International Handbook of Public Management Reform
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International Handbook of Public Management Reform

Edited by Shaun Goldfinch and Joe L. Wallis

This major Handbook provides a state-of-the-art study of the recent history and future development of international public management reform.
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Chapter 15: Dynamic Conservatism: The Rise and Evolution of Public Management Reforms in the Netherlands

Mirko Noordegraaf


Mirko Noordegraaf 1 Introduction Since 1982 Dutch public administration and public service organizations have been continually reformed. Because of Dutch traditions and systems, however, this did not always produce ‘real’ change. In this chapter, reforms and effects are analysed. First, the ‘objects’ of reform will be highlighted, that is, the basic structures, processes and features of Dutch political and public domains. Because Dutch political and public domains are ‘de-centered’, they are difficult to control. Second, the nature and evolution of reform will be described by giving a rough chronological overview of different waves of reform. Although most reforms affected government, they also ‘spilled over’ to non-profit service delivery. Third, the means and mechanisms of reform are analysed. Because of the decentered state of the state, reform waves called for ‘control through consent’. Fourth, the interweaving of change and continuity is analysed. Although certain new trends and lasting changes can be traced, specific political and administrative features are stable, almost unalterable. Finally, reform consequences are traced, by exploring outcomes and impacts. Although certain ‘performances’ are hard to deny, they were not always caused by public management reforms, and reforms, moreover, have started to bite their own tails. Increasingly, people start to complain about ‘reform mania’. In the last paragraph, conclusions are drawn. Reform context It is important to highlight features of the Dutch state and its intricate links with civil society, because these features are the context and ‘objects’ of reform. Public management reform aims at changing political decision-making, policy processes...

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