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Administrative Culture  

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.


Public Administration in Central and Eastern Europe  

Stanisław Mazur

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.