Ministers, Minders and Mandarins
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Ministers, Minders and Mandarins

An International Study of Relationships at the Executive Summit of Parliamentary Democracies

Edited by Richard Shaw and Chris Eichbaum

Ministers, Minders and Mandarins collects the leading academics in the field to rigorously assess the impact and consequences of political advisers in parliamentary democracies. The 10 contemporary and original case studies focus on issues of tension, trust and tradition, and are written in an accessible and engaging style.
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Chapter 10: Sweden: civil servants and political advisers as adversaries

Birgitta Niklasson and Patrik Öhberg


This chapter theorizes and empirically studies the relationship between political advisers and civil servants. We start out by clarifying the causal links assumed by Guy Peters’ adversarial model. The factors identified are the partisanship and organizational interests of civil servants, and the competition over policy content between them and political advisers. The importance of these aspects is tested using a survey answered by 801 civil servants and 42 political advisers in Swedish government offices in 2012. We find that there is a noticeable share of civil servants who perceive tensions between themselves as a group and political advisers. Moreover, these tensions can, to some extent, be explained by the factors suggested by the adversarial model. The political advisers, on the other hand, claim that their relationships with civil servants are almost perfectly harmonious, a result that illustrates the methodological problems associated with asking respondents about their own roles and work.

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