Bureaucrats, Authoritarianism, and Role Conceptions

Karl O'Connor, Colin Knox, Saltanat Janenova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
37 Downloads (Pure)


Governance literature in the developed world is rich with scholarship on the role conceptions of civil servants and how these guide their behavior in the attainment of political objectives set by elected representatives. There is however a dearth of research on the various roles civil servants play in developing countries, specifically those located in authoritarian states. This study uses Q-methodology to examine the politician-bureaucrat interface in Kazakhstan, a highly centralized post-Soviet state. It finds evidence of three types of officials: job bureaucrats, policy entrepreneurs, and ethno-politicos. Tribalism and ethno-politics feature as an undercurrent in the political-administrative interface at the senior level. There is an overriding allegiance to the dominant political party that makes neutrality less important as an administrative tenet. Advancement as a career official has little to do with meritocracy, despite the façade, but rather connections are what matter.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)358-383
Number of pages26
JournalReview of Public Personnel Administration
Issue number2
Early online date15 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished online - 15 Nov 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research was funded by the British Academy project: Public Administration Reform in Kazakhstan (Grant PM150036). The authors wish to thank the anonymous reviews for their advice on a previous iteration of this paper. The usual disclaimer applies. ORCID iD Karl O’Connor https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4635-1204

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2019.


  • development
  • bureaucrat role conceptions
  • civil service reform
  • authoritarian
  • Q methodology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Public Administration


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