Governance: An international journal of policy, administration and institutions

Archive for April 2009

New books received for review

A list of books recently received for review by Governance is posted here.  If you would like to write a review, or have a book that you would like to submit for review, contact book review editor Clay Wescott at, or mail to: Asia Pacific Governance Institute, 2819 Ellicott St NW, Washington, DC 20008.

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April 28, 2009 at 3:14 pm

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The role of bureaucrats in managing Sweden’s economic crisis

In the current issue of Governance, Carl Dahlström describes the role of central bankers and finance ministry bureaucrats in crafting a response to Sweden’s economic crisis in the early 1990′s.  Focusing on the attempt to restrain welfare program spending during the crisis, Dahlström finds that key bureaucrats played “a decisive role in shaping a retrenchment agenda,” limiting the burden of cuts on weak and unorganized groups.  The article challenges the “conventional wisdom onf welfare-state retrenchment,” which Dahlström says would have predicted a retrenchment policy that advantaged better organized interests.  See The Bureaucratic Politics of Welfare-State Crisis: Sweden in the 1990s, April 2009.

In How New Economic Ideas Changed the Danish Welfare State, meanwhile, Christian Albrekt Larsen and Jørgen Goul Andersen consider the impact of “new economic ideas” on the evolution of Danish welfare policy from 1993 to 2001.  This is a clear example of the “independent effect” of new ideas, the authors argue; Denmark’s Social Democratic governments shifted away from long-established positions that were favored by voters.  New ways of thinking about the country’s economic challenges became so firmly established that they “generated a ‘lock-in’ effect comparable to institutional path dependency.”

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April 24, 2009 at 8:36 am

Strategic planning in the European Commission

“People say, ‘the Commission is incapable of being managed,’” a former EC strategic planner told Michael Barzelay and Anne Sofie Jacobsen in 2004. “And I think we were slightly countercultural in that we were trying to say, ‘oh well, we will manage.’”  The experience of implementing the European Commission’s new strategic planning and programming system is described in their article, Theorizing Implementation of Public Management Policy Reforms: A Case Study of Strategic Planning and Programming in the European Commission, in the current issue of Governance (April 2009, 22.2).  Barzelay and Jacobsen explain how a team of planners approached formidable institutional and cultural barriers to change.  The article contributes to the implementation literature, arguing that agents of change must attain — and exploit — “certification” as agents of reform.

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April 17, 2009 at 11:13 am

How performance contracts are actually used

Delegation Without Agency Loss?  The Use of Performance Contracts in Danish Central Government provides an unusual empirical study of the way in which a widely-touted innovation — performance contracts — are actually used in practice.  The authors — Anne Skorkjaer Binderkrantz and Jorgen Gronnegaard Christensen — find “considerable variation in performance demands.”  The content of agreements hinges on the overall design of the ministry and the extent to which agencies have strong relationships with citizens and businesses.  “To an extremely high extent,” the authors conclude, “ministries have used their wide room for maneuver to design contracts according to portfolio and agency-specific needs.”  Efficiency, they find, is not usually a prominent concern.

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April 10, 2009 at 9:25 am

Regulating Europe’s privatized toll highways

“A wave of concession privatization is affecting the toll motorway sector in Europe,” say Daniel Albalate, Germa Bel, and Xavier Fageda, in the April 2009 (22.2) issue of Governance. But that hardly means that the role of the state is diminishing.  On the contrary, governments have created new regulatory capabilities that provide “a large capacity for public control and intervention.”  Read more here about the “paradox of privatization and reregulation.”

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April 10, 2009 at 8:48 am