Posted on Monday, August 25, 2014
Acclaimed political scientist Zachary Oberfield '98 recently published his first book, "Becoming Bureaucrats: Socialization at the Front Lines of Government Service." Released in May by University of Pennsylvania Press, the book explores the question, "Are bureaucrats born or are they made?"
Professor of Political Science at Haverford College, Oberfield bases the book on his own study of two paths of public servants - police officers and welfare caseworkers. Following a set of these workers through their first two years of work, Oberfield's study charts how public-sector entrants develop their bureaucratic identities, motivations and attitudes. Through in-depth interviews and surveys, Oberfield's study complicates the long-standing cliché that bureaucracies churn out bureaucrats with "mechanical efficiency."
Michael Lipsky, distinguished fellow at Demos, calls the book "a rich inquiry into a critical dimension of the creation of public services." Professor of Political Science at Chicago University John Brehm says that the book is a "strong contribution to the literature on public service provision and bureaucratic policies."
Oberfield began to acquire his expertise in political science while a student at HWS, where he earned his B.A. in political science. Professor of Political Science Craig Rimmerman, who was Oberfield's adviser and professor, says: "He exhibited so much academic promise and potential as an undergraduate student, and I was just delighted that he decided to pursue a graduate degree in political science with an eye on teaching at the undergraduate level."
At HWS, Oberfield was a member of Kappa Alpha society, Chimera junior honor society, and the cross-country team. He was a Hobart Scholar during his sophomore year and studied abroad in Geneva, Switzerland and participated in the Washington, D.C. semester. Additionally, he interned for former Senator Tom Daschle. He went on to earn his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his dissertation on welfare policy and street level bureaucrats won the American Political Science Association's 2009 Leonard D. White award for the best dissertation in the field of public administration.
Oberfield has taught political science at the City College of New York, Temple University and University of Wisconsin-Madison. His previous works have been published in the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory and The Mass Media and Latino Politics.
"His recent book accomplishment is no surprise to me, it marks the beginning of what I know will be a lasting contribution to the discipline of political science and to his continued development as an outstanding teacher and mentor to Haverford College students," says Rimmerman. "His students and colleagues are lucky to have him, and I'm so proud to call him my student."