Governments Under Stress: Political
Executives And Key Bureaucrats In Washington, London and Ottawa, Collin
Campbell, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1983, 388p.
Colin Campbell suggests that this book,
which treats a number of issues concerning the relationship between central
agencies and executive leadership in the United States, the United Kingdom and
Canada, may appeal to the latent chief executive in many of its readers by
asking. "If you were president or prime minister, how would you try to get
it 'right' from the start"?
In seeking an answer to this question, Dr.
Campbell developed a useful framework of analysis to study executive government
in three political systems which have common roots as well as significant
differences: two are parliamentary and one congressional, two are federal and
one is unitary. In each of the systems, there was at least one change of
government during the period of study, so that comparisons can be made not only
among the three countries but also between successive governments in each.
The arm-chair executive may be awed at the
influences or constraints that face a newly elected president or prime minister
in a complex industrialized society. Colin Campbell, in analyzing the
interaction of these influences, leadership styles and the organization and
operation of central agencies, has made a major contribution to our
understanding of how a new incumbent must cut his or her cloth to fit the
circumstances. Among the influences he cites are those that may persist far
into the future (the bipolar nature of global politics); those which may
sustain themselves at least through more than one mandate (stagflation); those
that occur during a mandate and relate principally to the legislative and
electoral calendars; the partisan situation of the incumbent; institutional
resources at the disposal of the incumbent, and the personality of the
Campbell has chosen to focus on how these
constraints or "influences" affect the way a president or prime
minister pursues a particular style of leadership which in addition to the
setting the tone of the government, may bring about changes in the resources,
organization and operation of central agencies designed to achieve his or her
goals. He suggests that there are four leadership styles: broker politics, where
key policy decisions are made in the periphery through negotiations between
units with competing expertise and authority. which are tracked and managed by
central agencies, administrative politics. where single departments and
agencies gain near hegemony over segments of policy management; planning and
priorities, where units are challenged to propose crosscutting policy
alternatives which central agencies are expected to bring together in a
comprehensive strategy; and politics of survival where, under severe political
stress, many matters previously decided at the periphery, are brought to the
centre for decision.
Interviews with 265 career and politically
appointed senior officials in central agencies in Washington, London and Ottawa
provided the basis for analyzing the interaction of influences, executive
leadership and central agencies. This approach has its limitations. The degree
to which officials are at liberty to discuss all relevant matters is restricted
and, as Dr. Campbell discovered in London. access to officials or even to
organization charts may be difficult. Concentration on central agency staff
also leads to a somewhat formal analysis of how a new president or prime
minister tries to get it "right" from the start and perhaps places
insufficient emphasis on some of the other influences that may bear on
leadership style and on policy development or evaluation (elected members and
party "brass", friends in the City or. formerly. Transport House,
Canadian senators who may be unofficial policy advisors. transition teams,
etc.). Placing the emphasis on formal structures lessens the degree of
consideration given to informal structures. such as shadow committees of senior
officials, which may play in part central agency functions (although Dr
Campbell does refer, for example, to DIM 5 and DM 10).
Notwithstanding these limitations, Campbell
has provided a highly interesting examination of central agency performance in
three areas: strategic planning, the development and integration of economic
and fiscal policies; and the allocation and management of human and physical
resources The study weaves together a rich variety of facts, information on
organization, operations and resources, as well as assessments and opinion. A
number of observations appear to arise out of his study: collective
decision-making in parliamentary cabinet government may be more effective in
pursuing a government's goals than the centralization of executive authority in
the hands of the president; the United States has fallen behind other systems
in its machinery for co-ordinating interdepartmental decision-making and in
selecting policy advisors; the capacity to delegate and to avoid becoming
enmeshed in detail through the effective use of gatekeepers may contribute to
"successful" governance by a president or prime minister;
institutional and constitutional factors limit the degree to which a U.S.
president can pursue an active priorities and planning style of leadership.
Dr. Campbell concludes with some
prescriptive counsel for presidents and prime ministers who want to get it
right from the start while acknowledging that, in the last analysis. executive
leadership is an art. There is much food for thought. but some of his
recommendations stray from factual assessment and deal with perception. The
practitioners of the art will have to determine how appropriate his counsel is
in the light of their own circumstances. One would hope that, in a subsequent
study, Dr. Campbell might interview some former practitioners (presidents,
prime ministers and members of cabinet) to seek their assessment of the
strengths and weaknesses of central agencies and how best a chief executive
might get it right' from the start.
While this study represents a major
achievement in the area of comparative executive government, he has perhaps
concentrated too heavily on the executive branch. References to Congress and
Parliament abound in his book, but the importance of congressional relations or
parliamentary House planning is not highlighted. It is significant that the
Office of the President of the Privy Council is not listed as a Canadian
central agency. Questions arise: how do caucuses, congressional leadership.
meetings of House leaders and the prevailing situation in Congress or
Parliament affect executive strategic planning and, indeed. leadership style?
How do or should central agencies take account of these "influences"
in developing strategic plans?
It there are aspects of this study that
could be further developed or fleshed out Colin Campbell has nonetheless
provided a good framework for analysis and has manipulated a mass of
information to produce a coherent work that establishes a benchmark and will
stimulate further study. Although this may be considered an academic"
work. the style of writing and the presentation do no intimidate: the book
should appeal to the latent executive as well as to political practitioners,
officials and students of government.
James Ross Hurley, Federal Provincial Relations Office, Ottawa