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 7: The German Public Service: Between Tradition and Transformation

Hans-Ulrich Derlien

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


Hans-Ulrich Derlien INTRODUCTION When Max Weber stated ‘political domination, in everyday life, means public administration’, he referred to law and order as core state functions that were and are executed by civil servants. Since the beginning of the 20th century however, the scope of public tasks has undergone redifinition, both expanding with the incorporation of functions indicative of the continental European welfare state and contracting following the privatization of major utilities and services. Concomitant with the expansion of the welfare state, the public service is no longer dominated by civil servants but by employees and labourers. As well as the changes in the social composition of the public service, incremental reforms of the legal framework and the vertical distribution of the public service and its distribution among policy areas have occured. Nevertheless, the image of the public service in Germany is still strongly shaped by the classical civil service ideal and its traditional principles enshrined in Article 33 Section 5 of the 1949 federal constitution: the orthodoxy of tenured full-time employment and recruitment to one of the four career groups according to level of education. The tradition includes the vertical division of labour between federal and (since 1990) 16 state (Land) governments and 14 000 local governments that are regarded as part of Land administration. The until-recently unchallenged position of the German civil service should be put in historical perspective in two ways: the German professional civil service is a product of the 18th century absolutist state, notwithstanding several...

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