The State at Work, Volume 1

The State at Work, Volume 1

Public Sector Employment in Ten Western Countries

Edited by Hans-Ulrich Derlien and B. Guy Peters

Representing the most extensive research on public employment, this volume explores the radical changes that have taken place in the configuration of national public services due to a general expansion of public employment that was followed by stagnation and decreases. Part-time employment and the involvement of women also increased as a component of the public sector and were linked to the most important growth areas such as the educational, health care and personal social services sectors. The two volumes that make up this study shed important insight on these changes.

Chapter 1: Introduction: The State at Work

Hans-Ulrich Derlien and B. Guy Peters

Subjects: economics and finance, public sector economics, politics and public policy, public policy


Hans-Ulrich Derlien and B. Guy Peters Since the 1990s it has become fashionable to consider the ‘waning of the state’, the ‘transformation of the state’ or ‘the hollowing out of the crown’ (for the latter, see Rhodes 1994; Weller et al. 1997). At the extreme, some scholars have discussed the possibility of ‘governance without government’ (Rhodes 1996). These discussions also reflect waning public confidence in the capacity of governments to govern effectively and fairly (Putnam and Pharr 2000). Underlying these observations about the decline of the state are phenomena such as the loss of traditional national sovereignty to supranational polities like the European Union and non-governmental organizations such as the World Trade Organization, the easy permeability of borders in the European Union and the lack of centrality of national governments in functional governance networks where the state allegedly figures only as one among many actors (Sorensen and Torfing 2006). In addition, privatizations have affected the shape of the state and its capacity to steer society. Similarly, retrenchment of the welfare state has resulted in increased private provision of social services in some countries, although at the same time, transfer payments for social subsidies and health care costs have increased dramatically (Castles 2004). The regulatory activities of the state have also changed. While it may be true that regulatory activities as one part of policy-making have, to a certain extent, moved upwards in multi-level governance systems, rule enforcement and monitoring as corresponding administrative activities have generally...