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Debate | StepTalks

The moral life of street-level bureaucrats

  • Bernardo Zacka
Tuesday 20 February 2018
StepTalks: science at the Spanish Steps
Turfmarkt 99
2511 DP The Hague
Spanish Steps


When citizens interact with the state, they encounter street-level bureaucrats—the welfare workers, police officers, counselors and educators responsible for implementing public policy and enforcing the law. By combining political theory with ethnographic fieldwork, I aim to show that street-level bureaucrats are caught in a troubling predicament. The proper implementation of public policy depends on their capacity to act as sensible moral agents, yet they must operate in a bureaucratic environment that tends to truncate that very moral agency.

Short Bio

Bernardo Zacka is a junior research fellow in political theory at Christ’s College, Cambridge, and will start as an assistant professor of political science at MIT in fall 2018. 

The Public Ethics Talks

The Public Ethics Talks series that will present cutting-edge work in ethics, moral philosophy, political theory and the normative theory of law, as applied to the morality of national and international public policy, government and governance matters, and public organizations and management practice. The talks are open to students, academics, government professionals, civil servants, and interested members of the public.


All faculties and institutes based at the Campus The Hague can take the initiative to organise a  StepTalk that appeals to students and staff from the entire range of studies at the Campus The Hague. Speakers can be internal as well as external. The StepTalks will be inspiring, varied and relevant and will take place on a regular basis. 

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