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Challenging the dichotomy of management and civil service: an institutional analysis of Swedish public management
Linnaeus University, School of Business and Economics, Department of Management Accounting and Logistics. (CMAR)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0779-3360
2015 (English)Conference paper (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In the wake of public sector reforms, commonly referred to as New Public Management, it has been suggested that actors engaged in public administration are changing the manner in which they understand the public sector. According to these perspectives, public reforms informed by (neo-)liberal policy have caused instances of economification and a proliferation of economy and efficiency as important and dominating norms of contemporary public organisations. In this paper I posit the question of how actors’ engaged in public administration make sense of the turbulent and pivoting reforms within the public sector? The paper is written within an institutional theoretical perspective, where both an agency- and structural perspective is engaged in order to enable a holistic analysis. The empirical material consists of four focus group sessions, in total 25 “managers” discussing issues concerning their positions and tasks associated with being engaged as public administrators within the Swedish central government. It was found that actors rejected the incompatibleness of contemporary public management on the one hand and traditional civil service on the other. Rather, actors enacted compartmentalised, yet interdependent, perspectives wherein the two mentioned roles could be used simultaneously in everyday life. On the one hand an internal perspective was enacted wherein a managerial discourse and managerial techniques were used. On the other hand an external perspective was enacted in order to safeguard citizens’ rights within the modern welfare state. It is concluded that the previously held dichotomy between management and civil service is a fallacious one. Rather than subscribing to faulty theorising surrounding a shift or a blending/merger of administrative roles, researchers of public administration should adhere to the general point made in this paper: actors engaged in public administrators are Managers as well as Civil Servants. This has great implications for the future role of public administration.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
The International Research Society for Public Management (IRSPM) , 2015.
Keyword [en]
NPM, OIE, Structuration Theory, Institutional Theory, Management, Civil Service
National Category
Business Administration Public Administration Studies Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Research subject
Economy, Business administration; Social Sciences, Political Science
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-41536OAI: diva2:800008
International Research Society for Public Management Conference 2015, Birmingham, UK, March 30-April 1, 2015
Available from: 2015-04-01 Created: 2015-04-01 Last updated: 2015-05-06Bibliographically approved

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Karlsson, Tom S.
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ReferencesLink to record
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