T05P01 - Public Management Reforms across the Globe: Results, Challenges and Issues

Topic : Policy Formulation, Administration and Policymakers

Panel Chair : Zeger Van der Wal - zvdwal@gmail.com

Panel Second Chair : Salvador Parrado - sparrado@poli.uned.es

Panel Third Chair : Anne-Marie Reynaers - reynaers.annemarie@gmail.com

Objectives and Scientific Relevance of the panel

The way in which public policy is developed or implemented has changed substantially in the past 30 years. Various new paradigms are said to have partially substituted traditional modes of public policy formulation and implementation, therewith creating room for initiatives stemming from markets, non-governmental organizations, and civil society. Scholars argue that Traditional Public Administration (TPA) has been replaced by or blended with new modes of delivery and implementation, and new perspectives on the role of government, most notably New Public Management (NPM), New Public Governance (NPG), and Public Value Management (PVM) (e.g., Bryson 2014; Moore 2013; Osborne 2010; Politt and Bouckaert).  

All too often such paradigms are situated and discussed chronologically as if public management practices, values, and arrangements have neatly replaced each other over time, and behavior of public managers has changed along accordingly. Clearly, however, hierarchy still affects resource allocation mechanisms and policy processes. As such, traditional public administration (TPA) keeps providing the foundational software for many current ‘upgraded’ programs and applications. Noordegraaf (2015: 3) asserts: “This means that the ‘era of new public governance’ is relative and that public management can never be reduced to one (new) grand story, whether it is old public administration, new public management or new public governance.”


This observation is even more salient when we compare different regions, countries, and systems. Indeed, what we designate as ‘new’ or ‘change’ is highly dependent on contextual and cultural environment and stage of development. Seemingly similar changes, approaches, and techniques have been implemented quite differently, and with varying degrees of success, across the globe. Indeed, some question the alleged ‘convergence’ of business-like, NPM-inspired public management reforms in the past 30 years, driven by key players in the global public management industry such as the World Bank and OECD (Andrews 2013; Pollitt 2000; Pollitt and Bouckaert 2011).

Lynn (2006: 157-158) asserts:

National developments that in the 1990s had been confidently proclaimed to be harbingers of a universal new approach to democratic governance have begun to be seen as nationally variegated adaptations to various forces for change rather than as transformations of constitutional institutions: as new wine in old bottles.

Thus, we should distinguish ‘talk’ from ‘practice’ (Pollitt 2010) in discussing public management reforms. Moreover, we should refrain from easy generalizations about the components and effects of such reforms across contexts. For example, in the West NPM has been declared ‘dead’ many times (Dunleavy et al. 2006), rightly or wrongly so. However, many of its core characteristics are still very much alive in externally driven as well as internally architected public management reforms in the developed world, with China being an intriguing example (Christensen et al. 2012).

Clearly, there is still a world to win for comparative and contextual research into the how, why, and what of both particular reforms and reform agendas in different parts of the world. For this panel, we aim to select contributions from different countries and continents in order to meaningfully compare experiences, results, and future challenges from different contexts.

Call for papers

This panel brings together (comparative) empirical and theoretical contributions that scrutinize the nature, results, and challenges of public sector reforms in different parts of the world. Reforms and reform agendas can be critically examined in terms of their effect on public values, efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery, democratic deficit, regulation, and quality of governance, to name a few.

In particular, this panel seeks papers on the following topics:

  1. Theoretical, empirical, and methodological accounts of management reforms in agencies, sectors, and countries;
  2. Comparative examinations of how reforms are conceptualized, implemented, and (politically) framed and branded in agencies, countries, and sectors;
  3. Innovative perspectives and methods on (comparatively) studying public management reforms and their actual effects;
  4. The political dynamics of reform and their interplay with administrative dynamics within agencies;
  5. Specific – intended and unintended – effects of public management reforms on issues such as public values, public service motivation, job satisfaction, human resource management practices, and cross-sectoral collaboration.
Export PDF