Civil Service

Itzhak Galnoor, Jennifer Oser

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The civil service is the generic name given in English to the administrative apparatus of the state. Historically, bureaucratic administrations were developed in Egypt and China to serve the rulers, or the dynasty. These bureaucrats were engaged in activities such as land registration, water allocation, tax collection and above all managing war-related affairs. The emergence of the modern civil service is directly connected to the crystallization of the European-style state. A professional, career civil service (based on entrance examinations) was first introduced in Prussia and France and subsequently in Britain and the United States. In democratic states, the professional civil service is assumed to exist as a differentiated and mostly politically neutral institution. By contrast, in nondemocratic regimes the public bureaucracy operates sometimes from the ruler's palace, the military barracks, or the party's headquarters. Civil servants are in charge of many different activities that can be grouped under three headings: shaping and implementing public policy; providing services to individuals, groups, and organizations; and administrating regulatory schemes. These areas of responsibility shift over time. In the 2000s, the modern version of the state is changing and the size, structure, and functions of the civil service are in transition and transformation. Independent public and private entities and agencies are performing what used to be civil service tasks. Other functions have been privatized or 'outsourced' and if a 'skeleton state' will emerge, it may shatter many of the old features of the classical civil service model. Furthermore, new forms of collaborative governance have emerged, which bring together civil service departments and a range of private and voluntary organizations, causing the boundaries between the sectors of government, civil society, and business to become increasingly blurred.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences: Second Edition
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9780080970875
ISBN (Print)9780080970868
StatePublished - 26 Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Agency theory
  • Bounded rationality
  • Bureaucracy and bureaucratization
  • Collaborative government
  • Decision-making systems
  • Delegation of power
  • Executive branch
  • Government
  • Institution-building
  • Policy making
  • Privatization
  • Public administration
  • Public management, new
  • Regulation
  • Weber, Max (1864-1920)


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