Democratic Backsliding and Public Administration

Writing on democratic backsliding focuses on three phenomena: the rise in populist rhetoric, the erosion of civil rights and the capture of judiciaries.
Often overlooked in this literature is how democratic backsliding implicates public administration. Indeed, much backsliding can be operationalized by eliminating bureaucratic constraints on majority rule.
Although eliminating such constraints is endorsed as realizing the people’s will, this paper argues that strong protections of the bureaucracy are needed since only a non-representative apparatus can constrain the excessive power of the elected part of the executive branch.
This claim will be demonstrated through a case study of Israeli bureaucracy, specifically examining several proposals for its reform, such as the weakening of civil service protections, increasing managerial flexibility, attempts to change the appointment process of legal advisors, weakening the diplomatic corps, and promoting the idea of a “deep state”.