Jim Forrester, “Bounded rationality and the politics of muddling through” Public Administration Review 44 (1984), pp. 23-30.

Key point: develops the analysis of the boundedness of rational administrative action first to distinguish distinct types of constraints and bounds and second to identify the correspondingly distinct practical strategies of administrative action that may be taken in response to such decision-making. Argues that the practicality of what we do, however differently constrained or bounded it may be, depends upon our reading of the contexts within which we work.


Method: theory building.




*bounded conditions include:

**ambiguous and poorly defined problems.

**incomplete information about alternatives.

**incomplete information about the baseline, the background of the problem.

**incomplete information about the consequences of supposed alternatives.

**incomplete information about the range and content of values, preferences, and interests.

**limited time, limited skills, and limited resources.

*there are four types of bounds on rationality:

**cognitive limits: satisficing (rather than optimizing) becomes practical due to cognitive limits.

***problem: an ambiguous scope and basis of evaluation.

***practical strategy: satsifice/hedge, lower expectations.

**socially differentiated: information must be sought from others.

***problem: varying interpretations.

***practical strategy: network/search and satisfice.

**pluralist conflict: bargaining and adjustment become necessary in the face of conflicting interests.

***problem: multiple problem definitions (sense of value, right, impacts)

***practical strategy: bargain/increment, adjust/check.

**structurally distorted/politically economic: actors exist in a system of structurally induced inequality. Relations of power and differential resources become important.

***problem: problems are defined in ideological terms, informed by structural positions.

***practical strategy: anticipate/counteract, organize/democratize.