Chapter 5: Modernizing the state: administrative reform
In 1979, following a convincing electoral triumph for the Conservative Party, Margaret Thatcher was appointed Prime Minister of the UK. Elected in 1980 and sworn into office in January 1981, Ronald Reagan became President of the United States. While there were differences between the two leaders in terms of specific policies, Mrs. Thatcher and Ronald Reagan shared a conviction that one of the priorities of their respective governments should be a profound modernization of the state. Both believed that the state had taken precedence over the market and that a fundamental shift was required from the growth of the public sector and Keynesian economics to “unleashing” the market and to embark on a monetaristic economic policy (Pierson, 1994). This crusade against the “privileged” civil service (Hood, 1995; Savoie, 1994) and the public sector more broadly would have a deep and lasting influence on the state, not only in the homelands of Mrs. Thatcher and Ronald Reagan but across the world. In both countries, the modernization project evolved into an ideologically driven all-out attack on public services, the public sector, and public sector employees. This “new politics of administrative reform”, as it could be called, soon spread to Canada, Australia, and New Zealand (Savoie, 1994).
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