How street-level dilemmas and politics shape divergence: The accountability regimes framework

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Hierarchical accountability often proves insufficient to control street-level implementation, where complex, informal accountability relations prevail and tasks must be prioritized. However, scholars lack a theoretical model of how accountability relations affect implementation behaviors that are inconsistent with policy. By extending the Accountability Regimes Framework (ARF), this paper explains how multiple competing subjective street-level accountabilities translate into policy divergence. The anti-terrorism “Prevent Duty” policy in the United Kingdom requires university lecturers to report any student they suspect may be undergoing a process of radicalization. We ask: what perceived street-level accountabilities and dilemmas does this politically contested policy imply for lecturers, and how do they affect divergence? An online survey of British lecturers (N = 809), combined with 35 qualitative follow-up interviews, reveals that accountability dilemmas trigger policy divergence. The ARF models how street-level bureaucrats become informal policymakers in the political system when rules clash with their roles as professionals, citizen-agents, or “political animals.”.




Thomann, E., Maxia, J., & Ege, J. (2023). How street-level dilemmas and politics shape divergence: The accountability regimes framework. Policy Studies Journal.

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