chapter  5
12 Pages

Court Politics: Presidential Staff Relations as a Special Case of a General Phenomenon*

The conception of court politics provides a counterpoint or modification of Weber's classic discussion of bureaucracy. Merit, formal professional achievement, standard patterns of career, selection, and promotion are the indispensable requirements of a true bureaucracy. It should be pointed out that in many organizations and polities, there may be more than one court. A true court is not a staff as such. It is a personal team, a personal staff, with the primary responsibility of carrying out the top man's purposes. Staff is also used, of course, to refer to budget and planning and intelligence and personnel records and disaster relief; but these are not functions where carrying out the top man's purposes is central. Forty years or so ago, my former teacher, Charles E. Merriam, was working with Louis Brownlow and others on a program for improving the administration of the White House staff, a program now probably best remembered because of the phrase 'passion for anonymity'.