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date: 19 April 2024

Politicization of Public Services in Comparative Perspectivelocked

Politicization of Public Services in Comparative Perspectivelocked

  • John HalliganJohn HalliganInstitute for Governance and Policy Analysis, University of Canberra

Summary

The politicization of public services has been a relentless trend in public administration internationally. It can be attributed to the increasing demands on executive government, heightened partisanship and polarization, higher expectations about achieving official goals, and contextual factors that dilute the neutrality of the bureaucracy. It is also apparent that the spread of politicization has increased (i.e., encompassing countries once thought to be low on politicization) as has its breadth and depth (often extending down the bureaucracy and affecting a wide range of public servants). Within this broader trend, the timing and pace of politicization has varied widely among countries, some having long histories (several of the classic models of the “political civil servant”) and others being newcomers.

Politicization takes a number of forms, most of which focus on political control and influence. Often there is a dominant instrument, such as relying on politically committed appointees, but multiple levers apply in many cases. A remarkable range of approaches has evolved to address political control. The rationale for particular types is generally shaped by an administrative tradition and reflects country contexts and circumstances.

A strong case exists for partisan support to enhance the capacity of political executives, to counterbalance the vested interests of bureaucrats, to facilitate coalition government, and to ensure support at the top for government objectives and priorities. However, politicization can be arbitrary, chaotic, rampant, and overly focused on partisan and individual interests.

Subjects

  • Policy, Administration, and Bureaucracy

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