Religion and representative bureaucracy: Does religion guide administrative discretion?

Karl O'Connor, Usamah Shahwan

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In this paper we seek to understand how religion influences discretion in a developing fragile society: Palestine. Drawing on a recent review of the religion and public administration literature and the theory of representative bureaucracy, we ask: Does active representation on behalf of a religious identity exist? And if so, what does it look like? We explore four different possible manifestations, including none at all. In other words, this is a study of how religiosity influences civil servant behaviour in instances of discretion. Using original small-n in-person survey data, we find active representation by a majority of mid-level civil servants on behalf of a religious identity; we find evidence of religious service being underpinned by public service motivation and by pro-social motivation. Others are guided by traditional Weberian bureaucratic values while others are guided by what they perceive to be the religious foundation of the bureaucracy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalPublic Policy and Administration
Early online date6 Jun 2024
Publication statusPublished online - 6 Jun 2024

Bibliographical note

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© The Author(s) 2024.


  • Discretion
  • public service motivation
  • pro-social motivation
  • representative bureaucracy
  • Religion


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