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Anna Thomasson

In common with other countries with a developed economy Sweden has, over recent years, experienced a major shift towards the marketisation of its public services. Influenced by the ideas informing New Public Management (NPM) this has involved radical changes to the way in which public services are organised and delivered. The aim of these reforms is to increase the efficiency and accountability of the public sector by replacing governance based on bureaucratic ideas and values with management approaches and accounting tools inspired by private sector practice (Osborne and Gaebler, 1992; Hood, 1995; Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2011). The influence of NPM in public sectors around the world has resulted in what can be referred to as a blending of sectors (Antonsen and Jörgensen, 1997) followed by the hybridisation of public services (André, 2010; Koppell, 2003). At first sight, the idea that Sweden has been an eager adopter (Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2011) and an energetic implementer (Wockelberg and Ahlback …berg, 2016) of NPM reforms is surprising. Sweden has a long tradition of investment in its public sector and the idea of the social welfare state is deeply rooted in the minds of Swedish people. During the last century this commitment has grown, spread and highly influenced the development of the Swedish public sector (Child, 1936; Marklund, 2009). Sweden is also a country where the proverb ‘Moderation in all things’, or as the Swedes say, lagom, is a motto by which many live and one that guides all types of decisions, from how much sugar to put in your coffee to the making of public policy. This notion of lagom has led Sweden to take the middle road on many occasions. Perhaps the most notable of these was the decision not to follow the example of either of the superpowers by subscribing to the planned economy of the Soviet Union on the one hand, or the market economy of the United States of America (USA) on the other. Instead the road chosen was that of a strong social welfare state, high taxes and a market economy influenced by a large public sector and government regulation; the so-called ‘Middle Way’ (Child, 1936; Cox, 2004; Marklund, 2009).