Downs’ Typology of Officials

… a core concept in Implementation and Delivery and Atlas107

Concept description

In his classic 1964 article, Inside Bureaucracy, Anthony Downs (reference below) sets out five types of government officials. Downs elaborated these in a book by the same name published by Little Brown in 1967 and WikiSummary (reference below) summarizes these types as:

  1. Climbers: In search of promotions, he seeks to aggrandize his current office/income and find new opportunities above it (or outside the bureau).
  2. Conservers: Motivated by job security and convenience, they strongly oppose any losses in their existing power, income, and prestige but do not actively pursue more of these “goods”.
  3. Advocates: As partisans, advocates promote everything they can within their jurisdiction. They have the tendency toward two-faced attitudes: each advocate is highly partisan externally, but an impartial arbiter internally.
  4. Zealots are poor general administrators because of the narrowness of their interests. They antagonize other officials by their refusal to be impartial. They are almost never assigned to high-level administrative or command positions.
  5. Statesmen: “Natural” statesmen are doomed to be misfits in office. Most are forced by the exigencies of their positions to behave like some other type (usually advocates).

WikiSummary notes that Downs distinguished four types of goals that motivate officials:

  • Social function goals comprise the values of officials concerning the broad social functions carried out by the bureau to which they belong.
  • Bureau-structure goals comprise the values of officials concerning the “constitutional design” of their bureaus.
  • Broad bureau policy goals involve the longer-term objectives that the bureau pursues in order to carry out its major social functions.
  • Specific bureau policy goals involve the particular actions that the bureau takes in attempting to achieve its broad policy goals.

And that Downs suggested three key determinants of an official’s type:

  • Psychological predispositions. An ambitious man tends to be a climber; a timorous one tends to be a conserver.
  • The nature of the position occupied by the official. Each bureaucratic position exerts a certain amount of pressure upon its occupant to exhibit specific behavior patterns.
  • The probability that an official actually attain the goals associated with the particular type toward which he is psychologically inclined.
Atlas topic, subject, and course

The Study of Implementation and Delivery (core topic) in Implementation and Delivery and Atlas107 Implementation and Delivery


Anthony Downs (1964), Inside Bureaucracy, P-2963, Rand Corporation, at, accessed 19 January 2017.

WikiSummary, Downs: Inside bureaucracy, at, accessed 19 January 2017.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 19 January 2017.

Image: Futurama Wiki, Central Bureaucracy, at, accessed 19 January 2017.