International Handbook on Civil Service Systems
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International Handbook on Civil Service Systems

Edited by Andrew Massey

While there is no universally accepted definition of civil servant and civil service, this authoritative and informative Handbook compares and contrasts various approaches to organising the structure and activities of different civil service systems.
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Chapter 4: Decentralization, Devolution and the Hollowing Out of the State

Robert Pyper


Robert Pyper Over the period of the past quarter-century, analysts of public administration and public sector management have come to recognize the persistence of change as an increasingly prevalent theme affecting civil service systems across the globe. Change, encapsulated in designated programmes of reform, or as ad hoc responses to external forces and pressures, has become a constant factor in public service organizations generally, and within civil service systems as key components of the broader public sector. In the context of civil service systems, decentralization, devolution and hollowing out can be seen as both the products of change, and as the conduits for change. For example, reform programmes which decentralized policy implementation and service delivery functions from core civil service departments to semi-autonomous agencies changed the structure of state bureaucracies, but also entrusted the new agencies with rolling programmes of managerial and cultural change that were designed to create fundamental shifts in the nature of civil service work. This chapter will discuss some particular consequences of change for civil service systems, as evidenced by the organizational disaggregation and fragmentation produced by processes of decentralization, devolution and hollowing out. We will examine, in turn, the connections between the concepts of decentralization, devolution and hollowing out and the implications of these types of change for civil service systems, before turning our attention to the extent to which these changes have been commonly embraced by and within civil services and the growing evidence of countervailing trends across the globe. 4.1 LINKING THE CONCEPTS...

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