Table of Contents

International Handbook of Public Management Reform

International Handbook of Public Management Reform

Elgar original reference

Edited by Shaun Goldfinch and Joe L. Wallis

This major Handbook provides a state-of-the-art study of the recent history and future development of international public management reform.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Shaun F. Goldfinch

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


Shaun F. Goldfinch Reform and change are never inevitable. Guy Peters (1996: vii) claims ‘change in the public sector is the rule rather than the exception’, but it is not smooth, continuous and incremental. It is disjointed, varies in intensity, and sharp episodes of reform are often followed by periods of relative tranquillity. Change might proceed through a series of ‘punctuated equilibriums’ where long eras of stability alternate with short-lived periods of uncertainty and conflict (Baumgartner and Jones 1993). Indeed, a wealth of studies suggest a considerable degree of stability of policies, public organizations and governance structures. There are numerous terms that describe the durability of institutions arrangements: inheritance, lock-in, stickiness, deadlock, path-dependency, reform impasse and reform paradox (cf. Peters et al. 1999). Policies and structures are often protected by dominant coalitions, embedded in laws and constitutions, and sustained by habit and inertia. Reforms may be ‘smuggled in’ through a series of cumulative and incremental adjustments, but this can be a time-consuming, reversible and possibly drifting process. Yet, reforms and significant changes do occur. Within the literature on public sector management, there are often seen to be two major periods of reform. The first is a revolution in public administration – sometimes referred to as ‘progressive-era’ public administration (PPA) (Hood 1994) or the Weberian, bureaucratic or traditional model. Originating in Great Britain and particularly associated with the Northcote and Trevelyan Report of 1854 – but with precursors from Prussia and the Indian Civil Service – it spread in the later nineteenth and early...