Edited by Shaun Goldfinch and Joe L. Wallis
Chapter 16: Danish Public Management Reform Before and After NPM
Jørgen Christensen In 1983 the Danish government launched an ambitious program for modernization of the public sector. The program was comprehensive. It covered the entire public sector, including the strong local governments. It also covered all aspects of public sector management with one important exception: in 1983 there was no demand for a major structural reform relocating tasks within the public sector. Nor was there any mention of large-scale reorganization and structural reform. The pervasive tone was one of managerialism, combined with a quest for stronger responsiveness to users. There are several reasons to begin this account of Danish public management reform here. First, the program reads as vintage new public management (NPM) but note the date of launch: 30 November 1983. At that time nobody talked about new public management. The later canons of NPM and reinventing government were still to come (Barzelay 1992; Osborne and Gaebler 1992; cf. also Wilson 1994). New Zealand had not conceived, much less initiated its radical transformation of the state. Second, the 1983 program rapidly acquired almost mythological status in the local discourse over public sector and public management reform. A quarter of a century later it is still referred to as the turning point in the thinking about public sector management. Here it is useful to consider a third point. The program for modernizing the public sector was hardly razor sharp in its approach. Analysis and presentation was longwinded, the rationale vague and the prescriptions far from operational. No wonder that...
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