Variety, Commonality and Change
Edited by Christopher Hood, Oliver James, B. Guy Peters and Colin Scott
Any group of academics setting out to write about institutional control is vulnerable to unkind jokes comparing them to eunuchs lecturing on the Kama Sutra, and the control of this project was both difficult and hard to analyse. To make it work we needed to develop extensive collaboration among 17 busy scholars in eight different countries over more than three years. At the same time we needed an operating style that allowed us to go back to the drawing board and refine our ideas in the light of what we discovered, rather than setting out a rigid framework in advance and getting specialists to fill in the gaps. It was a difficult balancing act, and to the extent that it was successfully achieved, it largely constituted control by mutuality. The project started as a result of work that three of the editors had done together in the 1990s (Hood et al., 1999), in analysing a remarkable development of oversight systems in UK government over a 20-year period. We found that a period of ‘reinventing government’ that was being widely marketed by its advocates as a move from rules-based, process-driven administration to results-based discretionary management was in fact creating a growing industry of overseers, inspectors, evaluators, auditors and complaint-handlers. We noted that some scholars in the USA, such as Paul Light and Joel Aberbach, seemed to be saying something similar, and we were curious to know how far such developments represented some atypical Anglo-American phenomenon and how far they were occurring...