Edited by Magnus Boström and Christina Garsten
Chapter 9: The Political Logics of Accountability: From ‘Doing the Right Thing’ to ‘Doing the Thing Right’
Jessica Lindvert INTRODUCTION For many years public actors and social scientists in Western nations have been aware of the pressures on public administrations. To tackle this administrative overload or ‘growth to limits’ (as it was put by Flora, ed., 1987), innumerable reforms have been initiated, focusing on public sector eﬃciency and drawing upon the ideational goods of the New Public Management (NPM) school (Hood et al., 1999; Hughes, 2003; Rhodes, 1996). The dominance of this economic logic of governance has been challenged, however – more recently by new demands for transparency, accountability and stronger control mechanisms (see Power, 1997, for a general discussion of the audit society). The Swedish public sector is no exception to this general trend. ‘Good goals’ are measurable and controllable goals in which the ‘degree of fulﬁlment of objectives is not possible to manipulate’. Ranking, indicators and benchmarking are increasingly regarded as key policy instruments (Parliamentary Auditors, 2002, p. 68). Even within a domain such as the labour market – a policy ﬁeld that has traditionally been assumed to require more ﬂexible directives than the rest of the Swedish administration – this auditing rationality has now become the leading regulating principle.1 Support among Swedish public actors and economists for auditing arrangements is illustrated by a strong emphasis on planning and control, quantiﬁed objectives, follow-ups, simpliﬁed regulation, and fewer, measurable programmes (Ackum Agell, 1998, p. 38; Arbetsmarknadspolitik i förändring, 1998, p. 89; Government Bill [Gov. bill] 1999/2000: 98; National Board of Public Management, 2000;...
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