Governance: An international journal of policy, administration and institutions

NPM after 30 years: Higher costs, more complaints


In 1980 Michael Heseltine, a key Cabinet minister in the government of Margaret Thatcher, said that “efficient management is the key to revival” of British government.

The United Kingdom was a “vanguard state” for experimentation with administrative reforms that came to be known as the New Public Management, or NPM.  After three decades, what results has NPM produced in the UK?  Christopher Hood and Ruth Dixon address that question in a commentary for Governance.  Complaints about maladministration and judicial challenges to government action increased markedly, Hood and Dixon say, while administrative costs “rose substantially” in real terms.  On the other hand, trust in government did not collapse, as many critics of NPM feared, and administrative costs did take up a smaller share of total public spending.  The overall conclusion?  “Government worked a bit worse and cost a bit more.”  Free access to the commentary.

Related reading: In a commentary for Governance in July 2014, Jonathan Boston and Chris Eichbaum assessed thirty years of neoliberal reform in New Zealand, another “vanguard state” for NPM.  Read their commentary.

Written by governancejournal

April 9, 2015 at 3:14 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Delivering essential services: Does the state matter?

Last October, Governance published a special issue on state-building in areas of limited statehood.  In their contribution, Melissa Lee, Gregor Walter-Drop, and John Wiesel questioned conventional wisdom that the state plays a central role in explaining variation in provision of essential services.  Examining data from more than 150 countries, they found “remarkably little evidence of a consistent relationship between statehood and service delivery.”  Read the article.

In a note on Governance Early View, B. Guy Peters and Jon Pierre commend the article for tackling a “fundamental research question in political science” but argue that the variables used in the study are “inadequate measures of the contemporary state and that the conclusions drawn in this article are therefore misleading.”  Peters and Pierre provide a brief overview of difficulties in measuring the state and its activities. Free access to their response to the article.

Melissa Lee and Gregor Walter-Drop defend their approach to the measurement of statehood.  This approach “avoids a developed country bias.”  Moreover, “Our goal was to challenge the bias of conventional governance research that conflates statehood and service delivery.”  The evidence suggests that the “core functions of the state” may not be as necessary for service provision as commonly assumed.  Free access to their reply.

Written by governancejournal

March 23, 2015 at 7:50 am

Posted in Discussion

How “intellectual ostriches” hurt political science

In his commentary for the April issue of Governance, Stephen Del Rosso says that political scientists need to do a better job of bringing their work to the attention of policymakers — and to do that, they have to balance rigor with readability.  “There is no shortage of important scholarly work that goes unnoticed or unread because of its presentation,” says Del Rosso, Director of the Carnegie Corporation’s International Peace and Security Program.  “The future of the political science field is too important to be left to the intellectual ostriches who bury their heads in self-referential esoterica.”  Free access to the commentary.

Matthew Flinders  of the University of Sheffield also noted the discipline’s difficulties in a January 2014 commentary.  “Political science has generally failed to fulfill its broader social responsibilities . . . It is — at least in some limited ways — to blame for ‘why we hate politics.'” Read the commentary.

Written by governancejournal

March 16, 2015 at 7:49 am

Posted in commentary

Call for nominations: 2015 Levine Prize

Written by governancejournal

March 14, 2015 at 9:04 am

Posted in Levine Book Prize

Privileged pluralism: How major interests keep power

In the current issue of Governance, Anne Skorkjaer Binderkrantz, Peter Munk Christiansen, and Helene Helboe Pedersen examine the dynamics of interest group activity in Denmark, based a unique large data set.  They reject the simple notion that the availability of multiple arenas assures diversity in interest group representation.  The evidence shows that “when it comes to the major players, cumulative effects are evident; that is the same groups dominate across all arenas.”  They call this system of “privileged pluralism.” Free access to the article.

Written by governancejournal

March 10, 2015 at 7:50 pm

Posted in Current issue

VHB gives Governance top quality ranking

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 6.44.05 PMVHB, the German Association of Management Scholars, has selected Governance as one of three journals to receive its top ranking for quality in 2015.  See the rankings.

Written by governancejournal

March 10, 2015 at 5:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

A new approach for understanding institutional change

In the current issue of Governance, Jane Gingrich examines a paradox.  A large scholarly literature says that change is difficult in the public sector.  But the public sector has in fact changed substantially over the last two decades.  Better theory is needed to explain when and how institutional change happens.  Gringrich identifies three different types of costs to change, and explains how different combinations of these costs can lead to different patterns of policy change.  Gingrich uses British and American experience in healthcare and welfare reform to illustrate her argument. Free access to the article.

Written by governancejournal

February 24, 2015 at 7:48 pm

Posted in Uncategorized


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