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Article

Regime Resilience in Malaysia and Singapore Revisited: Ideologically-Bounded Democracies?  

Kai Ostwald

Malaysia and Singapore were long seen as quintessential hybrid regimes that combined elements of electoral democracy and autocracy to achieve remarkable political stability: the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) dominated Malaysia’s politics for over six decades before its unexpected defeat in 2018, while the People’s Action Party (PAP) has led Singapore since the country’s independence and remains in power today. Both parties attained dominance through similar channels. UMNO and the PAP accrued significant legitimacy by overseeing decades of rapid socioeconomic development that transformed the citizenry’s lives. Embedding ideological frameworks—based on empowerment of the Indigenous Malay majority in Malaysia and overcoming systemic vulnerability in Singapore—throughout the state and the electorate provided electoral advantages and further bolstered legitimacy. This was supplemented by regularly reshaping institutions to strengthen incumbency advantages, as well as occasional usage of coercion to limit inroads by opposition challengers. Both regimes have evolved in key ways since the turn of the 21st century. UMNO saw its dominance gradually erode in the decade before its 2018 defeat. It mounted a brief comeback in 2020, but its decisive loss in the 2022 election marked a clear end to its hegemonic rule. While the PAP remains in power, it faces stiffer opposition and a “politically awakened” electorate, also marking a departure from earlier phases of uncontested dominance. While there is disagreement on how extensively these developments change the nature of the underlying regimes, several points are clear. Even if party dominance has declined, the ideological frameworks that both parties established remain intact and fundamentally shape political competition, which is free and relatively fair within the ideological bounds imposed by those frameworks. Moreover, the strength of the ideological bounds is such that no political actor has the agency to unilaterally remove them, which may preclude democratization as it is typically understood. On the opposition side, strong inroads, made in part by conforming to the ideological frameworks, have allowed opposition parties to accrue legitimacy of their own. This has made coercion more costly and has diminished its role in maintaining power. In short, elements of the regimes in Malaysia and Singapore remain resilient. But they are fundamentally different than during the peak of UMNO and PAP dominance: the opposition has accrued legitimacy, the role of coercion has diminished, and political competition now occurs relatively freely within the bounds imposed by the respective ideological frameworks. This puts the current regimes in tension with the assumptions underpinning their earlier “hybrid” classifications, and raises a question: rather than assessing how every political twist and turn moves the needle on a two-dimensional autocracy–democracy spectrum, could it be more practical to think of Malaysia and Singapore as having evolved into relatively stable vernacular democracies that, albeit not fully democratic by conventional standards, are as democratic as the ideological constraints left behind by their founding and long-dominant parties credibly allow?

Article

Banking Regulation in and for Crisis  

Lydie Cabane and Martin Lodge

This chapter deals with a case of radical regulatory innovation as a result of the financial crisis of 2007–2009. Since the financial crisis of 2007–2009, the question of how to manage banking crises has risen in prominence. The considerable financial, social, and political consequences of various governments’ rescue packages established demands for creating more orderly ways of dealing with bank failure, reducing the exposure of states and the taxpayer. Consequently, considerable institutional innovation over the 2010s has led to new banking crisis management mechanisms, including new organizations, new legal regimes, and a new profession, in particular in the European Union context. The emergence of an explicit European banking crisis management has to be understood within the context of different modes of transboundary crisis management and in relation to the various rationales and accounts of bank crisis management experiences. Before the financial crisis, the emerging European regime was characterized by an absence of formal crisis prevention and management powers. Since then, banking crisis management has witnessed the rise of new institutions that illustrate broader trends in crisis management, namely the growing importance of planning and preparation rather than actual firefighting. Besides, the banking crisis management regime is shaped by deep underlying tensions that are shared by multilevel crisis management regimes more generally. To explore these issues, this chapter sets out the rationale for regulating for “orderly failure,” provides for a brief account of the emergence of the EU’s Single Resolution Mechanism, before turning to unresolved, and arguably irresolvable tensions that exist in multi-level crisis management in the case of banking.

Article

Crisis Development: Normal Accidents and Beyond  

Jean-Christophe Le Coze

Our current era is one of profound changes and uncertainties, and one issue is to understand their implications for high-risk systems and critical infrastructures (e.g., nuclear power plants, ships, hospitals, trains, chemical plants). Normal Accidents (NA), Perrow’s classic published in 1984, is a useful guide to explore the contemporary epoch, in the third decade of the 21st century. One reason is that this landmark book has triggered a sustained interest by scholars who have debated, challenged, rejected, refined, or expanded its core thesis over almost now 40 years. With La Porte’s, Sagan’s, Vaughan’s, and Hopkins’s contributions into what can be described as the “standard NA debate” in the late 20th century and the more recent “new controversies and debates” by Downer, Pritchard, or Le Coze in the early 21st century, the book can still resonate with current changes in the 2020s. These changes include phenomena as large, massive, intertwined, consequential, and diverse as the advent of internet and of digital societies, the increase of transnational flows of diverse nature (people, data, capital, images, goods) and the ecological crisis captured by a notion such as the Anthropocene. Taking stock, historicizing, and revisiting NA with such debates and changes in mind leads to characterize a post-NA narrative.

Article

Human Resource Management in Public Administration: Key Challenges  

John P. Burns

Human resource management in public administration considers the civil service broadly to include all those employed in mostly noncommercial entities funded by the state. These entities may range from government bureaus and departments to agencies and authorities with varying degrees of uniformity, at both the central and local levels, and include those in such nonprofit services as health and education that are completely or mostly publicly funded. The terms civil servants, government employees, and public servants are used interchangeably. Human resource management may include such functions as planning, recruitment and selection, performance management, training, compensation, and labor relations. Key challenges of managing human resource functions include motivating and compensating public employees to reward passion for public service, managing the political roles of civil servants and their political responsiveness, selecting for salient identities to achieve representation and diversity, and reforming the civil service. These challenges impact individual and organizational performance. Motivation and compensation focus on what binds individuals to organizations and energizes those individuals. One approach, inspired by rational choice, identifies self-interest and extrinsic incentives, including performance-based pay, monitoring and surveillance to manage employees. A second approach, inspired by self-determination theory, focuses on altruism and prosocial values, and prioritizes intrinsic incentives, job design, and careful selection to nurture a passion for public service. A key challenge is to identify and nurture those with public service motivation, and reward competence and passion for public service. Selecting and nurturing those with a passion for public service includes taking care that compensation policies and practices do not crowd out public service motivation. An additional challenge focuses on the political roles civil servants play in government and the extent to which civil servants are politically responsive. Selecting civil servants based on merit, with separate career structures for politicians and civil servants, is generally associated with more effective governance and economic growth, with some important exceptions. The tasks, role perceptions, and behavior of the senior civil service are dependent on historical tradition and political culture, and on structural characteristics, such as the presence or absence of political advisors, and the support civil servants receive or need beyond government from clients and interest groups. The role of senior civil servants also depends on their specialization and the capacity of political appointees. Systems that encourage more explicit political roles for senior civil servants do not appear to sacrifice public interest. Preparing senior civil servants for these roles is a critical human management resource challenge. Authorities also use human resource tools to increase political responsiveness, including training, discipline, and changes to civil servants’ security of tenure. As identities such as race and gender become politically salient, representation becomes another key challenge for human resource management in public administration. Passive representation has had wide currency in both Western-style democracies and in the developing world. Passive representation has symbolic effects and may increase citizen trust in the bureaucracy, making bureaucratic action more legitimate in the eyes of minority communities. Moreover, minority civil servants may affect outcomes directly—for example, by influencing the implementation of a policy—or indirectly—for example, by influencing minority clients to change their behavior, or influencing nonminority bureaucratic colleagues to change their behavior or influencing organizational policy. Active representation may thus affect overall public service performance. Representation is mediated by a number of variables including discretion, salience of identity, agency mission, socialization, professionalism, and administrative level among others. Human resource managers also need to manage diversity training, which can improve outcomes. The final challenge, civil service reform, cuts across public human resource functions and themes. Civil service reform is a fraught domain, littered with experiments and not amenable to evaluation, which is a long-term enterprise. Still, some radical reforms have fundamentally altered the terms of the public service bargains between politicians and civil servants. Introducing “radical” reform, such as at-will employment, undermines commitment and fails to produce the expected performance payoffs.

Article

Disasters and the Theory of Emergency Management  

David A. McEntire

Disasters and the theory of emergency management are vibrant subjects for scholars. Researchers have focused on a variety of topics, including the definition of disasters, human behavior in extreme events, the nature of emergency management, ways to make the profession more effective, the pros and cons of various paradigms, and new areas of research. In studying these subjects, scholars have employed a variety of methods, including observation, field research, and comparison, among others. Findings from research reveals that humans are responsible for disasters and that vulnerability must be reduced. Studies reveal that antisocial behavior is less likely to occur than more common activities to support victims of disasters. The principles of emergency management have been elaborated, and scholars have argued that the phases of disasters are more complex that initially meets they eye. Research also reveals that bureaucratic approaches to emergency management are based on false assumptions and are too rigid. Scholarship also explores how to make emergency management functions more effective, and a number of articles have been written to explore paradigms to guide research and practice. Theoretical work on disasters and emergency management has examined planning, improvisation, and spontaneous planning. Research has also explored humanitarian logistics, the use of social media, the scholarship of teaching and learning, cultural competency and the culture of preparedness. Going forward, more research is needed on the complexity of disasters and the use or impact of technology in emergency management. A greater understanding of public health emergencies is warranted due to the challenges of Covid-19.

Article

Key Actors in the Management of Crises: International and Regional Organizations  

Eva-Karin Gardell and Bertjan Verbeek

In crisis-ridden times, when events like the COVID-19 pandemic, acts of terrorism, and climate change-induced crises are making constant headlines, states, businesses, and individuals alike look to international organizations (IOs) to help them weather the storm. How can the role of IOs be better understood in the context of crisis and crisis management? For a start, it requires a distinction between objective and subjective crisis perspectives in studying IOs. From an objective perspective, IOs are examined as unitary actors that have the aim of contributing to the stability of the international political system. On the other hand, in a subjectivistic approach, IOs’ actual crisis management is the focus. In this perspective, the emphasis is on an IO’s internal life, that is, its perceptions, bureau politics, and decision-making. In the exploration of these issues, IOs can no longer by studied as entities but have to be unwrapped into small groups and individuals, such as members of secretariats or member state’s top politicians. As borne out by theories developed by scholars of crisis management and foreign-policy analysis, centralization and cognitive bias are of special interest in the study of IOs. IOs’ crisis management has four crisis phases and tasks: sense-making, decision-making, meaning-making, and crisis termination. Finally, crises may prove a threat to, or an opportunity for, IOs. Transnational crises may usher in IOs’ foundation and flourishing, or they may contribute to IOs’ demise.

Article

Collaboration Constructs and Institutions  

Elise Boruvka and Lisa Blomgren Amsler

Collaboration, the act of “co-laboring,” takes place when actors come together to achieve common goals. Collaborative efforts can take many forms, working across sectors and involving many actors. When these efforts involve the government or public purposes, they represent collaborative governance. Collaborative governance provides opportunities for voice and participation among the public (both citizens and residents) and stakeholders regarding solutions and services that would otherwise be challenging for a single unit, actor, or sector to create. Collaborative public management, new public governance, public–private partnerships, network governance, and participatory governance all fall within collaborative governance. Among these literatures, 10 categories of constructs appear: governance, structure, interaction continuum, motivations for entering arrangements, member roles, within network characteristics, performance, value creation, public role, and public engagement.

Article

Crisis Governance, Emergency Management, and the Digital Revolution  

Patrick S. Roberts, Shalini Misra, and Joanne Tang

Digital technologies have fundamentally altered emergency and crisis management work through increased potential for role ambiguity, role conflict, distraction, and overload. Multilevel approaches to improve congruence between crisis managers and their environments have the potential to reduce cognitive and organizational barriers and improve decision making. The future of crisis management lies in reducing the misalignment between personal, proximal, and distal environmental conditions.

Article

Information Processing and Digitalization in Bureaucracies  

Tero Erkkilä

Bureaucracies and their processing of information have evolved along with the formation of states, from absolutist to welfare state and beyond. Digitalization has both reflected and expedited these changes, but it is important to keep in mind that digital-era governance is also conditioned by existing information resources as well as institutional practices and administrative culture. To understand the digital transformations of states, one needs to engage in contextual analysis of the actual changes that might show even paradoxical and unintended effects. Initially, the studies on the effects of information systems on bureaucracies focused on single organizations. But the focus has since shifted toward digitally enhanced interaction with the society in terms of service provision, responsiveness, participatory governance, and deliberation, as well as economic exploitation of public data. Indeed, the history of digitalization in bureaucracies also reads as an account of its opening. But there are also contradictory developments concerning the use of big data, learning systems, and digital surveillance technologies that have created new confidential or secretive domains of information processing in bureaucracies. Another pressing topic is automation of decision making, which can range from rules-based decisions to learning systems. This has created new demands for control, both in terms of citizen information rights as well as accountability systems. While one should be cautious about claims of revolutionary changes, the increasing tempo and interconnectedness characterizing digitalization of bureaucratic activities pose major challenges for public accountability. The historical roots of state information are important in understanding changes of information processing in public administration through digitalization, highlighting the transformations of states and new stakeholders and forms of collaboration, as well as the emerging questions of accountability. But instead of readily assuming structural changes, one should engage in contextualized analysis of the actual effects of digitalization to fully understand them.

Article

The Agenda-Setting Process and Crises: Toward a Conceptual Framework  

Sandra L. Resodihardjo

An agenda is a list of issues being discussed and sometimes decided upon. This discussion can take place in society (the public agenda), in media outlets (the media agenda), and in government institutions (the political agenda). The number of issues that can be discussed in these fora is limited and thus not every issue will get onto the agenda. Actors will therefore try to put some issues on the agenda while blocking others. Not all issues, however, have the same weight. Some issues (such as the economy) are of such a magnitude that they can bump other issues off the agenda. This ability to push issues from the agenda is also attributed to crises. After all, an event with such an impact on society will surely affect what is being discussed. Reality, however, is more complex, starting with the fact that society may not perceive an event to be a crisis even though it has a huge impact on those directly affected. And even if society defines the event as a crisis, which aspect(s) of the crisis will be put on the agenda? Will the focus be on, for instance, preventative measures, or the fact that some parts of the population were more affected by the crisis than others? By combining several strands of literature (most notably the agenda-setting, media, and framing literature), it is possible to discern five elements that need to be included in a conceptual framework if one wants to explain how crises affect the agenda-setting process. These five elements are (a) agenda interaction, (b) windows of opportunity, (c) entrepreneurs, (d) venue shopping, and (e) framing and problem definition. Agenda interaction refers to the interaction between and within the three types of agendas: the public, the media, and the political agendas. If political actors are, for example, able to define the event as minor and this definition is accepted by the public and the media, the issue will drop from all agendas. Windows of opportunity are moments in time when issues can be pushed onto the agenda and may even lead to policy change. Crises are one way to open these windows. A person who is trying to use that window to get a problem or solution on the agenda (and sometimes succeeding) is an entrepreneur. Other actions entrepreneurs can use include venue shopping—strategically selecting (and trying to access) those decision making arenas that seem to be a good bet when one tries to win a debate. To get access to these venues, however, entrepreneurs need to ensure that they frame the problem in such a way that a venue will decide that the issue falls under its jurisdiction. Framing also plays a role in whether an event becomes defined as a crisis, which type of window will open, and which particular aspect of the crisis will make it onto the agenda.