Elgar original reference
Edited by Shaun Goldfinch and Joe L. Wallis
What public sector reform means, why it occurs, whose interests it serves, whether it makes the world a better place, even whether some supposed reforms are much more than shadow play – these are things about which we continue to disagree. The word ‘reform’ often has positive connotations of course. When I claim my proposed policy change is a reform, I am claiming an improvement in the state of affairs – and surely only the insane would justify their proposed reforms by saying they are making their world a worse one. A claim to reform also implies discontinuity, rather than steady natural evolution or piecemeal tinkering on the edges. Something substantial happens in a reform. We are often claiming big changes, looking at fundamental re-orderings, significant reworkings and bold steps. Claiming to reform also suggests there is something wrong to begin with. There is some failure, some problem, some crisis, that needs to be addressed and needs to be fixed – and my proposed reform is often the best solution. On the other hand, for a social scientist, reform might not mean any of these things. It might refer to a process of change, but whether change is for the good, the bad or neither, is a question for evidence and analysis to answer. Studies of reform can look to how this process of change comes about, or at reform movement involvement. ‘Reform’ might simply be a useful shorthand for political, management or social trends, or smaller or bigger changes. Scholarship can show...