Burdens, Sludge, Ordeals, Red Tape, Oh My! A User’s Guide to the Study of Frictions

Jonas Krogh Madsen*, Kim Sass Mikkelsen, Donald P. Moynihan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Recent years has seen dramatic growth to the study of frictions that individuals experience, especially in their interactions with the public sector, creating both the potential for new research opportunities and conceptual confusion. We seek to head off the latter by providing, in one place, a definition, description of the development, and comparison of four dominant conceptions of frictions: ordeal mechanisms, red tape, administrative burden, and sludge. In particular, we discuss the four concepts' definition and use in terms of their objectivity, distributive effects, object and domain, and deliberate design. The paper helps researchers to understand the overlap and distinctions between these concepts, and the role of public administration in these different traditions. Comparisons of the different approaches' thinking also suggest opportunities for mutual learning.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPublic Administration
VolumeAccepted Articles
Number of pages33
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2020

Bibliographical note

Important note from the Publisher regarding the attached version of the article: "This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Krogh Madsen, J., Sass Mikkelsen, K. and Moynihan, D. (2021), Burdens, Sludge, Ordeals, Red Tape, Oh My! A User’s Guide to the Study of Frictions. Public Admin. Accepted Author Manuscript, which has been published in final form at https://doi.org/10.1111/padm.12717. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions."

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