Our understanding of service activities and of their leading role in modern economies has certainly increased during recent decades. Yet most academic research and European Union (EU) projects have examined public and private services in isolation from each other (ServPPIN and EU, 2008, p. 6). In order to overcome this dichotomy, this chapter analyses the rationale, specificities, potential complementarities and synergies of public–private services and public–private organizations in their process of interaction. Based on an extensive discussion of the existing literature, it addresses the following research questions: What arguments are used to confer the character of public or private on services? What makes public services and the public sector so special? How diverse is the spectrum of public and private sector collaboration agreements for public services provision? What is the place of public–private innovation networks in services (ServPPINs) within that diversity? Are ServPPINs similar to other public–private organizational arrangements? The different topics tackled are related to different hypotheses. First, the public goods theory supports the difference between purely public and purely private services (Samuelson, 1954, 1955; Musgrave, 1959, 1969) and the existence of a range of mixed services that are a blend of both (Buchanan, 1965; Hardin, 1968). However, the dividing line between the categories has progressively moved across time, countries and sectors as technology and social institutions have evolved. Therefore, it is difficult to define public services universally and unchangeably.
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