Public Management in the Postmodern Era

Public Management in the Postmodern Era

Challenges and Prospects

New Horizons in Public Policy series

Edited by John Fenwick and Janice McMillan

Challenging the traditional orthodoxies of public management, this timely and comprehensive book adopts a lively and critical approach to key questions of public policy and management.

Chapter 1: Public Management in the Postmodern Era: An Introduction

John Fenwick and Janice McMillan

Subjects: politics and public policy, public policy


John Fenwick and Janice McMillan SCOPE AND AIMS Exploring public policy and management from an avowedly postmodern perspective has its dangers. The state of affairs we identify on both the theoretical and practical levels could, for some, lead merely to philosophical introspection: the kind of postmodern approach which analyses only itself as the object of enquiry and decries any attempt to engage with a swirling and seemingly capricious reality out-there, akin to the paralysis of thought and action depicted in Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’. Yet such a response would take us nowhere on the level of theoretical understanding of the postmodern environment and, worse, it would leave the world of practice to fend for itself, with the implicit message that we, as scholars and researchers, have nothing of value to say to those charged with the future of public provision. We reject this analysis. Hence, within this collection, the aim is to make sense of both theory and practice in postmodern times. Our approach can be summarised in a statement of broad propositions. First, at the theoretical level, a key theme is that the reassuring predictabilities of foundationalist paradigms have given way to a fluid and uncertain era in which there is no single available explanation of the changing nature of public management and policy. Theoretical understanding must therefore be based in a recognition of this state of flux as a normal condition. Reference to a ‘new’ public management is now woefully inadequate as any kind of theoretical tool and...