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date: 27 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article first defines what is meant by networks and how they became central concerns in American bureaucracy. It illustrates how networks have become vital for exploring and promoting potential solutions, and how they are rather limited in exercising real power. To exemplify, it shows how public agencies retain some very important legal, financing, servicing, auditing, and other powers when involved in networks of nongovernmental organizations. It also examines some formal and institutional constraints precluding networks from trumping the power of the state. It then reviews how networks pose significant challenges for public agencies because of a lack of dominance by either government or nongovernmental network members. Prior research suggests that neither government, nor networks, nor nongovernmental actors in networks consistently dominate. Furthermore, it urges researchers to abandon simplistic notions of a ‘hollow state’ and determines several promising areas for future research.

Keywords: American bureaucracy, networks, networking, public agencies, nongovernmental organizations, power

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