Governance: An international journal of policy, administration and institutions

How China flouts conventional wisdom on institutions and growth

Conventional wisdom says that the quality of governance determines economic prospects.  But China scores poorly on most commonly used measures of good government, and achieves high economic growth.  How can this be?  In the current issue ofGovernance, Bo Rothstein agrees that “the institutional theory of development is probably right,” but that current scholarship has “missed the importance of a specific organizational form of public administration,” the cadre organization.   The cadre model is sometimes more efficient than Weberian bureaucracy, Rothstein argues.  It “works as a solution to the most general problem in public administration: how to handle delegated discretion.”  Read the article.

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November 10, 2015 at 10:16 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Public management and the state: Beginning a dialogue between two worlds


This draft comment has been prepared for a panel on public management research and the state to be held at the research conference of the Public Management Research Association at the University of Aarhus in June 2016.  Comments and responses are welcome.

GOVE_DraftsBy Brint Milward.  About thirty years ago a cadre of young scholars (the writer included) began a movement to reorient public administration toward “the study of public management.” This was a movement that had two goals; the first was to break with the tradition of public administration, especially the normative aspects of it and second with behavioral political science. The belief was that as a professional field advice should be based on the empirical study of the structure and functioning of public organizations.

This approach had certain implications about what the “big questions” were in the field. It also had implications about what the level of analysis was (managers, organizations, and programs) and also carried with it some assumptions about preferred method of inquiry (quantitative and synchronic). There is no arguing with the success that the public management movement has had in the United States and around the world. Whether in China, parts of Western Europe, or the United States, this is the dominant mode of research in public administration, and it has made public administration much more of a social science than it was before.

But this success has not been without its cost. Read the rest of this entry »

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November 3, 2015 at 5:14 pm

Studying accountability in moments of transformation

In the current issue of Governance, Johan Olsen makes the case for a more sophisticated approach to the study of accountability in government.  “A huge literature,” says Olsen, examines accountability in “normal times,” when “it is taken for granted who can call whom to account for what.”  Less examined are those moments when fundamental premises about accountability relationships are in flux.  We are passing through one of those transformational periods now, Olsen argues, and simple principal-agent models do not help us understand what is happening.  His “institution-centered approach” to studying accountability “assumes that the degree of institutionalization of accountability practices is variable and changing.”  The restructuring of such practices is shaped by “uncertainty about facts and causality, ambiguous and competing normative standards,” and indeterminate power  relationships.  Read the article.  Olsen is a recipient of the APSA John Gaus Award and the Aaron Wildavsky Award for his contributions to public administration and political science.

On the Governance blog, Per Laegreid provides a brief appreciation of Olsen’s article. “Accountability is often studied in stable situations where relationships between actors and forums are rather clearly defined,” Laegreid says. Olsen provides new insights on “how accountability unfolds in disorganized situations where accountability processes are restructured.” Read the note.

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November 3, 2015 at 8:14 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Reply to Coen and Pegram: The global liberal system is more fragile than you think

TiberghienYves Tiberghien replies to a commentary on global governance research by David Coen and Tom Pegram: David Coen and Tom Pegram are right on two counts: our current global governance system is not working and our current theories of global governance are too fragmented to help us analyze the situation and suggest improvements. Yet, the problem is even more serious than what they describe. In fact, the current combination of systemic risks, dramatic power shift, and entropic forces facing our existing global governance architecture could well overwhelm it. And we could well miss it until it is too late.

Read the rest of this entry »

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November 1, 2015 at 9:46 am

Call for short papers: Is public management research neglecting the state?

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 8.03.58 PMProfessors Brint Milward and Alasdair Roberts invite expressions of interest from academics interested in participating in a panel to be held at the Public Management Research Conference at Aarhus University on June 22-24, 2016. The short papers produced for the panel will be published as a collection in Governance 30.3 (July 2016).

Individuals who participate in the panel will be asked to write a short paper, not exceeding 1500 words, for submission by January 30, 2016. The short paper should address the theme: “Is public management research neglecting the state?” By this, we mean to ask whether public management research gives adequate attention to topics such as (1) recent changes in the architecture of the state; (2) longer-term processes by which state capabilities evolve; (3) the ability of existing state structures to address emerging challenges such as terrorism, climate change, economic transformation, or mass migration; and (4) the adequacy of mechanisms for maintaining control and accountability over state structures.

This project continues a discussion begun during the plenary session on “the state and public management” that was held at the 2015 Public Management Research Conference at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota.

Expressions of interest, or requests for further information, should be sent to Brint Milward and Alasdair Roberts. Decisions about the composition of the panel will be made by November 30, 2015.

Written by Governance

October 26, 2015 at 6:57 pm

Posted in Conferences

The Canadian federal election: What it means for policy and politics

Borins SBy Sandford Borins.  The results of the Oct. 19 Canadian election were both definitive and surprising: a majority government for the Liberal Party of Canada, which in the previous election had run third and was in danger of disappearing, and the defeat of a decade-old Conservative regime that had won the three previous elections by increasing margins and governed with ruthless political efficiency. Though public sentiment that it was time for a change had grown, the two major left-of-centre parties, the Liberals and the New Democrats, were competing with one another to capitalize on that sentiment. The Liberal Party won the election with a platform that moved noticeably to the left, a leader who conveyed optimism and passion, and an advertising campaign that overcame the Conservatives’ expertise in negativism.

Read the rest of this entry »

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October 22, 2015 at 10:23 am

Book reviews: How states develop, the welfare of children, what the US expects from development

 Steve Webb reviews Political Order and Inequality by Carles Boix. The book is a “valuable complement” to other recent attempts to explain why states exist and how they emerge.  Read the review.
Melissa Habedank reviews Children’s Chances: How Countries Can Move From Surviving to Thriving by Jody Heymann withKristen McNeill.  The book’s survey of laws and policies around the world illustrate how “where a child is raised can profoundly affect his or her chances of thriving.”  Read the review.
Clay Wescott reviews Govern Like Us: U.S. Expectations of Poor Countries by M.A. Thomas.  Wescott says that the book emphasizes the need to “destigmatize the governance of poor countries, finding ways to leverage their patronage networks and corrupt practices to make incremental progress toward a better life for their citizens.”  Read the review.

Written by Governance

October 21, 2015 at 9:26 am

Posted in Uncategorized


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