Continuity and Change in Public Policy and Management

Continuity and Change in Public Policy and Management

Christopher Pollitt and Geert Bouckaert

Combining theory development, international comparison and original case study analysis, two of Europe’s leading public policy and management scholars apply and develop some of the main models of policy change and offer a revealing long-term view of policy developments since 1965. Drawing on an extensive programme of elite interviews and documentary analysis they provide an integrated treatment of national and local policymaking in two major public services – hospital care and the police – in England and Belgium. This timely book addresses the ‘paradigm wars’ in public policy, arguing for a nuanced intermediate position that challenges the orthodox and the post-modernists alike.

Chapter 8: Reflections on Theories of Change

Christopher Pollitt and Geert Bouckaert

Subjects: politics and public policy, public policy


INTRODUCTION The previous five chapters have revealed both similarities and differences in policy and management in the two chosen services and countries. The differences are great – large enough for us to ditch any naive or mechanistic theories that ‘globalization’ or ‘reinvention’ or ‘the New Public Management’ are sweeping through the world, obliging every government urgently to move in the same direction. Evidently even governments that are geographically adjacent, multiply interconnected and similarly subject to the allegedly homogenizing effects of European Union (EU) membership can behave very differently when it comes to policymaking and management. The similarities between the countries and services are perhaps more subtle, but no less profound. In rather brutal, bullet-point style we can summarize the details of Chapters 3 to 7 as follows. Main differences: ● ● ● ● Very different central–local relations. Much greater central–local integration of political elites in Belgium – although at the same time much greater fragmentation of political parties. Also, much more scope for local autonomy from the federal government. Put another way, central government is more dominant and controlling in England. Faster pace of both policy and management change in England (for both hospitals and police). Greater emphasis on ‘management’ and less on political bargaining and patronage in England (most marked for the police, but also true for hospitals). However, this difference needs to be understood within an overall growth in concern for management in both countries (see similarities, below). Far greater emphasis on target-setting and performance measurement in England (both for hospitals and...

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