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Article

Muiris MacCarthaigh and Leno Saarniit

Administrative culture is an established and prominent theme in public administration research. It is frequently used to explain or contextualize a variety of phenomena in the discipline, ranging from differences in governing styles and policy outcomes between national bureaucracies to making sense of the informal norms and values that determine the activities of individual public organizations and how they interact with political and non-state interests. It is also occasionally used to characterize a particular “type” of organizational culture, with features that distinguish it from the private or third sectors. With such varied uses of the term, as well as related concepts such as administrative style, tradition, and legacies, administrative culture attracts multiple interpretations as well as its fair share of criticisms as an explanatory tool. In some contexts, administrative culture is an independent variable that helps explain divergence and variety in policy outcomes within and across national borders, while in others it is a dependent variable that attracts experiments and new measurement tools with the aim of producing more sophisticated understanding of its place in public governance. Early skepticism about the study of administrative culture mainly arose due to the absence of adequate methodology as well as uncertainty about how to begin empirical research into the concept. The emergence of such a methodology and tools for inquiry since the 1970s has meant that administrative culture is now firmly located in the literature and practice of government and a burgeoning literature now exists across the globe. Some of the key contemporary debates around administrative culture concern the interplay between cultures and sub-cultures within bureaucracies, the influence of distinctive administrative traditions and styles on policy outcomes, and the role culture plays in public sector reform.

Article

The notion of administrative tradition represents one way of discussing the issue of whether and to what extent a number of countries (polities/jurisdictions) have a significant array of traits in common concerning their public administration. The notion of administrative tradition may enable the pursuit of a range of purposes, like the framing of comparison for purposes of advancing knowledge and the assessment of capacities for reforming and change. The notion of Napoleonic administrative tradition can be substantiated by identifying a distinct configuration along four dimens(ions: an organic conception of the state, with limited role for societal, non-co-opted actors in public policy-making; a career civil service, distinct from other occupations, furnishing a general-purpose elite for the state; a predominance of law over management in defining the fundamental tasks of administration, and uniformity of treatment of citizens as a basic value guiding administrative action; and the preeminence of law and a system of courts in enforcing public accountability. Jurisdictions that may be ascribed to the Napoleonic administrative tradition encompass five countries in Europe (France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain) as well as, more problematically, a number of countries which inherited the French model during the colonial period.

Article

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.

Article

In the early 1990s, the Central and Eastern European countries (CEE countries) saw the collapse of communist regimes and an unprecedented political and economic transformation that resulted in the establishment of democratic, law-governed states and market economies. Administrative reforms, which became an important milestone in this transformation, were considerably influenced both by administrative legacies predominant in the countries and by the Europeanization processes associated with their accession to the European Union. The administrative legacies, which combine elements of various traditions (e.g., German, Napoleonic, and Anglo-American) are still strongly affected by what is left of the communist era. Conversely, the impact of Europeanization processes on public administrations in CEE countries has proved to be much weaker than initially expected. The process of building a professional and apolitical civil service in CEE countries has been plagued by discontinuity and inconsistency, owing to the specific administrative culture of the region, the weakening pressure to modernize EU institutions, and the consequences of the 2008 financial crisis, as well as growing populist tendencies in the region. All these factors encouraged the belief that political control over public administration needs to be tightened in order for the effectiveness and quality of governance mechanisms to be improved. The quality of governance and public management varies widely across the CEE countries. What they have in common—at least to some extent—is the fairly high dynamics of change, including the reversal of the effects of previously implemented reforms. The latter factor may be interpreted as a search for country-specific reform paths, partly due to disappointment with the values and models prevailing in Western Europe, and somewhat as a consequence of growing populist tendencies in the region.