- Civil Service Systems in Comparative Perspective series
Edited by John Halligan
Chapter 3: The civil service in Britain: a case study in path dependency
3. The civil service in Britain: a case study in path dependency David Richards INTRODUCTION It is rare to discover a text on comparative political systems that does not at some point single out the British polity for being one of the oldest and most stable systems in the world. The absence of violent revolution or successful invasion by other countries for the best part of a thousand years has ensured an almost unrivalled continuity in the development of the British state. And the ability to evolve from an absolutist state to a liberal-democratic parliamentary system has provided an institutional model that a number of other aspiring nation states have often opted to either fully or partially imitate (see Judge 1993). A central component in the long-term evolution of the British state is the civil service, whose origins can be traced as far back as the Middle Ages. From an institutionalist perspective, the civil service – and more broadly the British state – can be identified as possessing a path dependency whose equilibrium has only rarely been punctuated. The contention here is that the British political elite have tended to regard both the constitution and the civil service as institutions to be proud of, and thus any form of change should only ever be limited and partial (see Thelen et al. 1992; Rose and Karran 1994). The central argument of this chapter is that while there have been a number of periods in the last 200 years in which the British civil...
You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.
Elgaronline requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals. Please login through your library system or with your personal username and password on the homepage.
Non-subscribers can freely search the site, view abstracts/ extracts and download selected front matter and introductory chapters for personal use.
Your library may not have purchased all subject areas. If you are authenticated and think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.