Post-Cameralist Governance

Toward a Robust Political Economy of Bureaucracy

Originally published in Economic Affairs

I develop a robust political economy of bureaucracy by highlighting the conditions necessary for hierarchical administrative bodies to govern protectively and productively, but not predatorily. These conditions are residual claimancy and jurisdictional competition. I make this argument by exploring a post-cameralist interpretation of governance. Cameralism arose as a governance philosophy in the fractured principalities of seventeenth-century Germany following the Thirty Years' War. Post-cameralism focuses not on particular cameralist governance strategies but on a paradigm which sees governance as an activity provided within a larger exchange order, rather than imposing itself on that order as in more conventional treatments of public economics. While a post-cameralist conception of governance comes with its own challenges, such as tensions with normative visions that promote self-governance, it nonetheless presents an intriguing synthesis of monocentric and polycentric insights.