level Organizational Theory

Research output: Chapter in Book/Entry/PoemChapter


Street-level organizational (SLO) theory argues that when public policy is ambiguous and workers use discretion to interpret it, a full account of policy practice must begin with an analysis of how policy is experienced and enacted by those who are charged with executing it. This article builds upon the conceptual foundation of SLO theory to examine how workers reproduce power in their everyday encounters with clients. It contends that power is located in the structural conditions of work and multidimensional in its effects. It concludes by pointing to the path ahead. SLO theory has evolved to engage critically with the New Public Management, making visible its perverse effects on public services. In the absence of meaningfully addressing the imbalance of resources and demands in public services, SLO theory cautions that new managerial reforms are bound to recapitulate familiar dilemmas that have long bedeviled policy practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Governance and Public Management for Social Policy
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9780190916350
ISBN (Print)9780190916329
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023


  • conditions of work
  • discretion
  • power in organizations
  • street-level organizations
  • the New Public Management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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