Transferring emotional capital as coerced discretion: Street-level bureaucrats reconciling structural deficiencies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The discretion of street-level bureaucrats (SLBs) plays a key role in policy implementation. This study offers a new perspective on the meaning of discretion under social policy reforms, which created new structural deficiencies in the work of SLBs and have raised expectations of policy implementation without offering sufficient policy responses. Under such conditions, the discretion of SLBs should be understood as coerced, more so than as a positive element of freedom and choice. As such, SLBs are forced to employ informal practices and provide alternative resources for their clients. Findings indicate a transference of emotional resources from SLBs to clients, aimed at achieving policy outcomes of economically independent citizens, paradoxically accompanied by an awareness of powerful barriers to such conversion. The study contributes both to the understanding of discretion in policy implementation, in the context of an expanding public service gap, and to theories of emotion manifestation in public administration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)910-925
Number of pages16
JournalPublic Administration
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
TWU’s Septuagint Institute fellows were directlyinvolved in NETS, and authored the introductionsand translationsofthe first four booksofthe Pentateuch. To markthe publicationofNETS in2007, the Septuagint Institute hosted the largest of the conferences that it has sponsored to date. Over three daysinSeptember 2008,scholarsfromEngland, Germany, France, the U.S., and Canada presented papers on the theme, “Septuagint Translation(s): Retrospect and Prospect.” Translators involvedinthe publicationofFrench, German, and Englishtranslations ofthe Septuagint participated inthe conference. Funding to host this event was gratefully received fromthe Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Priscilla and Stanford Reid Trust. A volume of the conference proceedings was edited by Robert Hiebert and published in 2010.33

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration


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