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Comparative Civil Service Systems in the 21st Century

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Comparative Civil
Service Systems in
the 21st Century
2nd edition

Edited by

Frits M. van der Meer

CAOP Professor of Comparative Civil Service and Public Sector Reform, Institute of
Public Administration, Leiden University, the Netherlands

Jos C.N. Raadschelders

Professor and Associate Director of Faculty at the John Glenn School of Public Affairs,
Ohio State University, USA and affiliated Professor of Public Administration, Institute
of Public Administration Leiden University, the Netherlands


Theo A.J. Toonen

Dean, Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management, Delft University of Technology,
the Netherlands; Chair in Institutional Governance and Public Administration at Delft
and Leiden University, the Netherlands
Selection, editorial matter, introduction and conclusion © Frits M. van der Meer,
Jos C.N. Raadschelders and Theo A.J. Toonen 2015
Individual chapters © Respective authors 2015
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List of Illustrations vii

List of Contributors viii

1 Civil Service Systems and the Challenges of the 21st Century 1

Jos C.N. Raadschelders, Theo A.J. Toonen and
Frits M. van der Meer

2 Civil Service Development in Central and Eastern

Europe and the CIS: A Perfect Storm? 15
Tony J.G. Verheijen and Aleksandra Rabrenovic

3 Civil Service Systems in Western Europe:

A Comparative Analysis 38
Frits M. van der Meer, Trui Steen and Anchrit Wille

4 Anglophone Systems: Diffusion and Policy Transfer

within an Administrative Tradition 57
John Halligan

5 Explaining Civil Service Reform in Asia 77

John P. Burns

6 Africa: Revitalizing Civil Service Systems to Enhance

Economic Performance 95
Ladipo Adamolekun and Dele Olowu

7 National Civil Service Systems in Western Europe:

The End or Endurance of Weberian Bureaucracy? 114
Caspar van den Berg and Theo A.J. Toonen

8 Civil Service Reforms, Public Service Bargains and

Dynamics of Institutional Change 136
Philippe Bezes and Martin Lodge

9 Public Service Systems at Subnational and Local Levels of

Government: A British–German–French Comparison 162
Sabine Kuhlmann, Sylvia Veit and Jörg Bogumil

10 Middle-Level Officials and Policy 185

Edward C. Page

vi Contents

11 Transitions in Civil Service Systems: Robustness and

Flexibility in Human Resource Management 203
Per Lægreid and Lois Recascino Wise

12 Civil Service Systems and Public Service Motivation 223

James L. Perry

13 Law and Management: Comparatively Assessing the

Reach of Judicialization 237
Robert K. Christensen and Charles R. Wise

14 The Constitutional Responsibility of the Civil Service 255

John A. Rohr
15 Civil Service Systems and Responsibility, Accountability
and Performance: A Multi-Dimensional Approach 270
Gerrit S.A. Dijkstra

16 Governance and Civil Service Systems: From Easy

Answers to Hard Questions 286
B. Guy Peters and Jon Pierre

17 Is Past Prologue to 21st-Century Civil Service Systems?

Exploring Historical Frames for Discovering Lessons
about Institutional Futures 301
Richard J. Stillman II

18 Political-Administrative Relations: Evolving Models of

Politicization 317
Luc Rouban

19 Political (System) Reform: Can Administrative Reform

Succeed Without? 334
Jos C.N. Raadschelders and Marie-Louise Bemelmans-Videc

20 Civil Servants in the Enabling Framework State of the

21st Century 354
Jos C.N. Raadschelders, Theo A.J. Toonen and
Frits M. van der Meer

Index 371
List of Illustrations

3.1 European trust in national governments for 15
EU countries, 2003–2013 (%) 50
3.2 Trust in civil service in 17 West European
countries, 2005 (%) 51
7.1 Number of policy officials employed by the Permanent
Representations at the European Union of four EU-member
states 117
19.1 Levels of political and administrative system reform 337

5.1 Economic growth, quality of public institutions and
corruption of selected Asian states 79
5.2 Public sector reform capacity: institutional veto points,
bureaucratic autonomy and reform results in selected Asian
countries in the 1990s 80
5.3 Moon and Ingraham’s PNT and public sector reform
in selected Asian countries in the 1990s 90
5.4 Economic growth and corruption of selected Asian states 91
6.1 Attributes and broad indicators of state fragility 101
6.2 Comparison of GDP and governance and output
indicators 2011/2012 103
6.3 African public management capacity, 2011: Mo Ibrahim
governance scores 104
6.4 Core reform elements required for revitalizing Africa’s
civil services in the 21st century 110
9.1 Local government systems (traditional profiles) 165
9.2 Local public employment, general public employment and
general employment in country-comparative perspective
2012/2013 168
9.3 Development of local public employment in
country-comparative perspective 176
12.1 A typology of incentive systems associated with three
common public sector incentives 231
18.1 High level of trust in elected politicians in 2010 330

List of Contributors

Ladipo Adamolekun is Professor of Public Administration and former

Dean of the Faculty of Administration at Obafemi Awolowo University,
Nigeria, and a former Lead Public Sector Management Specialist in the
World Bank.

Marie-Louise Bemelmans-Videc is Emeritus Professor of Public

Administration at Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands, and
a former senator in the First Chamber of Parliament.

Philippe Bezes is CNRS Research Professor (Centre National de la

Recherche Scientifique) at Centre d’Études et de Recherches de Sciences
Administratives et Politiques (CERSA), Paris, France.

Jörg Bogumil is Chair of Political Science, Comparative Local and

Regional Politics at Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany.

John P. Burns is Dean of Social Sciences and Chair Professor of Politics

and Public Administration at the University of Hong Kong, China.

Robert K. Christensen is Associate Professor in the Department of Public

Administration and Policy, School of Public and International Affairs,
University of Georgia, USA.

Gerrit S.A. Dijkstra is Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Public

Administration, Leiden University, the Netherlands.

John Halligan is a Research Professor of Government and Public

Administration, Faculty of Business and Government, University of
Canberra, Australia.

Sabine Kuhlmann is Chair of Political Science, Administration and

Organization at the University of Potsdam, Germany.

Per Lægreid is Professor in the Department of Administration and

Organization Theory at the University of Bergen, Norway.

Martin Lodge is Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the

London School of Economics, Department of Government and Centre
for Analysis of Risk and Regulation, UK.

List of Contributors ix

Dele Olowu was Professor of Public Administration at Obafemi Awolowo

University, Nigeria, former teacher and researcher at the Institute of
Social Studies, the Hague, adviser at the United Nations Economic
Commission and African Development Bank, adjunct professor at
Mountcrest University, Accra, Ghana and Convener of Global Peace
Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Edward C. Page is Sidney and Beatrice Webb Professor of Public Policy

at the London School of Economics, UK.

James L. Perry is Distinguished Professor Emeritus and Chancellor’s

Professor of Public and Environmental Affairs Emeritus at the School of
Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University, Bloomington, USA
and Visiting Distinguished Scholar, University of Hong Kong, China.

B. Guy Peters is Professor in the Department of Political Science at the

University of Pittsburgh, USA and at Zeppelin University, Germany.

Jon Pierre is Research Professor of Political Science at the University

of Gothenburg, Sweden and Professor of Public Governance at the
Melbourne School of Government, University of Melbourne, Australia.
He is also Adjunct Professor at the University of Pittsburgh, USA.

Jos C.N. Raadschelders is Professor and Associate Director of Faculty

at the John Glenn School of Public Affairs, Ohio State University, USA
and affiliated as Professor of Public Administration, Institute of Public
Administration, Leiden University, the Netherlands.

Aleksandra Rabrenovic is Team Leader of the EU-financed Public

Service Reform program in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

John A. Rohr was Professor of Public Administration at the Centre for

Public Administration and Policy, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and
State University, USA.

Luc Rouban is Professor and CNRS Research Director at Cevipof, Sciences

Po, Paris, France.

Trui Steen is Associate Professor in the Department of Public

Administration, Leiden University, the Netherlands and a professor at
the KU Leuven Public Governance Institute, Belgium.

Richard J. Stillman II is a professor of Public Administration at the

School of Public Affairs, University of Colorado, Denver.
x List of Contributors

Theo A.J. Toonen is Dean, Faculty of Technology, Policy and

Management (TPM), Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands;
Chair in Institutional Governance and Public Administration at Delft
and Leiden University, the Netherlands.

Caspar van den Berg is Senior Lecturer in Public Administration at the

Institute of Public Administration, Leiden University, the Netherlands.

Frits M. van der Meer is CAOP Professor of Comparative Civil Service

and Public Sector Reform, Institute of Public Administration, Leiden
University, the Netherlands.

Sylvia Veit is Professor of Public Management, Department of Economics

and Management, University of Kassel.

Tony J.G. Verheijen is Country Manager for Serbia, Europe and Central
Asia at the World Bank.

Anchrit Wille is Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Public Administration,

University of Leiden, the Netherlands.

Charles R. Wise is Distinguished Visiting Professor, Arizona State

University, USA.

Lois Recascino Wise is Professor Emeritus at the School of Public and

Environmental Affairs, Indiana University, USA.
Civil Service Systems and the
Challenges of the 21st Century
Jos C.N. Raadschelders, Theo A.J. Toonen, and
Frits M. Van der Meer

1 Introduction

In the first edition of this book (The Civil Service in the 21st Century,
Raadschelders, Toonen, and Van der Meer, 2007) we noted that between
the early 1990s and the mid-2000s civil service systems (CSS) had come
under intense scrutiny. The role and position of the civil service as core
actors in the public sector had been seriously questioned by political
pundits and other actors in society and academia. It seemed that the
central position of civil servants in the political-administrative and
societal systems was eroding and that the supposed monopoly of the
civil service in public service delivery had gradually broken down. Some
visionaries even expected the demise of the civil service as we know
it (Demmke, 2004, 2005; Demmke and Moilanen, 2010). As we now
know, this particular prophecy was grossly exaggerated, reflecting the
author’s wish rather than an empirical fact. In fact, as we can see in
several of the updated and renewed chapters in this volume, the fiscal
crisis that has troubled many countries has resulted in popular rejec-
tion of political officeholders and a strengthening of the social and
professional status of civil servants. Of course, it cannot be denied that,
owing to a variety of reasons, CSS have increasingly been influenced by
a range of internal and external pressures prompted by changes in the
institutional context. These internal and environmental changes will be
examined in this volume and will be introduced in this chapter. Taken
together, these changes supposedly amount to a new, more fragmented
order in the public domain generally referred to nowadays as multi-level
governance. In this supposed new order, governments and CSS have to
find their place. Although there appears to be some common under-
standing in the scientific community with respect to the nature of these

2 Jos C.N. Raadschelders et al.

wide-ranging change processes, the analysis of the actual consequences

for CSS has received less attention.
In this book various aspects of these challenges and change processes
will be probed and the findings will serve as a basis for the final chapter.
This publication is rooted in a research project, Civil Service Systems in
Comparative Perspective, that started in 1990. Back then, empirically
grounded and theoretical information was scarcely available on this
topic (Bekke, Perry, and Toonen, 1996; Perry, 1999). This deficiency in
empirical research was problematic given the widely perceived urgency
to reform public services and this project was started to remedy this
deficiency. The first phase was to develop an analytical framework to
guide empirical research. In 1996 the first volume, Civil Service Systems
in Comparative Perspective (edited by Hans Bekke, Jim Perry, and Theo
Toonen), was published. It contained a conceptual framework for civil
service research. It developed a neo-institutional approach that stressed
the historical dimensions and the embeddedness of these systems
within their particular political and societal contexts. On the basis of
this framework (see also Raadschelders and Perry, 1994) the second
phase of the project could start. This involved an examination of a
large number of civil service systems. The results were published in a
series of four comparative studies published by Edward Elgar on Central
and Eastern Europe (Verheijen, 1999), Western Europe (Bekke and
Van der Meer, 2000, Van der Meer 2nd edition 2011), Asia (Burns and
Bowornwathana, 2001) and Anglo-American countries (Halligan, 2004).
The consortium leading this research effort has been fortunate to attract
scholars from all over the world. Only Africa was not included in the
second phase of empirical studies (see on that continent, Adamolekun,
1999). We partially rectified this by including a chapter on Africa in
the first volume (by Adamolekun) and in this edition (Adamolekun and
Olowu). As for Latin America, two of the papers at the 1997 conference
at Indiana University, Bloomington were published in 1999 (Perlman on
Nicaragua, Oszlak on Argentina).
This updated volume still serves as the third phase of this project and
offers reflections on developments in various world regions, seeks to
identify the major challenges CSS will confront in the 21st century, and
what this implies for these institutions. In this opening chapter we will
provide a general introduction to pressures and challenges presently
confronting CSS (Section 2). Central to this section is the discussion of
the neo-institutional definition of civil service systems as used by Bekke
et al. (1996) that analyzes CSS at three different levels and characterizes
change in terms of processes of de- and re-institutionalization. We then
Civil Service Systems and the Challenges 3

discuss in more detail the four sections of this book and the various
chapters in each (Section 3).

2 Pressures and challenges confronting civil service


Change, continuity, and diversity have characterized the development

of the civil service in the past two centuries. It is most common to date
the start of wide-ranging and profound changes in (mainly) the environ-
ment of government organizations in the early 1980s. These environ-
mental changes necessitated or even dictated a fundamental overhaul
and reforms of CSS (Ferlie, Lynn, and Pollitt 2005; Kickert, 1997; Peters
and Pierre, 2000, 2001; Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2011).
The list of environmental changes is impressive. Internationally, they
include the redesign of the global (economic) world order with the fall
of many communist systems, the rise of new economies in developing
countries, the growing effects of globalization, transnational economic
and demographic movements, efforts at controlling cross-border move-
ment and constraining, for instance, international terrorism, and since
the late 2000s the banking, economic, and fiscal crises (for the distinc-
tion between these three types of crises, see Kickert, Randma-Liv, and
Savi, 2013) that we only now, at the time of writing, seem to be slowly
recovering from. These, though, are only a few among the many inter-
national change processes that diminish the dominance of the unified
nation state (Farazmand and Pinkowski, 2006). However, we should
also be aware of counter trends. Accelerated information exchange
and increased accessibility of information have, paradoxically, made
nations and world regions more aware of their differences. Indeed,
while globalization made some fear the possibility of losing national
and/or regional identity, a fairly strong popular sentiment, nothing of
the sort has happened. Also, we have to remember that governments
have always operated in an interdependent international environment
and that globalization and state activity increased simultaneously. In
that perspective globalization has not systematically undermined state
control (Krasner, 2001: 234–236).
National environmental changes include ever-increasing calls and
demands from a more active and educated citizenry asking for voice and
tailor-made solutions to social problems, increased awareness of the
influence of parallel societal and governmental decision centers, and
rapid information exchange. Hence the suggestion that also nationally
the (monopoly) position of central government is seriously undermined.
4 Jos C.N. Raadschelders et al.

At the same time, though, the existence of multiple policy- and deci-
sion-making arenas or networks has made government and its CSS more
aware of the intermediary role no one else can play. In other words,
more than ever before, civil servants have become brokers among a wide
range of nonprofit and private stakeholders. While in a variety of policy
areas governments still take the initiative (cf. the active state concept),
it is the government of the enabling state that has come to the surface
(Page and Wright, 2007).
These international and national developments are captured in the
conceptual shift from unified, national state government to multi-level
governance. Before the late 1980s and 1990s the concept of governance
was hardly used in public administration and political science litera-
ture.1 Since then, public administration scholars and political scientists
have embraced this fashionable concept, and often more for its norma-
tive connotation rather than for its analytical potential.2 They should
more consider perspective, which will sooner downplay the novelty of
phenomena than declare the coming of a new age (Peters and Pierre,
Coming from the World Bank report on sub-Saharan development in
1989 the concept of good governance emphasizes the interplay between
state and civil society with regard to decision making and service
delivery in the public domain. Although the use of the concept in public
administration and political science might be comparatively recent,
from an empirical and historical point of view its content and occur-
rence are certainly not (see Chapter 7 in this volume by Van den Berg
and Toonen). Several examples come to mind. In consociational states
such as Germany and the Netherlands, governmental and third-sector
actors at national, regional, and local levels have worked together in the
development and implementation of policy and the provision of serv-
ices since, at least, the 16th century. But, private actors may also operate
independently from public actors, as is the case with, for example, the
establishment of private schools and hospitals, with charities, and with
the public utilities concessions in the second part of the 19th century.
The expansion of the welfare state did not make these initiatives redun-
dant, although in some countries, such as France and perhaps the UK,
the role of national government had become more important than in
others (such as the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden).
The multi-level governance concept resembles closely the strengths
of network theory, that is, focusing attention on the interdependence
between and substantial cooperation among various public, semi-pri-
vate, private, and nonprofit actors in public service delivery. But this
Civil Service Systems and the Challenges 5

focus on horizontal relations and processes often overlooks the effects of

power differences and the role that formal institutions and jurisdictions
still play (Peters and Pierre, 2004).
In this chapter multi-level governance refers to the intertwinement of
public decision making and service delivery mechanisms and actors at
local, regional, and nationwide levels of government and society. Private
actors, citizens, interest groups, enterprises, and so on are considered
as important as public sector actors, although the latter continue to
have the final authority to make binding decisions in matters of collec-
tive or societal interest. Some may suggest that multi-level govern-
ance directly strikes at the very existence of civil service systems, given
public service delivery through policy networks, decentralized govern-
ance networks, public–private partnerships and a cooperation between
non-governmental bodies, consultants, and government. Ipso facto, the
unified bureaucratic career civil service is challenged and perhaps even
approaching its demise.
A life without civil services and civil servants is difficult to conceive
since public sector organizations need people. As Richard Rose observed:
‘public employees in very real sense put flesh on the barebones of govern-
ment’ (quoted in Bekke and Van der Meer, 2000: 1). Who are these civil
servants and in which institutional arrangements do they operate?
Most discussions are to large degree focused on and often obsessed by
a particular manifestation or even local definition of civil service. Some
West European public administration scholars consider CSS as legal-ra-
tional constructions characteristic for the 19th century emerging within
a particular political-administrative and legal framework and often
characterized by idiosyncratic national features (Demmke 2004, 2005;
Demmke and Moilanen, 2010; Page and Wright, 1999). In this perspec-
tive, CSS is conceptualized as a traditional career system, fitting a partic-
ular set of state traditions, and – irrespective of country – responding
in a similar way to similar pressures irrespective of national contexts.
This perspective, however, is seriously impaired and we must, instead,
differentiate between CSS as a neo-institutional concept and CSS as an
In the Bekke, Perry, and Toonen volume (1996) CSS were defined as
institutions (i.e. rule complexes) that mobilize human resources in the
service of the state. These rule complexes then become manifest in a
particular organizational design. Hence, CSS is an institutional arrange-
ment and not just an organizational structure or career system. As
an institutional arrangement, that is, the deepest level of analysis, it
includes constituting values such as Rechtsstaat principles. These values
6 Jos C.N. Raadschelders et al.

and principles are manifest in, inter alia, the design of specific deci-
sion-making procedures (including rules, e.g. about the involvement
of career civil servants in setting policy directions). This constitutes
an intermediate level of analysis. At the most visible level of analysis,
CSS includes rules of human resource management (e.g. the notion
of internal labor market). The actual substance (in terms of rules) of
these CSS and their organizational manifestation varies across nations
and over time. In this perspective the emergence of multi-level govern-
ance might be regarded as a change in rule structure and substance, thus
creating, first, a different institutional environment for and, second,
possibly changing the rule structure and substance of CSS. Neither is
inconceivable. For instance, efforts to establish the Rechtsstaat princi-
ples in Central and Eastern Europe and in many developing countries
provides a different institutional environment for civil servants and had
some consequences for the internal features of CSS (see Chapter 2 by
Verheijen and Rabrenovich, as well as Chapter 6 by Adamolekun and
Olowu, this volume). Adding into this environmental complexity is that
governments and their CSS are not isolated but aware of the changes
and reforms each experience. The exact design and developmental route
of CSS is conditioned by particular societal and political-administrative

3 Construction and the plan of book

From what has been said above, we can distill the main elements of our
study. First, the importance of considering the existence or absence of
variation regarding both the design and reform of civil service systems.
Second, the importance of the (discovery of the) multi-level govern-
ance context for existing civil service systems both on a macro (system
or parts thereof) and micro (the individual civil servants) level. Third,
the normative dimension and the internal inconsistencies relevant to
CSS have grown in importance. Fourth, CSS needs to be considered in
relation to its immediate institutional/organizational environment: the
political system and its officeholders
This book is thus divided into four parts. In Part 1, we will examine
current issues and changes affecting the civil service systems that were
included in the civil service project. Thus, we will examine the state
of affairs in Central and Eastern Europe, in Western Europe, in Anglo-
American countries, and in Asian countries. The chapter on Africa is
co-authored by Ladipo Adamolekun and Dele Olowu. The binding
theme in this part is the public sector reform dimension and the
Civil Service Systems and the Challenges 7

effects on the different civil service systems. Obviously, this includes

attention to the historical perspective, since the impact of the past is
as relevant as the influence of contemporary changes. Tony Verheijen
and Aleksandra Rabrenovic discuss rapid changes and their effects in
Central and Eastern European civil service systems (Chapter 2). They
specifically consider the usefulness of the legalist continental European
model, the performance-focused Anglo-American model, and the corpo-
ratist South Asian model, and then assess the feasibility of New Public
Management (NPM)-style reforms in that part of Europe. They have paid
specific attention to the impact of the fiscal crisis in Central and Eastern
Europe. One of the features they observe is that the initial strengthening
of civil service legislation leading up to EU membership has, following
this membership, been dismantled so that civil servants work in a more
politicized environment. The depth of institutionalization did not reach
beyond the level of formal rules (Meyer-Sahling, 2012: 77). The stagna-
tion in the institutionalization of civil service systems can be attributed
to declining perspectives upon EU membership of the Western Balkan
states and to enlargement fatigue (Meyer-Sahling, 2012: 78). Next, Frits
M. Van der Meer, Trui Steen, and Anchrit Wille examine change and
continuity in Western Europe and how various countries have coped
with managerialist-type reforms in light of the budgetary crisis given
their specific systems and models (Chapter 3). It is intriguing to read
how in several countries a trend can be seen of lesser reliance upon a
neutral civil service, while in other countries attempts are under way to
increase civil service neutrality.
John Halligan focuses attention on what he calls the easy diffusion in
case of the Anglo-American Systems (Chapter 4). While he points to the
degree to which these systems are able to adopt easily from each other,
there are national variations. It appears that presently NPM is not as
pervasive as it used to be.
John Burns considers the reform experience in six South East Asian
countries (Vietnam, China, Singapore, Korea, Japan, Hong Kong)
(Chapter 5). These six countries share a Confusionist tradition, that
is, they operate a strong interventionist state. It appears that in states
with weak civil societies reforms have been more successful than in
states with strong civil societies. Finally, Ladipo Adamolekun and
Dele Olowu study the experiences in Africa with an emphasis on the
past 30 years (Chapter 6). New in this chapter is the attention to the
overall improved economic performance of African countries, coupled
with increasing fragility of many of its political systems. The authors
claim that about a third of Africa’s 600 million people live in a fragile
8 Jos C.N. Raadschelders et al.

state. They categorize reform efforts in various states into four major
groups (advanced reformers, committed reformers, hesitant reformers,
and beginners/non-starters). Reform outcomes vary with the degree of
political, social, and economic turbulence. The major focus of reform
has turned to the influence of culture and governance on CSS and their
relation with the various groups in society.
In Part 2 we go beyond the dominant view of civil service systems as
only a personnel system at the national level, by pointing to the larger
(institutional) environment and to differences in rank and in level of
government. Traditionally civil service (system) research had a tendency
to focus on the civil service as a labor organization positioned at the
national level and using a government-centered approach. Increasingly,
in the past decade attention is shifting from a hierarchically state-cen-
tered perspective concerning government to a multi-level approach
captured by the concept of governance. This shift also places civil
servants in an entirely new light: they are not just subordinates, quiet
yet persistent experts, or policy drafters, but also network managers.
Therefore, ample attention will be given to the emergent perspective of
multi-level governance.
Caspar van den Berg and Theo Toonen suggest that multi-level
governance rests on three pillars: lack of a single center of authority,
the involvement of non-state actors in policy making and implemen-
tation, and interaction in the public realm not so much guided by
constitutional arrangement but, instead, fluid, informal, and hori-
zontal (Chapter 7). They discuss several trends that currently strengthen
multi-level governance and suggest that these potentially result in two
contradictory trends: politicization of the core bureaucracy as well as a
depolitization of administrative bodies. How influential this multi-level
governance structure is becomes clear in the chapter of Philippe Bezes
and Martin Lodge in which they examine exogenous and endogenous
influences upon the dynamics of administrative change (Chapter 8).
Could it be that too much attention is given to external factors, such as
societal environment and institutional arrangements, and too little to
factors internal to CSS such as the influence of minor reforms becoming
more influential later (the displacement effect), the introduction of new
layers in the existing decision-making structures, and the challenge of
replacing a rapidly aging and soon retiring middle and higher level civil
service? Both Chapters 7 and 8 address macro-level issues.
The next three chapters in this section are more focused on micro-level
issues. Chapters 9 and 10 bring two groups of ‘forgotten’ civil servants
to the forefront, while Chapter 11 focuses on the traditional, but no less
Civil Service Systems and the Challenges 9

important, topic of CSS as a personnel system. One group or category

of civil servants that is systematically overlooked in comparative civil
service research are those working at subnational levels of government.
Sabine Kuhlmann, Sylvia Veit, and Jörg Bogumil have made a start filling
that void by comparing English, German, and French local government
civil servants (Chapter 9). They are the backbone to the entire political-
administrative systems because it is at their level of government that
most public services are provided and can be tailored toward specific
local needs.
How have NPM reforms influenced local government’s capacity for
service delivery? Another group of civil servants that escaped research
attention are the rank-and-file in the middle and lower levels of an
organization. Edward C. Page’s chapter explores the increasingly
important role of mid-level specialist/expert civil servants in policy
making (Chapter 10). For various reasons their influence is extensive.
Does this influence their relation with the political leadership, and
in what sense is that relation different from that between the career
generalists at the top and political officeholders? Civil servants are
generally recruited for particular expertise and, in the course of their
career, routed through various line and staff positions. The internal
labor market of any CSS is highly regulated and standardized. Per
Lægreid and Lois Recasino Wise point out that differences between
the public and the private sectors with regard to the personnel func-
tion are declining (Chapter 11). Yet, there are some clear differences
as well. For instance, in the public sector the emphasis on efficiency
and accountability is more controversial, clashing, inter alia, with
seniority and loyalty. But, how can CSS balance flexibility and account-
ability with representativeness and equity? In their chapter they deal
with the impact that fiscal stress had upon recruitment, promotion,
and mobility. They conclude that the fiscal crisis has resulted in pay
freezes, other cuts such as reductions in staffing, and other program
expenditures (health care, social benefit systems, old-age pensions;
see also Melchor, 2013: 5–7).
In Chapter 12 James Perry examines public service motivation (PSM).
He observes that variation in PSM is sooner explained by factors larger
or smaller than the civil service system itself; that civil servants produce
results not by shirking and pursuing self-interest (as existing behavioral
theories suggest) but by working hard, by placing public goals before
their own, and by going an extra mile; and that public service motiva-
tion is best advanced when applying a mix of incentives (pay, job secu-
rity, and opportunities to satisfy PSM).
10 Jos C.N. Raadschelders et al.

To balance flexibility and accountability with representativeness and

equity represents a challenge that cannot be addressed in a mechanistic
fashion. The enhanced discretion that civil servants as public managers
may seek with regard to personnel decisions potentially diminishes
political control, hence why in Part 3 of this book normative aspects
pertinent to CSS and the effects of reforms upon value systems are
explored. In particular, the focus is on legality, efficiency, and respon-
siveness. Civil service reforms have often been pursued and defended
for reasons of public sector efficiency, as anti-corruption measure, and
as an effort to enhance responsiveness. In many analyses, civil servants
have become more active over time because of the exponential growth
and complexity of public service delivery. At the same time, though,
the emergence of multi-level government has prompted a much more
active role of civil servants. What consequences has this had for the role
of civil servants in the assessment and defense of public sector values?
This question will be answered by way of examining specific issues, such
as the balancing of legality with efficiency, the degree to which civil
servants have and/or ought to have policy-making discretion and at the
same time being held responsible for policy, and the extent to which
civil service performance can and ought to be measured. The immanent
tension between government (i.e. the structure) and governance (i.e. the
action) serves as the conclusion to this part.
In Chapter 13, Rob Christensen and Charles Wise examine the poten-
tial conflict between law and management and, especially, the judi-
cialization of public policy making. Increasingly judges and courts are
‘invited’ or assume policy-making responsibilities, thus complementing,
substituting, and competing with legislators. In their comparative anal-
ysis, which they hope provides a framework that enables the comparison
of policy and civil service practices, they contrast common law systems
with civil or Roman law systems. They also consider intergovernmental
relations and the influence of international judicial bodies. To what
extent to national legal traditions vary and influence the degree of judi-
cialization? How are CSS influenced by this judicialization?
One could, of course, argue that judicialization should not matter
all that much if and when civil servants’ responsibilities are clearly
grounded in a constitution. Yet, and obviously, law and practice are not
the same. Comparing the American, French, and English CSS John Rohr
argues that American civil servants have the best chance of serving as
constitutional actors, because of their oath to the Constitution, and this
despite the fact that their social status is generally less than that of their
British and French colleagues (Chapter 14). The argument developed in
Civil Service Systems and the Challenges 11

this chapter is that career civil servants who are members of the Senior
Executive Service should forgo their right to vote in any election so that
their elected officeholders and political appointees know that they can
rely on the non-partisanship of these SES-ers. The content of the chapter
is still relevant today and has not been updated (Professor Rohr passed
away in 2011).
Does social status of civil servants matter when it comes to civil serv-
ants’ responsibilities? Judicialization and constitutional responsibili-
ties are revisited by Gerrit Dijkstra in his reflection on responsibility,
accountability, and performance (Chapter 15). He carefully argues that
any one-dimensional approach is simplistic. Indeed, in recent years the
traditional vertical approaches to this issue (professional-ethical – cf.
Friedrich; political-institutional – cf. Finer; and political-societal – cf.
judicialization) have been complemented with the more horizontal and
programmatic approach characteristic for performance measurement
and management. Is this a viable alternative to the more traditional,
hierarchical approaches to accountability? Whatever the answer is,
a civil servant/manager can only function properly and adequately if
sensitive to the societal environment. This sensitivity is not just one
of responsiveness to societal needs and problems but also one of prop-
erly and adequately managing the interaction of political and societal
actors. Guy Peters and Jon Pierre focus on the Weberian, the NPM, and
the governance perspectives upon managing the interaction with the
environment (Chapter 16). They point out the importance of acknowl-
edging that government and governance co-exist and that the main
challenge is how to balance the traditional, juridical role of government
what that of its mediating capacity among a variety of nonprofit and
private actors.
In Part 4, titled “Beyond Civil Service Systems?,” we look at the impli-
cations of civil service reform for political-administrative relations, for
politics, and for the political-administrative system at large in the 21st
century. First, we assess the impact of the reforms summarized in Part 1,
and further analyzed in terms of consequences in Parts 2 and 3. Then we
consider the degree to which political system reforms might be comple-
mentary to civil service reforms. Finally, recent literature on political-
administrative relations further underlines the increased importance of
civil servants in the development and implementation of public law and
government policy.
Richard Stillman attempts to glean lessons from the events leading up
to and happening since the introduction of the Senior Executive Service
in the United States (Chapter 17). While this only represents one case
12 Jos C.N. Raadschelders et al.

of reform, and that limited to the top of the career civil service, it does
emphasize a variety of commonsensical insights useful anywhere. At the
same time, his discussion also shows how much institutional tradition
and culture matter. So, can we draw lessons from the past for the future?
Of those advanced by Stillman we will only mention that for reform to
be successful time is needed, and more specifically a time period that
encompasses several administrations/cabinets. This brings the role of
politics and political officeholders to center stage. Reforms of CSS have
undoubtedly influenced political-administrative relations. The question
is: in what way? Are civil servants more subordinate to politics than
before because of financial restraints, budget cuts, and the triumph of
managerial values? Luc Rouban addresses this question and paints a
much more nuanced picture than often found in literature (Chapter 18).
It appears that politics intervenes both more and less, dependent upon
issue salience. However, in light of the fiscal crisis since 2008, Rouban
notes that it is more difficult to assess the impact of NPM, especially since
the urge for austerity may both prompt further cuts as well as increase
tensions between political and administrative officeholders. First, the
fiscal crisis of 2008 has strengthened both distrust of political leaders as
well as discontent with privatization and contracting out. Second, some
of the new material that he presents shows how even civil servants have
about as much trust in their elected officeholders as citizens do, and this
is especially the case for lower- and middle-level civil servants.
However, the nature of that intervention varies with whether
NPM-type reforms were imposed (i.e. top-down NPM-reform) or volun-
tarily embraced (i.e. bottom-up NPM reform).The matter of whether
NPM reforms were imposed or embraced takes attention to the political
system itself: more specifically, to the degree to which civil service and
administrative reforms can succeed without political (system) reform.
This question is considered by Jos C.N. Raadschelders and Marie-Louise
Bemelmans-Videc (Chapter 19). Is the political environment as impor-
tant to success or failure of administrative reforms as it is to the success
or failure of public policy (see also Van der Meer, 2006)?
In the concluding chapter we will revisit the various topics in this
volume and organize that chapter on the basis of the civil service defi-
nition used in this project: Mediating institutions for the mobilization of
human resources in the service of the state in a given territory. We also offer
a neo-Weberian perspective upon the role and position of the state,
and thus of civil servants, in contemporary society. It is in that neo-
Weberian perspective that we encompass both NPM and governance
Civil Service Systems and the Challenges 13

approaches to understanding civil service systems. The civil service of

the 21st century needs no less.

1.. For most of the 19th and 20th centuries the historians’ use of the concept of
governance dominated. See, for example, Wolffe (1971).
2.. The concept of governance has become quite popular and has a normative
ring to it. It is considered superior to hierarchy, under-appreciates the need of
formal institutions, and is biased toward process. We will define this concept
in a neutral manner later in this chapter.

Adamolekun, Ladipo (1999) Public Administration in Africa. Main Issues and Selected
Country Studies (Boulder, CO: Westview Press).
Bekke, Hans A.G.M. and Frits M. van der Meer (eds) (2000) Civil Service Systems in
Western Europe (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar).
Bekke, Hans A.G.M., James L. Perry and Theo A.J. Toonen (eds) (1996) Civil Service
Systems in Comparative Perspective (Bloomington: Indiana University Press) .
Burns, John P. and Bidhya Bowornwathana (eds) (2001) Civil Service Systems in
Asia (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar).
Demmke, Christoph (2004) European Civil Services Between Tradition and Reform
(Maastricht: EIPA).
Demmke, Christoph (2005) Are Civil Servants Different Because They are Civil
Servants? Who are the Civil Servants – and How? (Maastricht: EIPA).
Demmke, Christoph and Timo Moilanen (2010) Civil Services in the EU of 27:
Reform Outcomes and the Future of the Civil Service (Frankfurt: Peter Lang).
Farazmand, Ali and Jack Pinkowski (eds) (2006) Handbook of Globalization,
Governance, and Public Administration (Boca Raton, FL: CRC Taylor & Frances).
Ferlie, Ewan, Lawrence Lynn jr. and Christopher Pollitt (eds) (2005) The Oxford
Handbook of Public Management (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Halligan, John (ed.) (2004) Civil Service Systems in Anglo-American Countries
(Cheltenham: Edward Elgar).
Kickert, Walter (1997) Public Management and Administrative Reform in Western
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Kickert, Walter, Tiina Randma-Liv and Riin Savi (2013) Fiscal Consolidation in
Europe: A Comparative Analysis. COCOPS Trend Report (Brussels: European
Krasner, Stephen D. (2001) ‘Abiding Sovereignty,’ International Political Science
Review, 22(3), 229–251.
Melchor, Oscar Huerta (2013) The Government Workforce of the Future. Innovation
in Strategic Workforce Planning in OECD Countries. OECD Papers on Public
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Balkans. SIGMA Papers, no. 48 (Paris: OECD Publishing).
14 Jos C.N. Raadschelders et al.

Oszlak, Oscar (1999) ‘The Argentine Civil Service: An Unfinished Search for
Identity,’ in James L. Perry (ed.) Research in Public Administration (Stamford, CT:
JAI Press), pp. 267–326.
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European States. A Comparative Analysis of Top Officials (Oxford: Oxford
University Press).
Page, Edward C. and Vincent Wright (eds) (2007) The Changing Role of Senior
Service in Europe (Houndmills: Palgrave).
Perlman, Bruce (1999) ‘Development and Reform of Post Sandinista Nicaraguan
Public Administration,’ in James L. Perry (ed.) Research in Public Administration
(Stamford, CT: JAI Press), pp. 189–231.
Perry, James L. (ed.) (1999) Research in Public Administration (Stamford, CT: JAI
Peters, B. Guy and Jon Pierre (2000) Governance, Politics, and the State (New York,
St. Martin’s Press).
Peters, B. Guy and Jon Pierre (2001) Intergovernmental Relations and Multi-Level
Governance (Bristol: Policy Press).
Peters, B. Guy and Jon Pierre (2004) ‘Multi-Level Governance and Democracy:
A Faustian Bargain,’ in Ian Bache and Matthew Flanders (eds) Multi-Level
Governance (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp. 75–93.
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Governance of the Realm from the Conquest to 1509 (London: George Allen &
Civil Service Development in
Central and Eastern Europe and
the CIS: A Perfect Storm?
Tony J.G. Verheijen and Aleksandra Rabrenovic

1 Introduction

Earlier stock-taking work on civil service system development in Central

and Eastern Europe (CEE) and the Commonwealth of independent States
(CIS) (Verheijen, 1999) showed a move from a relative similarity of approach
in the early 1990s, when all transition states struggled to overcome the
legacy of politicized and discredited state administrations, to a much more
divergent pattern that emerged from the start of the last decade. The three
factors identified that determined the civil service development path taken
were proximity to the EU (and likelihood of EU membership), vision on
the role of the state and model of political governance.
States on a secure path to EU membership created systems that, at
least formally, complied with broadly interpreted EU requirements, an
approach followed also by ‘potential candidates’ for EU membership in
Albania and the states of former Yugoslavia. Most CIS states set out on a
different track, with reforms responding to the fiscal upheaval in Russia
in 1998, which strongly impacted also on other CIS states.
For those more remote from the EU, or having opted for a different
development trajectory, a variety of approaches to civil service devel-
opment can be witnessed, including interest in state-led development
approaches mirrored on East Asian success stories (e.g. Kazakhstan and
some of the other Central Asian states), approaches mirroring the diverse
experience of emerging economies (e.g. Russia) and liberal ‘minimal
state’ approaches in Georgia and Armenia. Most of these states also have
models of political governance different from most ‘EU candidates’
which further set them apart.

16 Tony J.G. Verheijen and Aleksandra Rabrenovic

Fifteen years onwards, the divergent pattern has continued, so that at

this point there remains a firm distinction between states that are in the
EU or strive for EU membership, and others that have sought their own
path in creating civil service systems, with distinct patterns emerging
within the former group.
The path chosen by countries in the EU and those who are on track for
EU membership has become much less coherent than it was in the early
part of the last decade. Many new member states abandoned the broadly
prescriptive ‘menu’ derived from the principles laid out in thinking
around the ‘European Administrative Space’ and moved away from
public–private sector distinctions in employment conditions (Meyer-
Sahling, 2009; World Bank, 2007).
The fiscal crisis subsequently drove further changes in civil service
systems, severely affecting new member states and the candidate states
in the Western Balkans. We will reflect here on the implications, and
whether or not there are parallels to reform processes in Southern
European states that are equally affected by strong fiscal pressures.
Hence, do CEE states now gravitate towards the same ‘north–south’ divi-
sion that characterizes the EU overall?
Patterns of administrative development have been far more predictable
in the ‘CIS space,’ with the exception of Ukraine, which, along with only
Kyrgyzstan, has shown a remarkable degree of instability in institutional
development, uncharacteristic compared to most other states. Russia has
had a relatively consistent, though not always progressive approach to
administrative development. While tensions between modernizers and
conservatives continue to abound, the performance-based logic of the
reforms launched in the mid-2000s has largely remained in place and
is seen as slowly having an impact on the large public sector system
(World Bank, 2011). Kazakhstan has continued its approach that reflects
a strong emphasis on state-led development, and borrows from East
Asia in particular. Strengthening the quality of the core civil service has
remained a critical element. Other Central Asian states also continue
to embrace various forms of state-led development and related institu-
tional development policies, while the countries of the Caucasus blend
liberal economic policies (Armenia, Georgia) with approaches more akin
to those in Central Asia (Azerbaijan).
In the following sections we will explore how these overall trends in
institutional development (and indeed models of economic governance)
affect the evolution of civil service systems. At the end of the chapter we
will then return to a discussion of factors influencing trends and paths,
Civil Service Development in Central and Eastern Europe 17

with a particular emphasis on the fiscal crisis (and response to this), the
EU as a factor, and issues of economic competitiveness.

2 How civil service systems evolve: internal labor market

and salary systems, politico-administrative relations

2.1 Internal labor market

Most of the analyzed countries share fairly similar legacy of the late-
communist administration from which reforms during transition and
in the early post-communist period started off. This legacy is marked by
the absence of civil service laws and reliance upon general labor code
applicable to all employees. Such inheritance also did not include any
central structures responsible for the management and coordination of
civil service policy.
The beginning of the transition process witnessed a flurry of civil
service reforms in the whole region, with introduction of civil service
laws based on classical European values of Weberian administration and
central structures for unified civil service management, as elaborated
in more detail in the previous volume Verheijen (1999). These new
values were based on several international legal documents, such as the
Council of Europe Recommendation No. R (2000) 6 of the Committee
of Ministers to Member States on the Status of Public Officials in Europe,
the United Nations Convention against Corruption (2003) and SIGMA
baselines criteria. All these documents emphasize the importance of
legal regulation of civil servant status; clear separation between political
and civil service positions; and recruitment and promotion based on
merit and competition, fair performance appraisal, and so on. The EU
Commission, OECD/SIGMA and international organizations working in
the CIS also emphasized the need to establish central institutions with
sufficient powers to ensure implementation of civil service policy and fair
and equal treatment of civil servants across government institutions.
After the initial progress in the development of civil service systems
(1991–2005) the internal labor market developments in the region over
the past couple of years (2006–2013) have been quite astonishing and
diverse. While the CEECs that became new EU member states expe-
rienced noticeable reform reversals, reforms in the Western Balkans
have stagnated, while most CIS countries have continued to undertake
efforts to strengthen their civil service systems. In the latter group of
countries, tensions remain between ‘traditionalists’ and ‘modernizers’
with the former interested in maintaining a relative status quo and the
18 Tony J.G. Verheijen and Aleksandra Rabrenovic

latter seeking the introduction of more innovative (performance-based)


2.1.1 Civil service legislation: poor implementation record

Soon after the accession to the EU, several new EU member states aban-
doned or abolished their civil service legislation (see Meyer-Sahling, 2009;
Verheijen, 2007). Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic all
moved to dismantle legal and institutional systems previously in place,
and returned to a much more politicized model of civil service manage-
ment, including a much greater freedom to hire and fire staff. The Czech
Republic has never actually implemented its Civil Service Act adopted
in 2002, which makes it the only EU country without functioning civil
service legislation. While reform reversal was less dramatic in the Baltic
states, changes in direction (increased politicization and less profession-
alization) were equally visible (Meyer-Sahling, 2009).
The case of Slovakia, which pioneered innovative reforms in the early
2000s (World Bank, 2007), is a rather typical example of reform reversal.
Slovakia passed a Civil Service Act in 2001, which was substantively
amended in 2003 in order to bring about innovative elements in the
civil service, such as fast-stream recruitment for young professionals and
creation of a special corps of senior civil servants called the ‘nominated
civil service,’ in order to strengthen the capacity to attract and retain
qualified staff at all levels of administration (Staronova, 2013). Only
three years later, in 2006, the whole system was shaken to the core by the
abolition of the Civil Service Office and delegation of recruitment and
remuneration authorities to individual ministries, which provided them
a high degree of freedom in hiring, firing and remunerating their staff.
Innovative elements did survive the initial storm but were soon abol-
ished because of ineffective implementation. The main problem with
fast-stream recruitment was that highly qualified candidates recruited
through this scheme did not have opportunities to be promoted to
higher positions owing to limitations in the career development oppor-
tunities in the position-based civil service system (Staronova, 2013). The
recruitment for the nominated civil service showed even worse results
as only five candidates managed to pass the exam in the course of 2004–
2005. After the abolition of the Civil Service Office in 2006, no exams
were subsequently organized and the whole system was finally termi-
nated in 2009 (Staronova, 2013).
The reform reversals in the new EU member states could be partly
explained by the absence of pressure to reform that existed during the
EU accession process. It may be argued that in the process of gaining
Civil Service Development in Central and Eastern Europe 19

European membership, the then EU candidate states were subject to

a ‘carrot and stick’ mechanism, to which they responded with a high
degree of compliance with the EU requirements. Once this mechanism
was gone and the EU membership granted, reform reversal was a natural
step backwards.
Most Western Balkan countries that are aspiring to become EU member
states have adopted second or third ‘generation’ civil service legislations
that provide legal guarantees for respect of a merit principle in recruit-
ment and promotion, limit managers’ discretion and pay due respect to
performance elements, such as performance appraisal (Meyer-Sahling,
2012). Mandatory internal or public competition and a professional and
unbiased competition commission (whose structure varies from country
to country) constitute the standard in all the aspiring member states
of this region (Meyer-Sahling, 2012). Annual or bi-annual performance
appraisal has also become an unavoidable part of civil service legisla-
tion in all the countries in the region. Some of them, such as Serbia and
Bosnia and Herzegovina, have also, at least formally, linked it to pay.1
Regardless of these efforts, the implementation of the civil service
legislation in the West Balkan countries over the past years has been
a serious challenge. In Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia party
politics continues to play a large role in civil service recruitment and
promotion, even though it is often disguised as ethnic representativeness
(SIGMA, 2012). In Serbia, recruitment procedures are still largely based
on political affiliation and patronage and recruitment decisions are very
much based on managers’ discretion (SIGMA, 2012a). In Montenegro,
ministries and administrative bodies often disregard legally binding
procedures. Instead of the principles of merit, patronage networks, clien-
telism and politicization dominate recruitment and promotion practices
(SIGMA, 2012b). Most of the countries have still not been able to develop
sound systems of performance appraisal, as the majority of civil servants
are often graded with the highest performance marks. This practice puts
in jeopardy the value of the concept of performance appraisal, especially
in countries in which it has been linked to pay. In order to solve this
problem, some countries, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, have intro-
duced recommended quotas, while most of other counties have resisted
this idea, fearing it would bring about additional difficulties in already
complex human resource management (HRM) systems.
Most of the CIS countries have also continued developing their civil
service legislation, recognizing the importance of well-defined merit-
based recruitment and promotion procedures, though falling short of
the introduction of transparent and predictable salary systems and
20 Tony J.G. Verheijen and Aleksandra Rabrenovic

performance management. Unlike traditional continental European

career civil service systems, which are characterized by clearly defined
career paths based on academic education and years in years, civil
service systems of most of CIS countries are position based, which
means that applicants compete for a particular open position with
prescribed skills and knowledge. The problem, however, is that such
a system does not leave sufficient opportunities for promotion as
the number of higher civil service posts is limited. In order to ensure
sufficient career incentives to their civil service staff and create trans-
parent and predictable pay systems, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan
and Kyrgyzstan have embarked on comprehensive civil service pay
reforms (World Bank, 2008). Furthermore, many of the CIS countries,
including Russia, Armenia, Moldova and Kazakhstan, have introduced
mandatory annual performance appraisals, while some CIS states,
such as Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, have kept a traditional attestation
system and are considering introduction of performance appraisal in
the near future.
Russian civil service legislation is an interesting example of opposing
tendencies present in the CIS civil service legislation models: the urge
to limit administrative discretion though detailed regulation of HRM
procedures and New Public Management ideas aimed at making govern-
ment bodies client oriented (Konov, n.d.). The first Civil Service Act
adopted back in 1995 was replaced by the 2004 Act ‘On State Service
System in Russian Federation,’ which was part of the a comprehensive
reform package aimed at achieving greater efficiency and effectiveness
of public administration (PA) (Inkina, 2013). Values of Weberian admin-
istration were supported by the concept of open competition for all civil
service positions (with limited exceptions) and detailed job descrip-
tions, defining the responsibilities of each civil servant and civil service
body in order to limit administrative discretion. NPM ideas were, on
the other hand, promoted by the introduction of civil service contracts,
which comprise basic terms and conditions of employment, including
performance indicators and performance-related pay. In addition, the
2004 Act has introduced provisions on conflict of interest regulations
and procedures for dispute resolutions (Konov, n.d.).
Implementation of this comprehensive legal framework has also faced
serious hurdles. Competition-based recruitment remains an exception
rather than a rule, career progression is still based predominantly on
good personal contacts and loyalty to senior management, while the
development of job descriptions and performance appraisal are still
in their nascent phase of development (Kotchegura, 2008). Although
Civil Service Development in Central and Eastern Europe 21

Russia made significant progress with the most complex elements of

performance management systems, such as strategic planning and insti-
tutional performance management, individual civil service performance
appraisal systems are still not well developed (with the notable exception
of the PA system in the Federal Treasury) and not linked to institutional
performance management (World Bank, 2011). Performance-related
pay, which is being rapidly introduced in other public budgetary organi-
zations, is still not a widespread practice in the civil service, and trans-
parency in how performance bonuses are allocated remains a challenge
(World Bank, 2011).
Difficulties in bringing civil service legislation to life in Russia are the
consequence of many factors. In Inkina’s (2013) view, one of the most
important reasons for insufficient civil service reform progress is the lack
of civil service transformation capacities and change of political priori-
ties over time, which made actual implementation of civil service legis-
lation less important in the eyes of top-ranking officials (Inkina, 2013).
She further notes that civil service reform goals did not fit the frame-
work of ongoing political development, as the goal of President Putin
during his first term of office was to create an efficient, centralized and
responsible administration that would effectively support his initiatives,
while the goal of the new Act extended further, involving additional sets
of values such as ethics, transparency and accountability (Inkina, 2013).
As the political leadership was not able to attain the multiple goals of
the new civil service legislation in a short period of time, it focused on
reforms that were manageable within the existing political constraints,
such as the PA rationalization process, neglecting its other important
parts (Inkina, 2013).

2.1.2 Civil service management structures: resistance to centralization

As noted in the previous volume of this book, central civil service manage-
ment institutions have found it extremely difficult to take root in the
ministry-based systems of the CEE and CIS states. This is partially due
to tradition, but also to a reaction to the centrally controlled personnel
policies of the Communist Party under the previous regime. Even where
there was a strong political impetus to establish central agencies, they
have found it difficult to retain their position or remit. Without a
stronger central management and monitoring system, however, discrep-
ancies in the interpretation and implementation of civil service laws will
continue to pose a serious risk to their development as coherent and
professional institutions.
22 Tony J.G. Verheijen and Aleksandra Rabrenovic

Most of the new EU member states have abolished or weakened their

centralized management structures after EU accession. In the Czech
Republic the General Directorate for the Civil Service in the Government
Office that was established in 2002, just before their EU accession, never
became operational and was abolished soon after the accession in 2005
(Mayer-Sahling, 2009). The Slovak civil service office that was designed
to be one of the strongest in the region was also dismantled soon after the
accession. The destiny of the large Polish Civil Service Office was similar
to the Slovakian, although part of its capacity was secured through the
creation of the Civil Service Department under the Prime Minister’s
Office (Meyer-Sahling, 2009). Slovenia also experienced major changes
concerning its central management structures, which were originally
placed in the Ministry of Interior and Council of Officials (responsible
for senior personnel selection) to a Ministry of Public Administration.
The most stable civil service management structures are found in
Lithuania, where the Civil Service Department is responsible for both
policy development and implementation in the area of civil service
reform. The department is operating under the Ministry of Interior and
cooperates closely with the Public Administration Reform Department,
as another department under the Ministry of Interior (Mayer-Sahling,
The experience of most new member countries shows that inde-
pendent civil service agencies that have strong EU and donor support at
the beginning of their operation tend to become politically, bureaucrati-
cally and institutionally isolated over time. This, in turn, provides leeway
for their numerous opponents to attack them and eventually dismantle
them, as was shown in the Slovakian and Polish examples. In addition
to purely political reasons for such developments, that is, the wish of
politicians to have full control over HRM functions, it appears that the
lack of development functions, such as career development opportuni-
ties for civil servants, labor market research, career tracking and related
issues, which are very important in the development of the civil service
as a professional institution and for retaining the personnel in the civil
service, has also contributed to dire destiny of independent civil service
agencies. It seems that owing to the absence of these development func-
tions, civil service agencies in the new EU member states were perceived
as overly administrative and conservative and found little support when
politicians moved to abolish them.
All Western Balkans countries have also established civil service central
management structures, with a noticeable trend of moving away from
independent civil service offices towards the establishment of ministries
Civil Service Development in Central and Eastern Europe 23

of PA. For example, Croatia transferred the responsibilities of Central

State Office for Administration established in 2004 to the Ministry of
Public Administration, which was re-established in 2009 (Meyer-Sahling,
2012). The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has restructured its
Civil Service Agency located within the parliament that was established
already in 1999 and transferred most of its authorities to a new Ministry
of Information Society and Administration in 2010 (Meyer-Sahling,
2012). In Serbia the Human Resource Management Service established
in 2005 was significantly weakened by the 2009 Civil Service Law
amendments at the expense of the Ministry of Public Administration.
In Albania the Department of Public Administration that was directly
responsible to the Prime Minister was moved to the Ministry of Interior
in 2005 (Meyer-Sahling, 2012).
The experience of Western Balkan countries shows that the model of
placing central management structures at the center of government is
in most cases not effective in the institutional context of these states.
In this region, central government institutions are not very well devel-
oped and are perceived as lower in the institutional hierarchy than
ministries, which takes a certain degree of authority from them. They
are also not politically strong, as the head of the government agency
is not a member of the government. Although they may have formal
capacity to be in charge of civil service policy development and legisla-
tion interpretation, this authority is not well recognized within the civil
service, as policy-making power is usually reserved only for ministries.
Therefore, although placing central management structures at the center
of government is a good idea in theory, it seems to be better to place
centralized HRM functions either in the specialized Ministry of Public
Administration or another ministry (such as the Ministry of Interior)
which has shown strong interest in civil service issues.
Most CIS countries have created specialized civil service offices within
the office of the president. Following the Russian example, CIS coun-
tries have established semi-presidential systems, in which the president
is the head of the executive and coordinates all branches of state power,
and it was logical to place civil service offices within the president’s
remit. Although civil service management structures within the presi-
dent’s administration do have a powerful position, their operation is
not without challenges (Emrich-Bakenova, 2009). The key opponents of
their operation are usually the office of the government and individual
ministries, which would naturally prefer to have much wider freedom in
employment-related issues. The conflict between two branches of execu-
tive power, that is, the president and the government, poses concern for
24 Tony J.G. Verheijen and Aleksandra Rabrenovic

their long-term sustainability. In Russia, the main center of civil service

management is placed in the Administration of the President of the
Russian Federation, without a special body in charge of overseeing and
coordinating the reform. This administration is preparing new legisla-
tion and coordinating the reform process, although it does not have any
official mandate to lead and oversee PA reform processes (Konov, n.d.).
Therefore, oversight of personnel management is often weak or nonex-
istent (World Bank, 2011).

2.2 Politico-administrative relations: never-ending politicization?

Politicization of top-level management has remained a common weak-
ness in the whole region. Large-scale dismissals happen to officials in
higher echelons or political appointees following changes of govern-
ments, in spite of usually well-established legal frameworks.
Most of the new EU member states have experienced new forms
of politicization after the EU accession. For example, in Romania, as
soon as the EU membership was granted, strong politicization of senior
personnel was enabled by governmental decisions and government
emergency ordinances (Iancu and Ungureanu, 2013). In 2009, former
high-rank civil servants (as of 2003, the prefects) changed their status
into political appointees and the composition of recruitment commis-
sions was changed in order to allow stronger political influence. By
2011, public managers (a specific and highly appreciated rank of civil
servants) were no longer recruited by a commission formed out of
members of academia, civil society and government representatives,
but by one designed ad hoc by the President of the National Agency
of Civil Servants, with at least one governmental representative (Iancu
and Ungureanu, 2013). In Hungary, after the 2010 elections, the newly
created Ministry of Public Administration and Justice received the right
to veto any appointment of public managers, and the new civil service
regulations explicitly established ‘political loyalty’ as an employment
criterion (Kickert, Randma-Liiv and Savi, 2013).
A similar politicization trend is also noticeable in the Western Balkans
countries. That trend is reflected in: (1) general phasing out of certain
top-level positions from the civil servant status, (2) a wide use of the
transitional legal regime relating to depoliticization in the transitional
and final provisions of the Law on Civil Servants, and (3) revisions of the
legal provisions guaranteeing depoliticization (Meyer-Sahling, 2012). In
Croatia, in accordance with the amendments to the Law on Civil Servants
from 2011, the position of chief secretary to ministry (equivalent to the
UK permanent secretary), as well as the positions of deputy director of
Civil Service Development in Central and Eastern Europe 25

a public office and deputy director of a PA organization, ceased to be

civil servant positions in the true meaning of the word. In Serbia, the
PA depoliticization process was considerably slowed down on several
occasions by the revisions of the final and transitional provisions of
the Law on Civil Servants, deferring the deadline for organizing the
public competitions for top-level positions (appointments). After the
constitution of the new Serbian government in July 2012 and the adop-
tion of the new Law on Ministries, the degree of political discretion
in the appointment of top-level civil servants was widely increased.
Article 38 of the Law on Ministries stipulated that, within 45 days from
this law coming into force, a minister may propose to the government
the removal of an appointee civil servant if his/her performance is
not satisfactory. However, the law did not provide a closer definition
of the phrase ‘satisfactory performance,’ and the new ministers were
given wide discretionary powers to assess this based on their personal
It is interesting to note that in Montenegro and at the state level in
Bosnia Herzegovina, there was no considerable increase in the politi-
cization of the PA in the last couple of years (Meyer-Sahling, 2012).
Even if one considers the entire past decade, during which several
parliamentary elections were held, these countries have a positive
tendency of a low degree of politicization in PA. This positive trend,
however, could be explained by the remarkable continuation of polit-
ical leadership in Montenegro over the past decade and the complex
institutional structure of the Bosnian federation based on principles of
national representation, in which the role the international commu-
nity has been much more significant than in the other countries in
the region.
The CIS countries have also not been immune to politicization trends.
Even the best assessed reformers have suffered from increased politiciza-
tion over the past years (Emrich-Bakenova, 2009). In spite of the legally
well-defined distinction between political and administrative civil service
posts and fairly restricted possibilities of termination of employment
of the highest administrative posts, changes in the senior administra-
tive personnel after political changes at the top are quite common and
disguised under the title of ‘voluntary resignations’ (Emrich-Bakenova,
2009). Although administrative civil servants do have a legal right to
appeal against unfair dismissals, in reality these rights are rarely exer-
cised for fear of adverse consequences (Emrich-Bakenova, 2009). In
2007, in order to reduce politicization, the government amended the
Government Act of the Republic of Kazakhstan by which it introduced a
26 Tony J.G. Verheijen and Aleksandra Rabrenovic

new position of a ‘responsible secretary,’ which basically corresponds to

the British permanent secretary position. The first appointed responsible
secretaries were, however, mainly political figures; two of them obtained
ministers’ positions in 2009, showing clearly their initial political aspira-
tions (Emrich-Bakenova, 2009).

3 Drivers of reform: fiscal constraints, benchmarking and

competitiveness issues

Discussions of civil service reform traditionally identify three drivers:

administrative traditions,2 changes in economic development trends,
and/or external factors (e.g. Kickert et al., 2013; Painter and Peters,
2010; Rabrenovic and Verheijen, 2005, Verheijen, 2007). In addition
to these three ‘traditional’ drivers, two further factors have increas-
ingly come to the fore in recent years; the quest for economic compet-
itiveness (and related assumptions on the quality and size of PA) and
growing social pressure for reliable and quality service delivery, which
has become a driver for reform especially in emerging economies
(Kusek, Verheijen and Bhatti, forthcoming). In this section we will
first look at drivers that potentially apply to all states under discussion
here, with a particular emphasis on the fiscal crisis and its impact,
and then turn to the ‘pull’ of European integration and its changing

3.1 The fiscal crisis, missed opportunities and risk of collateral

The global fiscal crisis has had a fundamental impact on public sector
reform in Europe, including opening up systems where reforms had been
elusive for many decades, such as Greece and to a lesser extent Italy and
Portugal. A recent assessment of the impact of the fiscal crisis (Kickert
et al., 2013) highlights the diverse way in which states have sought to
cope with the dramatic spending constraints that emerged after 2008.
While the assessment only covers three Central and East European states,
Estonia, Hungary and Slovenia, the findings highlight the fundamental
impact austerity is having on civil and public service systems.
The fiscal crisis deeply affected most new member states (with the
notable exception of Poland), with steep drops in GDP in particular
in Latvia, Lithuania and Hungary, but also seriously affecting Croatia,
all Western Balkan states, Bulgaria and Romania. The remedy in most
states involved salary reductions, layoffs (where legislation allowed)
and a renewed outflow of talent from the public sector either into the
Civil Service Development in Central and Eastern Europe 27

private sector or, in most instances, abroad (Kickert et al., 2013). States
outside the EU’s immediate sphere have been affected by the fiscal
crisis to different degrees. While Ukraine has come close to economic
collapse, Russia and most states in Central Asia saw stagnation, but not
the deep reversal of economic development levels witnessed in Central
and Eastern Europe.
Fiscal crises often provide opportunities to push through reforms
that are needed but are politically unpopular. However, the trend in
Central and East European states has been for this to further erode
public sector management capacity. The main response to the crisis
has been in pay adjustments and, in some cases, the reduction of the
number of civil servants. As examples, Slovenia, in February 2009,
introduced public expenditure reductions beside economic recovery
measures. The public sector cuts consisted of reducing basic salaries,
reductions in the costs of business trips and remuneration for civil
servants’ holidays. In Estonia, the passage of the new Public Service
Act in 2012 abandoned seniority pay and public service pension provi-
sions (Kickert et al., 2013). Although Hungary was heavily hit by the
economic crisis, the impact on the public sector was less significant.
As a part of the 2009 Bajnai Package,3 salaries of civil servants were cut
by 8 percent (corresponding to the abolishment of the so-called 13th
month wage), and a hiring freeze was introduced (RCPAR, 2010). In
Macedonia, the anti-crisis measures undertaken by the government in
2009 consisted of postponement of a planned 10 percent rise in public
sector salaries and abolishment of bonuses (RCPAR, 2010). The total
budget for public sector remuneration was reduced by 6.13 percent
in 2010 compared to 2009. Similar measures were also taken at the
state level of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In line with stipulations in the
IMF lending agreement, signed in 2009, public sector salaries were
cut by 10 percent. In addition, meal supplements were reduced, and
transportation subsidies for public servants living within a three-kil-
ometer radius from their workplace were abolished (RCPAR, 2010).
In Serbia, at the end of April 2009, the National Assembly adopted
the Law on Temporary Reduction of Salaries in the Public Sector by
which the amount of salaries for officials with higher salary levels
was reduced by 10–15 percent. The duration of the effectiveness of
the law was limited to the period from May 2009 to December 2010.
Similar measures, exemplified in the reduction of the salary levels of
higher-paid public sector employees (including civil servants) were
introduced after the second crises wave, in October 2013 and are still
in force.
28 Tony J.G. Verheijen and Aleksandra Rabrenovic

These cost-cutting measures combined with the increase in politici-

zation, discussed in the previous section, have led to growing depar-
tures among young and talented staff, thus negatively affecting the
quality of the PA. While this may be a temporary setback in most
Central European states, the situation is much graver in Romania,
Bulgaria and especially in the Western Balkans. Countries from
Croatia to Albania, including Bulgaria and Romania, were hit with a
second round of economic slowdown in 2012, which is likely to have
repercussions well beyond the 2008 crisis, especially as none of the
countries has the fiscal ‘cushion’ to absorb this new economic shock.
At times when critical capacity is needed to address deep economic
performance issues, these countries are largely left with depleted civil
service systems: the lack of belief in the application of due process
in recruitment and career management and overriding importance of
political connections makes the public sector an unattractive choice
for talented staff (Meyer-Sahling, 2012). Among these states, Bulgaria,
Croatia and Romania have the advantage of being under the EU
umbrella, which provides them with additional resources for invest-
ment and related employment generation. However, with depleted
human resources in the PA they will struggle to obtain these direct
benefits of EU membership.
Russia and states in Central Asia and the Caucasus have, if anything,
continued on previously established reform trajectories, while making
adjustments to wages and staff levels as deemed necessary. This has cut
deepest in states where the fiscal crisis impact was most severe, such as
Ukraine and Tajikistan. However, much like in the other cases, fiscal
constraints have not led to deeper reforms or the reconsideration of the
role of the states.
There is no obvious explanation for the negative turn that civil service
development has taken in much of the Central and East European states
and why the fiscal crisis has drawn a response that largely aggravated the
decline of civil service systems. Explanations that the European model
of civil service does not fit the ambitions and perceptions of politicians
(and also, the ambitions of upwardly mobile young professionals) and
that therefore it was doomed from the start abound. What is less clear,
however, is what would be the alternative: the public sector will not be
able to compete with the private sector on wages. Hence, as long as the
talent that states need is able to ‘vote with its feet’ (to the private sector
or abroad), the negative spiral of reduced capacity and reduced perform-
ance will continue.
Civil Service Development in Central and Eastern Europe 29

3.2 Competitiveness and investment climate: the governance

and growth discussion
A second driving force for reforms in CEE and CIS states is the govern-
ance and growth linkage. Initially, discussions of this emphasized the
negative relation between poor governance and growth, as analysts tried
to explain a series of crises in transition states in the late 1990s (most
spectacularly in Bulgaria, but also in the Czech Republic and the Baltic
states) based on weak and/or corrupt governance structures. In recent
years the governance and growth debate has moved from explaining
reversals in growth patterns to a discussion of proactive approaches, that
is, whether improving the quality of governance can help attract outside
investment. The need to create better conditions for attracting outside
investment has also been used as an argument by reformers (particularly
in resource-rich states, e.g. Russia and Kazakhstan) who seek to diver-
sify their economic structures and attract foreign investment. In addi-
tion, Armenia, for instance, linked administrative reform to World Trade
Organization (WTO) accession, arguing that trade liberalization coming
with WTO membership requires states to compete more with business
climate and investment policies, thus creating the need for investment
in PA development.
The link between governance (and especially foreign direct invest-
ment, FDI) and growth is made more frequently, and explored in a
rapidly growing body of literature. Unfortunately the analytical work on
governance and growth continues to be limited mainly to large multi-
country regression studies (World Bank, 2005a). These are difficult to
use in an individual country context. Still, the attention governments
devote to the publication of, for instance, the World Bank composite
governance indicators, shows that this linkage is increasingly taken
serious by policy makers. This can be further illustrated by the debate on
the adoption of the Administrative Reform Concept and Action Plan in
the Russian Federation in 2006. This was based on the argument that for
Russia to diversify its economy and attract FDI, a serious improvement
in the quality of governance would be the main prerequisite. Similar
discussions have surrounded the debate on civil service and wage
system reform in Kazakhstan, which, even more than Russia, is at risk of
suffering from the ‘Dutch Disease’ (World Bank, 2005b) brought about
by a strong dominance of the oil industry. Thus, some of the movement
on the administrative and civil service reform agenda can be explained
by the emergence of this particular school of thought and its increasing
influence on government policies.
30 Tony J.G. Verheijen and Aleksandra Rabrenovic

The WTO accession argument is of a similar nature. While WTO acces-

sion, unlike EU membership, does not impose specific requirements on
administrative and civil service systems, it is clear that states do need
to build capacity in key policy areas (including standardization, certi-
fication, customs, etc.) if they are to benefit from WTO membership.
Kyrgyzstan, for instance, joined WTO early but did not benefit much
from membership for lack of progress of (in part) administrative reform.
Armenia is a case where WTO membership (in part) inspired administra-
tive and civil service reform.4
A final element of this discussion is the attention paid to ‘doing
business’ rankings, published annually by the World Bank. States like
Macedonia and Georgia have made major efforts to address red tape
and bottlenecks to setting up enterprises, paying taxes and obtaining
licenses and permits. While this kind of effort has implications for the
civil and public service, its main aspects relate to regulatory and legal
reform and behavioral changes among front line staff.

3.3 The service delivery debate, a moot issue?

The potential for service delivery management reforms to change
incentives and systems in PA is of growing interest to scholars and
practitioners. While most research on civil service systems focuses
on the ‘core,’ the discussion on using result-chains for creating posi-
tive dynamics inside public sector organizations/systems is gaining
momentum. The World Bank’s Public Sector Management Approach
(2012) calls for a change of paradigm that looks at how cross-cutting
constraints to service delivery can be identified bottom up and how
these might be addressed in a sequenced manner rather than by whole-
of-government reforms.
This approach has resonated in particular in states and regions with
‘wicked’ service delivery problems such as South Asia, Africa and some
states in Latin America, where the separation and compartmentalization
of reforms between sectoral and cross-cutting has long generated disil-
lusionment with results on both aspects. More recently, the increased
access to and use of new technologies, including cheap smart phones,
has opened new avenues to link up service delivery with systemic civil
service reform (Bhatti, Kusek and Verheijen, forthcoming).
The service delivery angle so far appears to have largely bypassed
Central and East European and CIS states. This might be because service
delivery in this part of the world is considered less inadequate (though
rankings on ‘doing business’ indicators would seem to indicate other-
wise at least on this aspect), or because the kind of push to establish
Civil Service Development in Central and Eastern Europe 31

feedback systems that we have witnessed in other parts of the world has
simply not (yet) occurred.

3.4 How dead is ‘Europeanization’ when it comes to civil service

EU approaches to PA systems and capacity keep evolving. While admin-
istrative and civil service systems were the exclusive domain of the
member states up to the early 1990s, this has changed fundamentally
with the completion of the Internal Market and Monetary Union. The
quality of administrations has become a point of discussion between
member states. The prospect of accession of a large group of CEE states
with (perceived) weak PA systems added incentive to politicians in
EU states for engaging in discussions about administrative quality at
European level.5
Two separate but related assessment and benchmarking systems were
subsequently developed in the context of the EU. First, the ‘baseline
assessment’ system. This reviews the quality of civil service and public
management systems based on a set of qualitative indicators, related
to six core functions that public management systems are expected
to fulfill.6 This system is used to assess administrative readiness for
EU membership, but has also been used widely beyond the direct EU
accession context as a basic benchmarking system for establishing
whether public management systems meet minimum institutional and
legal standards. Second, the Common Assessment Framework (CAF),
a quality management (self-) assessment system, establishes whether
public management systems in individual institutions are meeting
best practice targets in nine core competency areas that are essential
for high-quality policy management and service delivery. Both systems
were elaborated through interaction between EU officials, member state
experts, and one external organization (OECD/SIGMA for the baseline
system and EIPA for CAF). In the case of the baseline assessment system,
input from candidate states to the design was also sought, both at expert
and government level.
Both instruments were originally designed for a specific purpose
(measuring readiness of candidate states in the case of the baseline
assessment system and improving EU policy implementation capacity
in the case of the CAF). The design and use of assessment instruments
had some interesting side-effects, including a broad discussion about
‘European values’ in PA. However, the aftermath of the first Eastern
enlargement in 2004, and even more so of the accession of Bulgaria
and Romania, has generated doubts about whether the interest of the
32 Tony J.G. Verheijen and Aleksandra Rabrenovic

EU in administrative capacity was ‘real,’ as a large number of states

quickly moved to dismantle civil service system architectures that they
had established as a ‘condition’ for membership (and in some cases,
like the Czech Republic, had not even become effective at the time of
Recent statements by the Commission on the accession framework,
along with the establishment, for the first time, of an administrative
capacity unit inside the Commission (even if mainly concerned with
cohesion fund implementation capacity), indicate another shift in
approach and attitude, affecting mainly the countries now getting in
line for entry (Croatia got off comparatively lightly). Administrative and
judicial chapters, along with ‘rule of law,’ are now dealt with up front
and with priority. While many candidate states cried foul over another
‘move of the goalposts,’ the move by the Commission is a logical conse-
quence of the difficult lessons learned from the first two Eastern enlarge-
ments. Hence, while Europeanization of PA is attracting less academic
interest now than it did in 1998–2004, the next enlargement process
may well see a revival of interest, as EU member states are likely to be
much less lenient on this issue.

3.5 Conclusion
Administrative and civil service reform in Central and Eastern Europe
and the CIS have gone through a number of up and down cycles over
the past almost 25 years. From almost complete neglect in 1990–1996,
a flurry of reform initiatives followed, driven by EU accession processes
and reversals in economic fortunes. After EU accession a reversal of
reforms followed in most new member states, while PA reforms were
stepped up in Russia, Kazakhstan and other CIS states. The fiscal crisis
has further aggravated the malaise in civil service systems throughout
the region, but most of all in new EU member states and the Western
Balkans. In this part of the region it is particularly the lack of vision and
concepts of what kind of civil service systems should be developed that
is disconcerting. The need for a new paradigm, reflecting political class
preferences but also the interests and incentives of the talent that the
public sector needs to attract, is obvious, though none appears to be
emerging at this point.
Further east, reforms in states such as Armenia, Kazakhstan and
Georgia remain more promising, with the first two in particular having
made strong progress in establishing permanent and professional
central PA systems, though still struggling to translate this into better
service delivery at the front line. Russia has equally continued efforts to
Civil Service Development in Central and Eastern Europe 33

modernize its civil service system, but the debate between modernizers
and conservatives around this reform process continues to act as a brake
on progress.
In sum, in the cycles of ups and downs in civil service system devel-
opment in Central and Eastern Europe and the CIS the current period
is definitely a ‘down,’ with limited prospects of an upturn in the fore-
seeable future. From the point of view of economic development and
competitiveness, this is a real constraint that still appears to be little
understood by the ruling elite.

4 CEE and CIS systems: how do they connect to global


What can the emergence of new civil service systems in CEE countries
teach us about the usefulness of different models? The clash between
the Anglo-American custom-based and management-driven civil
service, and the continental European formal and rule-driven system,
was clearly visible in debates in the 1990s and early 2000s, but has in
recent years been overtaken by the realization that especially for the
new member states of the EU a new approach or paradigm might be
needed. The traditional continental European model has not found
the traction that had been expected and the management-driven
model has equally not established itself because offiscal constraints
and reasons of ‘fit.’
While further east we have seen civil service systems emerge that might
come closer to the state-led development-driven models of East Asia, in
particular in Kazakhstan, much of the Central and East European region
continues to look for a paradigm. Some of the contours of this paradigm
are visible: a more politically driven civil service with less guarantees
and permanency, where younger staff especially see ‘learning’ opportu-
nities, but not long-term career interest.
The extent to which this state of flux will continue is largely dependent
on whether or not the relative instability of many Central and East
European civil service systems will be perceived as having an impact on
economic development opportunities and, for EU member states and
candidates, affects their ability to benefit from EU membership. As for
now, neither politicians nor academics have a well-developed answer to
the, surely far from ideal, instability of civil service systems. However,
once an equilibrium is found, this may well hold promise for other
systems in other parts of the world that equally struggle with the twin
problems of political aversion to a permanent (and potentially powerful)
34 Tony J.G. Verheijen and Aleksandra Rabrenovic

civil service and the unaffordability of a civil service system based on

market principles.

The views and opinions expressed in this paper are the personal views of the
authors only.
1. Bosnia and Herzegovina introduced performance-related pay by adoption of
the Law on Salaries in 2008, but the Law has still not been implemented,
primarily because of hard fiscal constraints.
2. This factor is usually mainly visible in the direction and not so much in the
substance of reform.
3. The government of Hungary introduced the Bajnai Package, named after the
new prime minister Gordon Bajnai.
4. Armenia continues to be one of the fastest-growing economies in the world,
and has sustained this for the last four years.
5. For more extensive discussions on the subject, see Dimitrova (2002), Goetz
(2001) and Verheijen (2003, 2004).
6. On policy management, civil service, internal financial control, public
expenditure management, external financial control and procurement.

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Civil Service Systems in Western
Europe: A Comparative Analysis
Frits M. van der Meer, Trui Steen and Anchrit Wille

1 Introduction

According to available geological information, Europe started off as a

collection of smaller tectonic plates situated somewhere in the southern
hemisphere. Slowly drifting northwards, forces of nature molded these
smaller entities over time into the continent we know. On the basis of
this historical geological information we are relatively safe to presume
that Europe has, at least, a geographical identity. Comparing civil service
systems during earlier phases in the Civil Service project, it was more
or less implicitly taken for granted that Western Europe possesses more
than a geographical distinctiveness from other regions. In Van der
Meer (2012) extensive attention is paid to the historical institutional
dimension of Western European civil service systems. The historical
paragraphs highlighted many common features in the development
of Western European civil service systems, without underestimating
existing national particularities. Most Western European civil service
systems show continuous reform efforts. Using the framework devel-
oped by Bekke, Perry and Toonen (1996) we will assess (the implications
of) recent empirical research.
The changing position of civil servants within the framework of govern-
ment is first examined with attention to the changing personnel size of
the civil service, the legal status of public employment, reward systems
and other HRM policies and practices. Our analysis confronts processes
of (de)bureaucratization with the spread of new managerial approaches
(Section 2). We then discuss the relevance of representative bureauc-
racy from an empirical and a normative perspective (Section 3). Equally
important is attention for bottom-up politicization (i.e. the political
activity of civil servants themselves) and top-down politicization (i.e. a

Civil Service Systems in Western Europe 39

variety of mechanisms used in the political system to control the civil

service) (Section 4). We then consider public opinion about the various
civil service systems (Section 5), before drawing some conclusions about
reform in Western European civil service systems.

2 The changing position of civil servants within the

framework of government and the management of human

In the last two centuries most European countries have adopted compre-
hensive legal frameworks for their civil service systems. This was a long
and arduous process since legislation was adopted in a piecemeal manner.
Arguments of political expediency have often been at odds with producing
comprehensive (and often) codified schemes. The drive for more codi-
fied civil service legislation started in 1794 in Prussia with the inclusion
of ample provisions in the Preußische Allgemeine Landrecht. A recogniz-
able separate act dates from 1805 when the Hauptdienstpragmatik über die
Dienstverhältnisse der Staatsdiener was adopted in Bavaria. Codification
came relatively late in, for example, the Netherlands (1929), Belgium
(1930) and France (1946). The UK has adopted a statutory civil service
legislation in the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act in 2010.
In continental legal thinking, enshrining rights and duties of civil
servants is traditionally seen as one of the cornerstones and critical
manifestations of the Rechtsstaat. Regulation regarding civil servants’
duties implies a standardization of previously – at least partially – auton-
omous civil servants (particularly those working in field agencies and
collegial organizations) by government centers through the emphasis
of hierarchical lines. Standardization concerns both the existence and
enforcement of a code of behavior based on ethical norms, as well as the
legal rights that protect civil servants against arbitrary interventions and
behavior of their political superiors.
The adoption of civil service laws constituted a bureaucratic revolu-
tion almost similar to the current impact of new public management in
the north-west corner of Europe. Crucial to civil service laws has been
the reform of personnel management into a more objective system of
recruitment and selection securing the hiring of qualified and skilled
civil servants. This includes an aversion to appointments on the basis
of (political) nepotism, but not necessarily the inclusion of political
merit criteria (Van der Meer and Raadschelders, 1998). Regulations have
been refined and expanded in order to limit the room for discretion and
thus avoid, according to the dominant view, what was seen as abuse or
40 Frits M. van der Meer, Trui Steen and Anchrit Wille

arbitrariness. The personnel management system thus became increas-

ingly bureaucratized and civil services slowly acquired a protected and
professional nature (Raadschelders and Rutgers, 1996). The introduc-
tion of civil service legislation limited political and managerial abuse
and flexibility. These reluctance, however, explain the reserve of some
governments in the past to embark on issuing integrated civil service
acts while governments presently desire to limit existing civil service
Since the late 1970s and early 1980s criticism has increasingly been
directed at perceived bureaucratic rigidities in personnel management
regulations and practices. These rigidities were perceived as frustrating
the efficiency and effectiveness and to hinder reform. The introduction
of more flexibility was considered all the more important given rapid
changes within and in the direct environment of government. Large
budgetary deficits, social-economic tensions accompanied by political-
ideological resentment against big government, and bureaucratic inter-
ference led to calls for smaller (more effective and efficient) government.
This stimulated a fundamental reappraisal of the place and role of the
public sector within society and consequently to a reappraisal of public
personnel management (Van der Meer, 2011; Peters and Pierre, 2001,
The preferred solution to remedy these bureaucratic rigidities was to
introduce more flexible labor relationships. The need for reform was
argued by a coalition of political officeholders, top civil servants, and
political science and public administration experts. A new managerial
way of thinking gained the upper hand, labeled ‘new public management’
(NPM), and was very much advanced by the backing of international
(reform) agencies as the OECD, IMF and World Bank and supportive
publications of administrative scientists. This idea of modernizing
personnel management in the public sector has led to a wide array of
human resource management initiatives relating to changes in the legal
status of civil servants and the introduction of new payment schemes,
performance-based systems of assessment and reward, mobility schemes,
management development plans and training programs.
While this managerialism pertains to problem definitions and policy
intentions, it does not necessarily involve real-life reforms. There are
wide-ranging discrepancies between countries with regard to the popu-
larity of reform issues and the actual level of implementation. NPM was,
and still is, particularly popular in the British Isles, the Scandinavian
countries, the Netherlands, Flanders and Austria. In other West European
countries its popularity had been initially less, for example in France,
Civil Service Systems in Western Europe 41

Germany, Italy and other South European countries. The need to reduce
financial economic problems given the banking crises has given a new
impetus to implementing NPM-like measures, often under EU pressure
(Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2011).
Fundamental questions have been raised regarding the need for keeping
a distinct public approach to government employment issues. Should
public sector employment be enjoying a public law basis or should it
be integrated in the private sector system? This particular question is
of course only pertinent to the public law countries excluding the UK.
Although the public law status has been formally retained on important
issues in most countries (with the exception of for the majority of public
servants in, for instance, Italy, Denmark and Sweden), the public nature
of the system has decreased. Labor negotiations, pay settlements, social
security and benefits have often been made compatible with private
sector arrangements, limiting the previous high level of job security in
the public sector. A distinction has to be made between a right of tenure
and a right to a particular job. Measures such as the introduction of
limits on the time a (top) civil servant is placed in a particular position
have been introduced in Belgium, the Netherlands and other countries
(Demmke, 2004, 2005; Demmke and Moilanen, 2010). Increasingly, the
specific nature of the civil service position and status (not necessarily
under public law) is reappreciated, since they are considered to be rele-
vant for safeguarding the public interest and maintaining ethical stand-
ards (Shim, 2001; Van der Meer, Van den Berg and Gerrit, 2013).
Redesigning personnel management systems has involved programs
directed towards a reduction of the size of public employment and
towards breaking the civil service monopoly in public service delivery.
Through a combination of downsizing, privatization, public tendering
and contracting out it was thought possible to end public service
monopoly and to introduce competition. Deconstructing the remaining
public sector through a combined process of territorial decentralization
and agencification constituted an additional option to erode public
sector power.
An important component of personnel policies after the 1980s was
downsizing. As a large percentage of government expenditure has to do
with salaries, an ambition was formulated to do ‘more with less,’ leading
to cutback programs. It is extremely difficult to interpret the statistics.
Apart from real substantive staff reductions that have been realized at
the expense particularly of industrial and civilian military staff, actual
results are difficult to read because of changing definitions and reor-
ganization within the public sector. The latter has been particularly
42 Frits M. van der Meer, Trui Steen and Anchrit Wille

the case owing to processes of agencification and (quasi) privatization.

Furthermore, civil servants working in a policy advisory capacity, senior
implementation roles or administrative oversight functions have more
or less successfully been isolated from the effects of these operations.
What might well be the common denominator behind the cutbacks
is that policies were primarily led by a concern to reduce government
costs as visible in the budgets, rather than resulting from a real assess-
ment of actual personnel needs. Not surprisingly then, these reforms did
not (only) lead to a ‘leaner’ government, but to a more fragmented and
opaque public sector. The need for reducing the deficit after the financial
crisis of 2008 reinforced the personnel cutback policies both regarding
numbers and remuneration. Pay freeze is among the prominent meas-
ures applied to combat the financial crisis in many countries, while in
those countries where the budgetary problem and pressure were highest
the more contested measure of wage reduction was implemented. Staff
reduction is also applied as a cutback measure, either through hiring
freezes and non-replacement, or more directly through layoffs (Kickert,
Randma-Livv and Savi, 2013).
Apart from the size issues, one of the central elements in Western
European HRM reforms has been the so-called decentralization of HRM
responsibilities from centralized staff organizations to line depart-
ments and agencies, and the further devolution within departments
and agencies to line managers. Within Western Europe, northern coun-
tries, especially Sweden, but also Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands
and the UK, have taken steps in this process of devolution, while the
issue does not seem to carry much priority within Southern European
countries. Yet, even the Northern European countries are believed to
have only marginally dismantled the very core unity of the civil service.
Contradictory even, recentralization initiatives are now underway to
create so-called shared service centers in which technical HRM func-
tions are organized. Furthermore, the management of the senior civil
service remains under central influence or is actually centralized, as was
the case in the Netherlands in the 1990s. In addition, decentralization
processes as such do not actually guarantee greater flexibility and variety
in personnel systems. In some countries with decentralized HR authori-
ties, line ministries and agencies do not have flexible schemes at all, but
run similar systems in practice (Shim, 2001).
Although NPM may have found its way into numerous HRM reform
efforts, in most countries, except the Scandinavian countries, the formal
career systems have remained, although some reform efforts have been
made to offset possible inflexible side-effects. One should keep in mind
Civil Service Systems in Western Europe 43

however that in many countries corps constructions have remained in

force for traditional corps-like structures such as the Foreign Office, the
military and the police. Similarly, senior civil service career systems are
in place or have been introduced. This demonstrates that, owing to the
inherent importance attached to esprit de corps and the demand for
a civil service professionalism incorporating ethics and political sensi-
tivity, the limits of NPM are found.
Reform initiatives may have ‘deprivileged’ civil servants in terms
of opening the civil service to a certain extent, but they do not show
an overall success story in leading to a new management of public
sector personnel. The gradual introduction of flexible reward schemes,
including merit pay, has been put on policy agendas. It has to be said
that many of these initiatives are at the moment either in their early
stages of implementation or have produced disappointing results (Van
der Meer, 2011). The pay systems in, for example, the Netherlands and
the UK can at best be situated somewhere in between ‘the traditional
and the new model,’ while Sweden is one of the exceptions for having
introduced a system where traditional seniority or age-based increments
no longer are a major part of civil servants’ pay, and pay determination
is decentralized and even individualized. The difficulties in introducing
‘new’ pay systems can be explained by either outright resistance (see for
instance the Italian case) or by a shortage of financial means and polit-
ical determination. Performance-related pay is found to be crowding out
public service motivation (Bøtcher Jacobsen, 2012), while also in a situa-
tion of financial austerity merit pay seems difficult to implement (Peters
and Brans, 2012).
Interestingly enough, although ample time has been spent on the
development of a new vision on managing public sector employ-
ment and adapting the civil service to a private sector paradigm, new
doubts have emerged in the reform heartlands. Recent policies try to
remediate negative side-effects of the cruder NPM versions (Steen et al.,
2005). A major concern is the need to appraise the fundamental values
embedded in civil services and preserve public sector ethos. Although
this is to a certain extent a concern situated at the core of an intense
theoretical debate (cf. Du Gay, 2000, 2005), there is evidence of redirec-
tion in thought and a rediscovery of the publicness of the civil service
by re-emphasizing ethical standards in the civil service, through the use
of ethical codes, the incorporation of ethical standards in civil servants’
training programs, and the provision of protection to whistleblowers
(Shim, 2001). Meanwhile the position and role of civil servants are
affected substantially by the growing importance of collaborations and
44 Frits M. van der Meer, Trui Steen and Anchrit Wille

partnerships in a context of New Public Governance and increasing

involvement of citizen-users in the production of public services. This
holds implications for the competencies needed, and the autonomy and
accountability of public service professionals (Brandsen and Honingh,
2013; Steen and Van Eijk, 2013).

3 Bureaucracy: representativeness, diversity and


Representative bureaucracy has a long history. The main question relates

to the social background of those bureaucratic positions of power either
at the administrative summit or in a street-level capacity. Research invar-
iably confirms the gap between the composition of the civil service and
society at large. Van der Meer (2011) argued that important factors for
understanding the level of actual representativeness are, inter alia, the
homogeneity of a country, the educational system, the relevant consti-
tutional and legislative framework, the role and perception of the state,
and the territorial system of the state.
With the exception of the Scandinavian countries and the Irish
Republic, most Western European countries are characterized by social
cleavages. From a policy point of view we find two different approaches
for dealing with these: the French versus the rest. In the French case
there is no room for policy directed towards a representative bureauc-
racy, particularly not in terms of language, religion or class. The meri-
tocratic and unifying nature of the French is considered incompatible
with possible sectional interests. The national character and quality
control on education should as much as possible prevent inequalities in
this respect. Issues such as feminization are considered in a framework
different from the representativeness issue. Equal opportunity is seen
as a formal prerequisite. However, in the French case this requisite is
to be placed in a meritocratic bureaucratic rather than a representative
In other countries we see ample variation when concentrating on
delivering equal opportunities for, for example, women and minorities.
Active policies directed at creating ‘mirror-image’ representativeness are
rare and often considered to violate the equal opportunity principle. To
a certain extent Belgium has been an exception because of the language
dimension. The scale and influence of policies to increase the inclusion
of females, and in some cases ethnic minorities, by using instruments
like positive discrimination, are limited, but such policies do exist in
police organizations in order to promote the perception of legitimacy
Civil Service Systems in Western Europe 45

by target groups. Such arguments are voiced, for instance, in the UK

regarding the composition of the North Irish police force.
In some cases representativeness is considered an instrument to rein-
force a weak national state. Deep social cleavages, especially those asso-
ciated with geographical differences, ethnicity, language, and religious
and cultural differences, are able to undermine a shared national iden-
tity given the primary feeling of group loyalty (Peters, von Marajevic and
Schroter, 2013). Western European civil service systems provide ample
interesting cases of how in recent times representativeness is used to
ensure a stronger national unity, or at least to stop national disintegra-
tion. An example is to be found in the Belgian case (Hondeghem, 2011).
Representative bureaucracy is seen as an important instrument to ensure
a balance of power between different groups and to help the preservation
of the Belgian state. Belgium is certainly not a homogeneous country,
having linguistic, religious and political cleavages. Representativeness of
public institutions is considered a policy that accommodates the various
sectional interests. Every group gets more or less what it is proportion-
ally entitled to. The dispersion of the territorial system of the country
is another important factor for explaining an increasing level of repre-
sentativeness. Regionalization and federalization are instruments to
promote the level of representativeness by transferring power to the
‘regional’ authorities given a high level of regional homogeneity (e.g.
Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom).

4 Politicization and political control in European civil

service systems

Although the belief is widespread that the public sector has politicized,
it is difficult to substantiate this assertion given the many meanings of
the term. Politicization is a convenient umbrella term. The politicization
of civil service systems can refer to the (changing) number of (party)
political appointments and (party) political behavior, as well as political
sensitivity of civil servants (Van der Meer and Raadschelders, 1998).
Hojnacki (1996) argues that civil service politicization implies a viola-
tion of the principle of political neutrality. But this view is based on the
unsubstantiated claim of an administrative past in which neutrality was
the norm. Also, the term ‘political neutrality’ is not unambiguous. An
‘apolitical’ and ‘neutral’ civil service has to operate in an environment
that is highly politically defined (Page and Wright, 1999). According
to most contemporary and Weberian (Page, 1992) definitions, politics
is not limited to certain persons, institutions or specialized arenas in
46 Frits M. van der Meer, Trui Steen and Anchrit Wille

which an action takes place. Politics can be defined as the process that
determines ‘who gets what, when and how’ (Lasswell, 1936). In this
sense many public servants are involved in politics, even if they stay
clear of party politics. The pattern regarding the demarcation between
political and administrative systems in the 19th and 20th centuries,
however, has been, in a formal sense, to shield the civil service from
overt party-political control in order to enhance its efficiency and to
ensure its fairness (Peters and Pierre, 2004; Rouban, 2012; Van der Meer
and Raadschelders, 1998).
We distinguish between bottom-up and top-down politicization
(Peters and Pierre, 2004; Wille, 2013). Bottom-up politicization pertains
to the increase of political activity by civil servants. Given the exten-
sive scope of the politicization concept this can include party-political
allegiance and behavior, a policy-oriented attitude and the awareness
of the political context of public service delivery. There are countries
where some (senior) civil servants are still forbidden to be (active)
members of political parties (e.g. the UK and Ireland). In the majority
of the remaining countries (e.g. Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden)
there is an increasing tendency for civil servants to be party members.
There are usually limitations for active political participation at the level
of government where one is employed. Civil servants who do so have
to vacate the job temporarily or permanently. Regarding the policy-ori-
ented attitude and the awareness of the political context of public service
delivery, there has been a definite trend (with the possible exception of
the Italian civil service) towards a more politicized situation, although
this progress has been mitigated by the rise of a managerial attitude in
government with its proclaimed emphasis on technical rationality.
Top-down politicization involves an increased level of control exerted
by government over bureaucrats. Top-down politicization occurs when
political officeholders try to ensure that the opinions and behavior of
public servants are (made) compatible with their own policy prefer-
ences. According to Van der Meer (2009) there is an extensive repertoire
of politicization methods:

I. The political appointment of public officials using:

a. a spoils system;
b. formalized political discretion to appoint top civil servants;
c. informal political appointment of permanent civil service
d. political advisors;
e. ministerial cabinets.
Civil Service Systems in Western Europe 47

II. Alternative external sources of advise and expertise by:

a. consulting external personal advisors;
b. hiring of consultants;
c. using advisory bodies and public expertise institutions;
III. The deconstruction of a monolithic and integrated ‘bureaucracy’ by
a. slimming down ‘bureaucracy’;
b. creating competing advisory or implementation offices;
c. creating a supervisory bureaucracy;
IV. Changing administrative values:
a. manipulating or creating a service ethos;
b. adapting legal provisions.

These methods aim at breaking down a perceived civil service monopoly

on power. With the exception of appointing power through a formal
spoils system, all these methods are used (with the possible exception of
Spain and Greece). However, their use depends on the acceptability in
a given national political-administrative and in the wider societal insti-
tutional context. The formal political appointment of top civil servants
is considered not done in UK, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway.
Nevertheless, sometimes informal nominations take place. In Finland
opposition to the high levels of party-political appointments in the
1970s and 1980s has led to a decrease of these in the 1990s. Similar
criticism has been targeted in Sweden where only a small percentage of
senior civil servants are appointed on a (party) political basis. To put the
prefix ‘party’ between parantheses is not without reason. Many of the
appointments are based on the desire to have compatibility of policy
ideas between politicians and top civil servants, rather than merely a
shared party political-background. Political appointments are formally
accepted in many southern countries and in Germany, which has
known political appointments to the civil service since the 19th century
(Goetz, 2011); ministers may require permanent secretaries and heads
of divisions to take ‘temporary retirement,’ replacing them with quali-
fied persons of their own choosing. These policy-sensitive functions
were excluded from the tenure protection provisions when during the
19th century the new civil service legislation was developed. The same
mechanism is used on a larger scale in France. However, even in these
cases ministers are not completely free and willing to change the high-
ranking personnel.
The use of ministerial cabinets is characteristic in southern civil service
systems (e.g. Belgium, France and Spain, Italy). In the north ministe-
rial cabinets are formally abhorred by politicians and the general public
48 Frits M. van der Meer, Trui Steen and Anchrit Wille

(even to a formal degree by the policy makers in the ‘cabinet’ systems).

Nevertheless, in these northern countries there has been a surge in the
use of political advisors, operating as a functional equivalent of the
ministerial cabinets. The proliferation of advisors in the inner circles
around prime ministers and ministers is exemplary for ‘court politics’
(Hart and Wille, 2012).
Apart from utilizing internal political sources of support, (tradition-
ally) alternative external sources of advice and expertise are exten-
sively used. Examples are the hiring of consultants, external personal
advisors and the use of advisory bodies and public expertise bodies.
Politicization can manifest itself in structural terms by deconstructing
a monolithic and integrated ‘bureaucracy’ through slimming down
‘bureaucracy,’ creating competing advisory or implementation offices
and setting up a supervisory bureaucracy. In the UK the Next Steps
program was partially instituted as a form of reorganization through
which politics could gain control. Similar arguments have been voiced
in the Netherlands regarding introduction of independent agencies. On
the other hand, in Germany and France structural reforms to this effect
have been limited. Neither of these countries has significantly disman-
tled central civil service controls, nor have they created flocks of new
quangos to take over functions formerly under direct political oversight
(Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2011). On a more fundamental level, there is an
inherent weakness in this structural approach as it is not all that clear
who benefits more from deconstructing integral bureaucracy: politicians
or bureaucrats. Much depends on who is able to control the interorgani-
zational exchange, what powers remain and who is most equipped to
take up a leading role in the multi-level governance play (see Page and
Wright, 2007).
Another aspect of politicization has been the attempt of politicians to
change the behavior or culture of the public service into a more respon-
sive set of actions, beliefs and values by manipulating or creating a
service ethos and/or adapting legal provisions. One of the central objec-
tives of civil service legislation was to define civil servant behavior and
responsibilities towards politics and the general public. In so-called NPM
countries politicization has found its way through an attempt to influ-
ence the behavior and the culture of the civil service. Implementation
of strong result-based control has shifted the political-administrative
relations towards a managerial bargain in Anglo-Sxon countries specifi-
cally (Hondeghem and Van Dorpe, 2013). More and more the emphasis
has shifted to civil servants’ ability to make policies work. This has
resulted in increasing numbers of ‘can do’ civil servants and a civil
Civil Service Systems in Western Europe 49

service opening up to outside appointments. In addition, the attempt

to increase strategic control over the public sector has tended to drive
power upward toward the executive center of government (Dahlström,
Peters and Pierre, 2011).
We have shown some of the most important top-down politicization
methods, but the room for it is limited owing to internal bureaucratic
conflict and a potential loss of (external) legitimacy. Politicization can
produce negative effects by increasing the gap between the top and
the rank-and-file. It may lower the legitimacy of the top in the eyes
of the latter (Van der Meer, 2011; Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2011). Trying
to solve this tension by extending political appointments to a lower
level can lead to a vicious politicization cycle and may even create
an extensive spoils system. It is interesting to see a trend in the UK,
Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and Sweden to diminish the reli-
ance on ‘neutral’ civil servants, while in Austria, Belgium, Greece and
Spain (abortive) attempts have been made to decrease the politicization
of the senior levels of the civil service by breaking away from clientele
relationships and creating a more proficient senior civil service that can
be trusted. The word ‘trusted’ is the motivating force in both reform

5 Trust in Government and Civil Service Systems

Popular trust in government is perceived as one of the crucial conditions

for the smooth functioning of the public sector and a stable govern-
ment. At the same time public institutions and the civil service often
suffer from a negative image. In the past 30 years many West European
governments have intensified efforts to make government more respon-
sive, transparent, accountable and accessible. The question is whether
these efforts have resulted in a better image of government among
To assess the levels of trust in government and civil services, we rely
on comparative survey data from several sources. The Eurobarometer
surveys monitor trends in trust in European governments. Data from
this source are summarized in Figure 3.1 and show the percentage of
the public who express trust in their national government in 2003 and
2013. These data make it possible to see changes that occurred in the
past decade, showing the losses and gains in trust, and it allows for a
comparison of contrasting countries.
During the past decade the net change in confidence in government
varied in direction and size by country. For example, abrupt downfall in
50 Frits M. van der Meer, Trui Steen and Anchrit Wille

60% 2013






Fi n

he K

Be s

er ia
xe ium

Fr g

Ire k

Po n












Lu lg







Figure 3.1 European trust in national governments for 15 EU countries, 2003–

2013 (%)
Source: Eurobarometer.

trust can be observed in Southern European countries: Spain, Portugal

and Greece, down by 30 percent or more. The financial sector crisis
apparently had a strong impact on public trust in these governments.
Some other countries – Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium
and Sweden – showed a (modest) increase in trust in government from
2003 to 2013. The often heard assumption that trust in government is in
decline therefore deserves nuance. There are mixed trends. Trust levels
have been moving in many countries and appear to be in flux, not in
a permanent decay (cf. Van de Walle, Roosbroek and Bouckaert, 2008;
Bovens and Wille, 2011).
The Eurobarometer data show that the balance between trust and
skepticism in government in Europe is mixed and that levels of trust
among the different countries vary. There is low trust in the govern-
ment in the Southern European countries and the UK and Ireland,
especially in contrast with the Northern European countries. Data
from the Gallup World Poll (conducted in 2010) indicated compa-
rable patterns (OECD, 2011). These North–South differences are also
partly reflected in data on trust in civil services, which were collected
in 2005 by the World Values Survey. Figure 3.2 reports the percentages
Civil Service Systems in Western Europe 51








e ce

Be nds

its urg


G al
Sw ay

Fi n
D and

Ic rk

Ire d

he ny

m m


Po in





xe iu

et a



Sw bo



N rm

Lu lg



Figure 3.2 Trust in civil service in 17 West European countries, 2005 (%)
Source: World Values Survey, 2005 wave, except for Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Greece,
Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal, where data from the 1999 wave were used.

of popular trust in the civil service in 17 West European countries.

High confidence in the civil service is a feature of the North European
countries, with the Swedes and the Swiss having the highest levels of
trust in their civil service, while the Greeks have the lowest level (cf.
Bouckaert, 2012). Only citizens in Germany and the Netherlands are
less trusting of their civil services, but the precise reasons for these low
scores are unclear.
While level of trust varies among countries, skepticism, rather than
positive trust or active distrust, dominate the evaluations of the public
sector institutions. At the same time people across West Europe make a
distinction in the type of public institutions when assessing them. Data
from the European Social Survey (ESS) from 2004 show that the army
and the police are the most trusted in almost every country. Respondents’
average trust scores (on a scale from 0 to 10) were 5.6 for the police, 4.8
for the legal system, 4.3 for the parliament, 3.4 for politicians and 3.4
for political parties (cf. Grönlund and Satälä, 2012). There is a remark-
able consistency in the relative lack of trust in political institutions and
political parties, which are by far the least trusted institutions in every
European country. This observation is in line with Mark Warren’s (1999)
claim that, in general, implementing institutions are trusted more than
institutions of representative democracy.
52 Frits M. van der Meer, Trui Steen and Anchrit Wille

The contemporary performance literature has tended to assume that

a key to restoring trust in public institutions lies in a focus on outcomes
or results. OECD countries have been working on improving public
sector performance for at least 30 years. Research on public opinion
shows, however, that there is no easy or straightforward link between
the failure or success of government reforms or performance on the
one hand, and the perceived legitimacy of these institutions, on the
other. Furthermore, citizens can easily harbor negative general feelings
towards government while at the same time being reasonably content
with many of the public services they actually use (like housing, unem-
ployment, schooling, taxes, social security, pensions) (Van de Walle and
Bouckaert, 2003).
There is increasing evidence from various studies that trust in public
institutions depends just as much on process (such as fairness and
equity) as on outcomes (Van Ryzin, 2011). The OECD indicators (2011)
show that countries with low levels of confidence in public institutions
are countries in which the perceived corruption was relatively high.
Likewise, data from the ESS indicate that institutional trust is positively
associated with satisfaction with policy outputs, but also with people’s
perception that public institutions live up to their normative expecta-
tions, such a incorruptibility and integrity of officials (Grönlund and
Satälä, 2012).

6 Conclusion

Most Western European governments have engaged in civil service

reforms in recent decades. Many have been motivated by political and
budgetary considerations, but there are cases where civil servants them-
selves have played a major role in introducing reform. Also, the directions
and the intensity of reform vary across countries. Differences between the
northern and southern part of Western Europe can be linked to different
stances towards the managerialism promoted by NPM. However, taking
into account also the possibility of diversity within an administrative
system, this does not mean that less NPM-enthusiast countries do not
engage in profound reform of their civil service systems.
What has become clear is that in spite of a lot of effort, reform often is
confined to paper exercises or leads to mystifications surrounding data
and figures (see for instance cutback operations). There are, for instance,
ample HRM policy initiatives but questions remain regarding real-life
reform. Reform initiatives may have de-monopolized the civil service
in opening employment to outsiders to some (small) degree, but these
Civil Service Systems in Western Europe 53

reforms have in general not led to a fundamentally altered system of

managing public sector personnel. It has been stated that the public
service has become more politicized, with civil servants being more
open to the political dimensions of their function and increased control
exerted by government over bureaucrats through changing structures,
culture and/or people in the civil service system. The word ‘trust’ is
central to the reforms and can explain the difficulty in depoliticizing
the civil service through neutralizing appointments.
Our analysis has focused on conflicting demands involving the need
for (legal) civil service protection and the incorporation of public sector
ethics, the change from a legal to a managerial and network/enabling
form of professionalism, and the political demand for the introduction
of a larger degree of flexibility in the personnel system.
Civil service protection is related to professional autonomy within the
context of the rule of law. This protection can diminish not only political
interference, but also the level of system flexibility. As a result, a drive
for flexibility has reinforced a more or less European-wide movement
to adopt a managerial form of civil service professionalism and funda-
mental questions have been raised about the actual need for the public
(law) nature of public sector employment. Although the public law status
has been retained in most cases, public labor and social security arrange-
ments have been made more in accordance with those existing in the
private sector. However, overemphasizing flexibility in recent reforms
might impair the ethical norms embedded in the protected service.
The public law status is again gradually being considered relevant for
protecting the public interest, safeguarding core values of civil service
and preserving or creating a public sector ethos.
Reform has mainly been formulated from a managerial frame of mind.
It is sometimes argued that we live in a managerial state in which civil
servants have the political supremacy. The latter assertion can be doubted,
particularly where it concerns the political aspects of civil service domi-
nance. Building on the conception that generic management does
extend over policy borders, managerial competencies are preferred over
professionalism based on specific knowledge and handling of policy
fields (Steen and Van der Meer, 2007). With this increasing supremacy
of the managerial perspective less attention is focused on the policy and
appraisal dimensions of the senior civil servants’ work. As such – and in
contrast to politicization trends – the managerialization of the senior
civil service causes a bottom-up style of depoliticization. The emphasis
on technical rationality within the managerial approach can endanger
the importance attached to what Hood (1991) calls the theta values
54 Frits M. van der Meer, Trui Steen and Anchrit Wille

embedded in the Rechtsstaat norms. A ‘managerial vicious circle’ could

come into existence when in most systems further managerial solutions
are seen as the way out of the problems posed by the conflict discussed
above. The demand for a civil service professionalism incorporating
ethics and political sensitivity show the limits of NPM. The conclusion
might well be that we should look to reappraising the uniqueness of
civil service, rather than blindly trust in ongoing managerialization.

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Anglophone Systems: Diffusion
and Policy Transfer within an
Administrative Tradition
John Halligan

1 Introduction

This chapter addresses the diffusion of public management among

Anglophone countries. It differs from the standard literature by
addressing diffusion and transfers among a set of countries linked by an
administrative tradition. The focus is on the process and effects by which
commonalities are maintained while individual countries follow their
own pathways. It is argued that convergence is not necessarily a prereq-
uisite for sustaining the tradition, and that substantial divergence may
exist up to a point. Fast-track transfer and diffusion is possible because
of compatibilities, but do they invariably avoid discordant results? There
are then two levels of analysis: that of the group within which diffusion
occurs, and that of transfers between countries.
The extent of the implementation of concepts and techniques trans-
mitted through diffusion requires analysis of the factors that mediate
reform initiatives in practice in order to examine cross-national varia-
tions, the differential take-up of ideas and the impact on a set of relatively
homogeneous countries. The chapter argues that complex processes
have been operating, including patterns of convergence and divergence
over time. Four questions are raised: the identity of the Anglophone
group and how this facilitates the process of diffusion; the capacity for
diffusion within the group; the results of diffusion and transfers as medi-
ated in different contexts; and the relationship between convergence
and divergence.
The study of the movement of public management and policy ideas
among countries has been largely accounted for by the literatures on

58 John Halligan

diffusion and more recently policy transfer (as well as lesson-learning

and policy convergence). There is considerable overlap between the
two and they can be regarded as complementary (Marsh and Sharman,
2010). For the purposes here, diffusion is used when looking at the
Anglophone group, but policy transfer when the focus is on borrowing
by one country from another.
There is extensive evidence that the diffusion of instruments have
produced differential impacts because contexts differ (Pollitt, 2013) and
structural factors are significant (Marsh and Sharman, 2010; Nutley
et al., 2013; Peters, 1997). Where the differences are potentially reduced
because of a common culture and tradition, are concrete policy transfers
more likely to occur? There are also indications that systems that share
traditions and culture may nevertheless experience divergence and a
low level of ‘hard’ transfers because of contextual features (Nutley et al.,
2013: 45). A further question is about where the line is drawn between
‘soft’ (ideas, concepts, attitudes) and ‘hard’ (programs and implementa-
tion) transfers (Evans and Davies, 1999: 382). Thus three British systems
use similar goals and instruments, but differ in content, style and
outcomes, and therefore the capacity for the hard form of policy transfer
is judged to be limited (Nutley et al., 2013: 44–45, 46). It is unclear that
such processes are continuous, so does this represent a transfer problem
or an ongoing learning problem?
Comparative studies in this area of several countries are somewhat
uncommon (but see chapters in Carroll and Common, 2013a). The
specific focus is the Anglophone countries that share government struc-
tures and an administrative tradition. These are Australia, Canada, New
Zealand and the UK. For some purposes the US is introduced as part of
an Anglo-American group, but the differences inhibit comparison and
public management linkages are arguably fewer than in the past (less
so in the northern hemisphere and with public policy) than analyses of
specific one-to-one transfers.
Policy convergence is normally defined as the extent to which coun-
tries become more alike over time (Knill 2005). In this case the focus
is on countries and how they remain sufficiently alike over time to
warrant being part of an administrative tradition. In taking a long-
term view it is possible to accommodate the divergences that arise,
which may co-exist within an overall convergence. The processes of
diffusion and policy transfer play important roles in contributing to
Anglophone Systems 59

2 Clarifying the identity of the Anglophone group

These countries constitute a coherent set because of their common tradi-

tion and historical and continuing close associations and interactions.
The ‘Westminster democracies’ have formed a natural group of indus-
trialized democracies with institutional roots in the British tradition.
The group is regarded as reasonably homogeneous for analytical and
comparative purposes. The assumption is that this comparability results
from a shared heritage, even though the countries are in some respects
heterogeneous (Peters, 1998).
The relationships can be envisaged at two levels, the broader Anglo-
American and the narrower Anglophone (or Westminster), the only
difference being the omission of the US from the latter. There are two
interpretations of the core features of the US system in relation to
democracies such as the UK: one emphasizes the similarities and accord-
ingly categorizes the system as Anglo-American; the second focuses on
the differences (Lijphart, 1984).
Continental Europeans who are sensitive to the existence of different
state traditions recognize ‘Anglo-Saxon’ as a distinct and meaningful
category differentiated in part by the lack of a well-developed concept
of the state, whereas others simply address the Westminster system or
model (Aucoin, 1995; Lijphart, 1984). This would normally include
Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK, and might be stretched
to the US. There are, then, interrelated approaches, the narrow view
focusing on those where Westminster principles prevail, in particular,
the fusion of the executive and the legislature under responsible govern-
ment, the broader position covering countries derivative of the British
From the outside the commonalities look strong, but within this
group substantial variations are apparent in governmental institutions:
federal or unitary structures, presidentialism or parliamentarism. The US
remains the outsider despite the commonalities. In terms of fundamental
features of civil service systems, there have been variations between the
traditional open (US) and closed models of recruitment, the associated
role of the career service, and modes of accountability. They also have
different-sized public sectors, those in Australia and the US being rela-
tively small, the rest generally falling closer to the middle range for the
OECD (although much less now than in the past). The breadth of the
spectrum is most obvious with political–bureaucratic relations, the UK
being at one end with strong separation of the two realms, and the US
60 John Halligan

occupying the opposite end with a mix of political and professional

The claims of US ‘exceptionalism’ should be recognized. Its govern-
mental institutions are unusual and have consequences for public
policy, including a civil service that is denied a significant policy role
in government and the reliance on external political appointees. There
are reasons for accepting the argument that the US is different but not
comprehensively unique (Wilson, 1998), even if Americans have been
proclaiming exceptionalism more (Kelemen, 2015). The US has become
less of a reference point for Anglophone countries as they have become
more self-contained in terms of their pathways because of the starkness
of institutional conflict.

2.1 Reinforcing group distinctiveness

Beyond institutional traditions, a number of factors continue to rein-
force the identity of the Anglo-American group. The continuing
patterns of interaction – historically formed and culturally supported
by language and heritage – are highly important. There has been a
long tradition of studying the export and transfer of British institu-
tions, within the Empire and later the Commonwealth, and sometimes
more systematic and comparative research into Westminster coun-
tries. Endogenous communication patterns influence members of this
group through bilateral relations between countries and various types
of network. The formal networks derive from relationships developed
between Britain and its colonies and maintained following decoloni-
zation. Alliances for defense and war, most recently Afghanistan and
Iraq, have been entrenched features involving members of the group.
The Commonwealth has provided a mechanism of communication
among Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand based on a common
language, cultural legacy and institutions (Patapan, Wanna and Weller,
Endogenous communication patterns have influenced members of this
group through two channels: networks and bilateral relations between
countries. The formal networks derive from relationships developed
between Britain and its former colonies, which have included agency-
level exchanges of staff,1 importing senior experts to conduct reviews,2
annual meetings of networks and constant informal contacts and associ-
ated epistemic communities.
All participate in the specialized networks, which are an important
source for circulating ideas and documentation of experience. Over
time, these functional-based and relatively informal systems within the
Anglophone Systems 61

Anglophone group can be significant for reform transfer within a sector,

which frequently occurs independently of general reform programs
(e.g. inland revenue/tax offices or specialized service delivery agen-
cies). They exist in a number of policy fields, viz, social security (the ‘big
six’).3 Politicians from the left and right have their own looser political
networks.4 The networks are tapped in reviews of ‘best practice’ interna-
tionally, where the other Anglophone systems typically feature, some-
times exclusively (e.g. Accenture, 2008; CFAR, 2012; IPPR, 2013; KPMG,
2009; OAG, 2001).
Location and institutions also feature in specific linkages and rela-
tionships. Apart from the long-standing relationship with the UK,
which continues to furnish the head of state, the antipodean coun-
tries of Australia and New Zealand have closely linked pathways, while
Canadian development has reflected proximity to the US, thereby occu-
pying an intermediate position for some purposes between its North
American neighbor and the others. The two large states of the UK and
the US have a special relationship. The combination of federalism and
Westminster has linked Canada and Australia, whereas unitary govern-
ment has produced a bond between Britain and New Zealand (the
latter once depicted as the perfect example of the Westminster model:
Lijphart, 1984). Australia and New Zealand are close because of physical
proximity and specific agreements for trans-Tasman relations (e.g. trade
and social security).
The 1980s to 2010s have been an active period of public service reform
internationally as it was rediscovered as viable and even effective. For a
number of OECD countries the main indicator that things were different
was that reform was comprehensive, in contrast to past incrementalism.
Despite substantial variations between countries in the process, type
and impact of the reforms, there were strong similarities between some
programs, especially among Anglo-American countries, with early paral-
lels drawn between the UK, the US and Canada (Pollitt, 1990; Savoie,
1994) and Australia, New Zealand and the UK being grouped because
they adhered more to precepts of ‘new public management’ (NPM) than
other OECD countries (Hood, 1996). At the peak of the OECD’s fixation
on NPM, the Anglophone experiments were upheld as the ideal (OECD,
The emergence of this distinctive set of reforms was a product of a
pattern of interaction that accorded legitimacy and relevance to initia-
tives within an administrative tradition that facilitated rapid trans-
mission and acceptance of ideas and practice. The early identification
of new public management – a somewhat imprecise (and changing)
62 John Halligan

ensemble of reforms – came from British writers who first discerned the
trend under Thatcher (Pollitt, 1990). In addition to the major reforms
in Britain (e.g. privatization and executive agencies), individual country
programs gained international significance, with New Zealand’s ‘public
management model’ and the US’s ‘reinvention’ being influential. The
reform movement therefore served to reinforce the notion of the Anglo-
American group’s identity both internally and externally as distinctive
and contrasting with that of other countries.

2.2 Capacity for diffusion within the group: patterns and

The long history of the transfer of ideas and reforms between the five
countries started with the transplanting of British institutions into its
colonies during the 18th and 19th centuries. The subsequent dominant
pattern reflected explanations centered on hierarchical diffusion: the
larger or more developed countries adopt new policies at an earlier stage.
Countries such as Britain and the US traditionally operated as a reposi-
tory of a distinctive form of government that exported institutions and
were relatively impervious to external influences. A basic principle in
communication networks in the diffusion literature concerns the devel-
opment of relationships between units with similar characteristics, and
decisions about whether to adopt a particular innovation are largely
dependent on the experience of comparable systems that have already
adopted it (Halligan, 1996; Halligan, 2003a).
For the small countries it was standard practice to scan the activities
of other systems: new British and US reforms received particular atten-
tion. Australia, Canada and New Zealand were more externally oriented
because of colonially induced reactions and an inclination to scan the
experience of larger kindred systems (Halligan, 1996; Halligan, 2003a).
The propensity of countries to look externally and their preparedness to
borrow the innovations of others shaped diffusion patterns.
The historical links were based on communication networks centered
on the British Commonwealth and increasingly relations between coun-
tries with similar cultural and linguistic traditions. The pattern of trans-
fers has been traced for Australia for public policy and legislation (Carroll,
2006). It changed from coercive transfers from Britain in the early 19th
century to more selective borrowing and increasing local innovation.
Transfers also became more complex as inter-colony transfers and adap-
tation increased towards the latter part of this century. Following federa-
tion, itself based on a constitution (1901) that borrowed from the UK
(responsible government) and the US (federalism), the 20th century was
Anglophone Systems 63

first characterized by intra-federation transfers usually from the states to

the federal government, but then by ‘polydiffusion’ as multiple sources
were drawn on. The declining influence of the UK was apparent during
the 20th century (Carroll, 2006).
The role of environmental influences was discerned over 60 years ago
by an American observer, Lipson (1948: 10), who pointed out that, while
inherited traditions permeated New Zealand society and government, it
was not just an imitation of the British model. When it took the initia-
tive the results were:

more analogous to those of other English-speaking democracies than

of Britain. The United States, Canada, Australia – these are the coun-
tries in which some parallel features can be observed. In certain cases
New Zealand has deliberately followed an American or an Australian
rather than a British precedent. In others, she has independently
arrived at results similar to those of America and Australia.

The historical movement of management ideas and government inno-

vation between Anglo-American countries was stimulated during the
recent period of intensive reform, although the historical domination
of the UK and the US has been less apparent. The five systems gener-
ally exhibited similar patterns of development (Halligan, 2007b). The
current reform era was initiated in Thatcher’s Britain, although the US
Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 played a role and official inquiries in
several countries had already laid the foundation for much of what
followed.5 The reform agenda was picked up and extended in various
ways by Australia and New Zealand in the 1980s and by the US’s National
Performance Review in the 1990s (Halligan, 2003b).
The age of reform was a leveler in that all the countries in the Anglo-
American group studied and borrowed from each other’s reforms, the
processes of institutional isomorphism operating within the group. At
various stages of their reform programs, all the countries have exam-
ined others’ experiences – even the UK and the US paying attention to
Australia and New Zealand when they were perceived to be exemplars
of reform in the 1990s. The US Government Performance and Results
Act 1993 borrowed from Australia (a ‘leading-edge’ country) and other
Commonwealth countries (Breul, 2006). Another example was the New
Zealand public management model.
As the source of more reforms than other countries, the UK has
continued to be seen internally and externally as a leader. There were
limits to this infatuation when it came to solutions to fundamental
64 John Halligan

problems faced by the UK system, such as its unwillingness to adopt

Australia’s strong Prime Minister’s Department model despite it being
advocated as a solution to the weakness at the center of Whitehall.
There has also been a view that successful reforms in a small system
(i.e. New Zealand) could not be translated into Whitehall (see, for
example, recommendations for the handling of senior public servants:
IPPR, 2013). This apparent nonchalance can be discerned with English
policy makers in the area of performance improvement in local govern-
ment who were ‘uninformed and unconcerned about developments’ in
Scotland and Wales (Nutley et al., 2013: 45).

3 Diffusion and transfers in public management

In the early years of reform, and intermittently since then, the strong
influence of the UK and the US was apparent as indicated by the transfers:
financial management and efficiency scrutinies from the UK as well as
a raft of other reforms such as privatization and joined-up government;
central personnel management, pay-for-performance (Peters, 1997), and
the senior executive service; policy tsars (Levitt and Solesbury, 2012) can
be linked to the US. With some exceptions (e.g. accrual accounting
and the charter of budget honesty are associated with New Zealand;
citizen surveys with Canada; and Centrelink with Australia), the UK has
tended to be the leader on reforms initiatives. Several cases indicate the
complexities of diffusion and transfers, and the difficulties with estab-
lishing the connections.
The case of financial management indicates how countries facing
similar environmental pressures chose similar solutions, but different
contexts mean that this does not necessary lead to the same results or that
implementation was straightforward. The UK’s Financial Management
Initiative (FMI) and the Australian Financial Management Improvement
Program (FMIP) provide a basis for comparing the relationship between
them. FMIP (1983) followed FMI in time (1982) with an intent that was
similar, as was much of the content. Both formed the basis for mana-
gerialism in the two countries (Halligan and Power, 1992; Pollitt, 1990;
Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2011).6
The origin of FMI and FMIP can be traced to the UK’s Fulton report
(1968), which espoused the notion of accountable management. This was
then picked up by a succession of committees in Britain, and the govern-
ment’s response was formulated in the Financial Management Initiative
(1982). In Australia a Royal Commission (RCAGA 1976) adopted account-
able management from Britain, which was eventually incorporated in a
Anglophone Systems 65

reform agenda, which launched managerialism in the federal govern-

ment. There were undoubtedly connections between FMI and FMIP, but
both countries were confronting a broadly similar reform environment
in the 1980s, at least with regard to the international recession (which
produced cutback management and was a spur to reform) and the
currency of right-wing ideas (Pollitt ,1990; Zifcak, 1994). The Canadian
and New Zealand experience was also tapped, and also the OECD, which
was emerging as a source of thinking about financial management
(Halligan, 1996).
There are explanations for the relative success of the two countries.
There were significant differences between the countries in terms of how
prime ministers approached the initiation of the program: Thatcher
was combative, Hawke collaborative. The civil service controlled
the British agenda, which was essentially defensive and designed to
contain Thatcher’s excesses. In contrast, the political executive drove
the Australian management reform. The FMIP was better sustained
and implemented compared to FMI (Halligan and Power, 1992; Zifcak,
1994: 156). The subsequent pathways of the respective reform programs
also differed, although both had to act to give traction to ailing reform
agendas in the mid-1980s. In both cases some form of structural reform
was resorted to as a means of enforcing the agenda: Australia opted for
mega departments, the UK executive agencies (Halligan and Power,
1992; Pollitt et al., 2004).
A clear sequence of adoptions involving all (to varying degrees)
Anglophone countries was the introduction of a senior executive corps
as a means of freeing up traditional systems and facilitating reform
(Halligan, 1996). The ‘senior executive service’ originated in the US
in 1979 as a scheme for developing executive management reflecting
private sector practices and including capacity for redeployment and
performance appraisal. Canada introduced the ‘management category’
in 1981, which incorporated similar principles. The first senior execu-
tive services were the Australian state of Victoria (1982), Australia (1984),
New Zealand (1988) and four of the five remaining states in the late
1980s.7 The second-generation experiments with the concept of a senior
corps included the UK’s ‘senior civil service’ in the mid-1990s (Halligan,
The public–private partnership (PPP) has been widely diffused within
and beyond the Anglophone group. It originated as the UK’s Public
Finance Initiative (PFI), which was renamed and reconceptualized by the
Blair government as the public–private partnership. This is a complex case
with debates about ambiguity in the use of the term (partnerships?), the
66 John Halligan

results, and the widespread diffusion effect internationally. What is clear,

ignoring the long history of public–private relationships, is the UK lead in
this area in the 1990s (Wettenhall, 2010: 24), and the extensive use made
of PPPs by other Anglophone countries, with the Australia states being
active in infrastructure and Canada provinces in the heath sector.
Performance management is a complex case that has become of
increasing relevance (Bouckaert and Halligan, 2008). The early history
of performance measurement centered on the US with a second genera-
tion of performance measurement activity emerging with post-World
War II experiments in performance budgeting and productivity. For
the UK, two decades of experimentation occurred before measurement
became a growth industry with the Financial Management Initiative,
which focused on objectives and measuring outputs and performance.
Following the general flowering of performance measurement, the
1990s were years of performance expansion and management consoli-
dation and all countries were actively designing performance manage-
ment systems. The transition to more developed forms of performance
management occurred during the last decade. The five countries have
a strong focus on results and performance, but there are still variations
in the commitment to and application of such principles. Performance
management is one indicator of variation. The evolving performance
management systems place greater reliance on fixed-term contracts,
performance agreements (often individualized), and reward systems that
included performance pay. Australia favored outcomes, New Zealand
outputs, Canada moved to refining its system only in the 2000s, and the
UK opted for public service agreements, but the different positions were
often transient and the long-term results debatable.
Shared services is another complex area in terms of the processes of
adaptation. The origins are not clear, although it is known that manage-
ment consultancy firms were hawking this option around governments
in the 2000s, and that early starters were two Australia states (Queensland
and Western Australia), and Canada. The UK also picked it up and more
recently Australian government agencies have been entering such
arrangements (AIM, 2012; Elston and MacCarthaigh, 2013). The results
have been uneven, but this has not deterred the Australian, Canadian
and UK government from pursing some form of extensive shared serv-
icing in the 2010s.

3.1 Hard transfers?

Hard transfers are associated with programs, instruments and imple-
mentation (Evans and Davies, 1999; Nutley et al., 2013). Direct transfers
Anglophone Systems 67

seem to be associated more with specific techniques or review proc-

esses. A case in point was the efficiency scrutiny model that Australia
borrowed from Britain in 1986, which was also officially acknowledged,
and included the methodology and the documentation (Halligan, 1996).
A relatively simple case of diffusion of a tool was that of the Gateway
Review process. It originated in the UK in the early 2000s, as an adapta-
tion from the private sector that was branded and franchised, and subse-
quently adopted in the Australian state of Victoria and the Australian
and New Zealand central governments (and the Netherlands). The
process has simply involved reviewing procurement projects at six deci-
sion points, hence the name, but has been deemed successful in terms
of savings and as a policy (Marsh and Fawcett, 2011).
A set of explicit transfers in the 2010s has involved a review process,
although the content goes to the core of a public management system.
Known as capability reviews in the UK and Australia and performance
improvement frameworks (PIF) in New Zealand, they provide systematic
assessments of departments’ capability. The latter two were modeled on
the original British scheme, but modified to fit country contexts. In each
case an independent review panel of former senior public servants and
consultants produced a report on a department or agency with a rating
system that combined a set of indicators, traffic light assessments and
back-up judgments.8
By the end of 2009 there were 22 British reviews, 21 New Zealand PIFs
by late 2012, and 17 Australian reports at the end of 2013 (13 publicly
released), with more reports under preparation in Australia and New
Zealand. The three schemes have provided a common evaluative basis
across all three countries. The Australian scheme has used the same three
British components (leadership, strategy and delivery), and a number of
the ten constituent elements correspond. The NZ PIF mixes the elements
more (Halligan, 2014; Te Kawa and Guerin, 2012). That these countries
needed to use this instrument reflects weaknesses in their management
systems, either overall or across agencies. That they can readily use a
similar instrument to address weaknesses in management capabilities
indicates how well it translates between the three countries.

3.2 Transfer failures?

The 1990s trend towards ‘agencification’ centered on separating policy
formulation from implementation, the best-known and most influential
example being the British executive agencies, although the impact within
this group was quite variable. The UK made a major reform commit-
ment to the executive agency concept launched under the Next Steps as
68 John Halligan

the management reform program shifted to focus on the extensive use

of such agencies. Under the Next Steps, the executive functions were
transferred to executive agencies, which continued to operate within
departments. Each agency had a chief executive directly accountable
to ministers and a policy and resources framework designed to provide
a focus and targets. The other significant feature of the Next Steps was
its systemic application: during the first ten years of the scheme it was
extended to most potential candidates for agency status, meaning that
around 75 percent of staff in the home civil service was employed in
executive agencies. The UK experience provided the most influential
case of agencification, although debate continued about how effective
the system was in practice (Pollitt et al., 2004).
Australia remained attached to combining policy and implemen-
tation roles within a department because it was thought essential to
maintaining effective feedback from those delivering services. The
Department of Finance’s reaction to the UK’s executive agencies in the
late 1980s was that it was not axiomatic to create agencies in order to
reduce central control. Of the Anglophone countries, Australia remained
closest to traditional machinery not only by resisting conformity with
Britain and New Zealand, but by seeking policy coordination and port-
folio rationalization through horizontal consolidation. Australia was
not, however, immune to international trends, and a departure from
the traditional position occurred in 1997 with the creation of a special-
ized delivery agency. Centerlink offered a new agency model because it
was multi-functional, delivered services to several departments, and was
designed to provide an integrated cross-portfolio service. The Australian
response then was one large agency that accounted for about 30 percent
of the Commonwealth government’s budget.
Of the other Anglo countries, Canada experimented with special oper-
ating agencies (SOAs) from 1989 that were modeled on the UK’s execu-
tive agencies. A number of SOAs were introduced, but like other aspects
of Canadian reform at that time there was a lack of drive to create a SOA
system. New Zealand also offered an ‘agency’ form of a type that differed
from standard cases of agencification (Pollitt et al., 2004: 31). This was
one element of a larger framework for public management in which
policy advice and service provision were decoupled by the use of small
policy ministries and large delivery departments.
The experiments with separating policy formulation from implemen-
tation took the forms of systemic separation in the UK and New Zealand.
In contrast, Australia and Canada pragmatically applied this principle on
an ‘as needs’ basis, with the latter lending nominal support to a broader
Anglophone Systems 69

coverage without proceeding very far with the arrangements at the sub-
departmental level (Savoie, 1994).
A more intriguing case was that of the incorporation of the UK concept
of the accounting officer in the Canadian Federal Accountability Act
2006 (Heintzman, 2013). The problem lay with the implementation
in a different context. Heintzman’s conclusion was that ‘the version
of the accounting officer implemented in the FedAA had none of the
key features of its British model and several fatal innovations’ (2013:
92). In particular, there was an assumption the accounting office would
be accountable (rather than answerable) to a parliamentary committee
rather than to the treasury department.

4 Convergence and divergence

Policy convergence is represented as increasing similarity between

countries. Over time this is likely to wax and wane as systems change
at different rates and points. Moreover, in looking at the Anglophone
systems there are levels of convergence and divergence: in a given sphere
divergence may occur within overall convergence. Two major areas are
addressed: relationships between politicians and senior public servants
and public sector reform agenda.

4.1 Politicians and senior public servants

The complex processes involved in the tensions between tradition and
context are exposed in the relations between the senior public service
and the political executive. This is a dynamic area of change with move-
ment away from traditional characterizations, but distinctive pathways
and fluctuating relationships. In other words, the core principles have
been modified substantially but different means have been employed
and the intensity of the pressures on the relationship have varied.
Of the international models of political–bureaucratic relations, the US
and the UK have represented distinctive models at opposite ends of a
spectrum ranging from high political influence through overt political
appointments to separation of the two spheres. The mainstream model
for the group derives from traditional Westminster, but this has been
an era in which politicians’ influence has been growing internation-
ally, and also to varying extents in the Anglophone systems. While the
movement has been towards greater influence, the levels and devices
used vary considerably, the US depending on political appointees while
Australia and Canada have relied on political advisers in ministerial
70 John Halligan

Drawing on the Canadian experience, Peter Aucoin (2008) trig-

gered a debate about what he called ‘new political governance’ (NPG),
a formulation that provided an ideal type framework for comparative
analysis. He argued that NPG represented political leaders’ responses
to the mix of political pressures that had emerged in recent decades,
which politicized the environment and contributed to an increase in
partisan attacks on the bureaucracy. Four dimensions were distinguished
within Westminster systems: concentration of power in the office of the
prime minister; role and influence of partisan-political staff; personal-
politicization of senior public service appointments; and a promiscu-
ously partisan public service (2008: 13–14). Aucoin (2008) contended
that these features were strongly evident in Canada and applied to
Anglophone systems, although subject to contextual factors. The extent
to which these dimensions could be generalized to all four countries was
questioned because in the case of New Zealand there was little evidence,
and Australia was a qualified expression of NPG (Boston and Halligan,
A focus on the divergences between the systems produces a more
complex picture. Leaving aside the traditional relationship (Model 1),
at least three responsiveness models can be advanced (Halligan, 2014).
A second model, modernized and rebalanced, is based on a new accom-
modation (or bargain in Hood and Lodge’s 2006 terms) in which conces-
sions have been made, and the politicians’ desire for control has been
satisfied, at least temporally. In the context of management reform,
modernization has occurred that has translated the traditional relation-
ship into contemporary terms involving some redistribution of power in
favor of the political executive within new managerialism. This model
is best approximated by New Zealand, which has knitted together the
old (traditional independence) and new (CEOs are on contract, but are
appointed by an open and explicit process that is beyond the control,
but not the influence, of the political executive).
A third model is characterized by imbalance with alternating phases
of stability and instability. The periods of stability are punctuated by
outbreaks of divergence and discordance reflecting a new disconnect
between the political executive and the public service. This oscillating
is a product of divergent views of the principles and contention for
influence over the system. Australia’s pathway illustrates that some of
these features, such as the handling of responsiveness and public service
neutrality, were subject to swings of focus and attention over the past
30 years, but the general trend has been towards responsiveness. The UK
also experienced volatility in the relationships between the civil service
Anglophone Systems 71

and the political executive as governments have sought to control

and influence the civil service (Fawcett and Gay, 2010). The Cameron
government placed the civil service under intense pressure including
a greater role for ministers in the appointing of permanent secretaries,
and introducing the ‘extended minister’s office’ to encompass special
advisers and external appointees. The groundswell of opposition led
the government to modify its radical proposals and to recommit to
the impartial civil service, while laying the basis for moving closer to
Australia and Canada.
A fourth model, long-term institutional erosion, focuses on the
attrition of the public service as a result of how the relationship is
defined and conducted by the political executive. In Canada there
have been issues about the degree of subjugation, redrawing of
boundaries, and the demeaning of the stature of the public service
(Heintzman, 2013; Zussman, 2013). It is presumed therefore that
behavior in the Canadian case goes beyond boundaries normally
regarded as acceptable for an Anglophone public service (noting that
these judgments reflect long-term trends, which have been amplified
in recent times).
Each of the four countries has followed their own pathway and
pace, but with similarities (e.g. political advisers) and attentiveness to
Westminster nostrums. Developments in each are closely studied, the
most recent being a UK report on relationships (IPPR, 2013). A key
consideration has been the tendency of new governments to initiate
measures that affect the relationship between the political executive and
the civil service. At base the core principles and values still have force (if
battered). The net result is that basic precepts of impartiality and profes-
sional appointments continue, and prevail overall unevenly as person-
alization in appointments, specific interventions, role ambiguity and
boundary issues are commonplace.

4.2 Reform in tandem

The Anglophone countries have tended to reform in unison in that
they have moved through similar phases, although this does not entail
exactly the same reforms in unison. They each proceeded through a
new public management phase, followed by a reintegration phase, and
have recently mounted new reform agendas in tandem within a context
of smaller government. The impact of the global financial crisis has
been significant for all four, if less than for other OECD countries, with
the notable exception of the UK, which has experienced major cuts in
central government expenditure.
72 John Halligan

The Australian ‘blueprint’ report (AGRAGA, 2010) was the first,

followed by New Zealand’s Better Public Services report a year later
(BPSAG, 2011), and the UK’s Civil Service Reform Plan (HM Government,
2012). The Canadian ‘blueprint’ is in process, but interim reform docu-
ments have been published (Government of Canada, 2013). The main
themes that emerge from the reports are services for citizens, capabilities,
leadership and collaborative activity, suggesting that the public services
are confronting common issues but maintain an explicit awareness of
each other’s agenda. Less apparent are explicit narratives of reform (Hart,
2010), which suggest weaknesses in their agendas.

5 Conclusion

The Anglophone group displays many of the issues in the literature on

diffusion and policy transfer, but they also raise questions about preoc-
cupations in the literature itself. The Anglophone countries are adept at
borrowing from each other as the need arises, but that may be episodic
and selective. The borrowing is more likely to involve explicit transfers
on matters that are relatively unimportant in terms of reform content
(such as instruments for achieving efficiencies), but less so in concrete
terms for major reforms.
The maintenance of a common administrative tradition depends
on a basic level of convergence, which has been underscored by the
Anglophone case. Diffusion and transfer are important for sustaining
convergence. The countries’ high propensity to absorb management
and policy ideas from each other does not translate into replicas, and
there is little reason why this should be the case. The pattern has also
tended to be asymmetrical, with the UK being more likely to initiate,
and somewhat less disposed to learn from, its former colonies.
It is also clear that despite the shared administrative tradition and
cultural and institutional characteristics in systems that are open and
receptive to new approaches, the process of borrowing and learning is
still subject to contextual factors that mediate the use of these ideas and

1. For example, the head of the Australian Finance Department spent two years
seconded to the British Cabinet Office.
2. Sir Peter Gershon conducted a review of ICT in Australia (2008) having previ-
ously been responsible for an efficiency review in the UK (2004–2005).
Anglophone Systems 73

3. There is also the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions,

which has a wide membership of government entities, Commonwealth
Association of Tax Administrators and broader-based organizations such
as the International Colloquium on Financial Management for National
Governments. The countries also have members on OECD committees.
4. The networks may extend to ministerial advisors, for example, the head of
communications for Prime Minister Gillard was a former Blair adviser in the UK.
5. Canada was a leader in the early diffusion of management ideas (Glassco
Commission on Government Organization (1960–1963), although influenced
by the US Hoover Commission. The UK’s Fulton report (1968) was also influ-
ential. A partly derivative report (e.g. accountability management) was the
Coombs Royal Commission (1976) in Australia.
6. Canada’s Increased Ministerial Authority and Accountability (IMAA) (1986)
bore some resemblances to these programs, particularly as an attempt to
change management practices, but never registered much impact (Savoie,
1994). New Zealand did not engage public management reform until its orig-
inal model was introduced under the State Services Act 1988 (Boston et al.,
7. New Zealand’s SES was short lived.
8. Main sources are the Australian Public Service Commission (http://www.apsc.
gov.au/aps-reform/current-projects/capability-reviews) and APSC (2013); for
New Zealand Te Kawa and Guerin (2012) and the State Services Commission
(http://www.ssc.govt.nz/pif; and for the UK http://www.civilservice.gov.uk/

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Explaining Civil Service Reform
in Asia
John P. Burns

1 Introduction

Scholarly accounts of civil service (or public sector) reform in Asia

generally emphasize the limited scope of the reforms (Cheung and
Scott, 2003). Indeed, Asia, of all continents, has seen the lowest levels
of downsizing (Cheung and Scott, 2003: 11). Efforts to privatize, they
argue, have also been stalled. Studies of specific Asian countries, such
as Japan, conclude that the reform process has been hesitant and slow
and that little of substance has actually changed (Beeson, 2003: 26).
Real reform of the civil service in Vietnam, to take another example,
has been ‘very slow’ (Painter, 2003: 225). In general, scholarly accounts
conclude that in spite of ambitious public sector and/or civil service
reform programs not much has happened.
A problem with this picture is that by attempting to be so inclusive
it misses significant variation among Asian states that is best captured
by comparing a group of similar cases. In this chapter I start with Asia’s
Confucian states (here defined to include China, Japan, Singapore,
South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam) and examine civil service/public
sector reform in them as they evolved along two different paths: the
developmental and the socialist state path. Confucian societies value
a strong competent interventionist state and, at least initially, authori-
tarianism. Developmental states (Japan, South Korea, Singapore and
Taiwan) were the product of public sector reform that focused on insti-
tution building and intimate relations between an elite, meritocratic
bureaucracy and business interests in the pursuit of industrialization
(Johnson, 1982: 1999). The formula was effective under certain condi-
tions, especially authoritarianism, but less effective as these states
democratized and became more tightly linked with the world economy.

78 John P. Burns

Under these conditions the developmental states have found difficulty

carrying out further public sector reform. The socialist states (China
and Vietnam) have been embedded in society because of their choice
to pursue social transformation. They adopted economic development
as a principal policy objective much later than did the developmental
states. Still authoritarian and poorer than the developmental states, the
socialist states have implemented substantial public sector reforms to
rebuild state autonomy and capacity under market conditions. I seek
to explain the recent and different public sector reform outcomes that
have characterized these developmental and socialist states.

2 Public sector reform capacity

According to Knill, reform capacity is a function of the general capacity

for executive leadership in the system, the institutional entrenchment
of administrative structures and procedures, and the influence of the
bureaucracy on policy making (Knill, 1999: 115). General capacity for
executive leadership is affected by the number of ‘institutional veto
points’ provided by the political system and is affected by the degree
to which ‘administrative structures and procedures are entrenched in
a broader institutional framework’ (Knill, 1999: 115). Finally, the influ-
ence of the bureaucracy on policy making is the extent to which ‘admin-
istrative actors are able to shape the outcome of policy formulation and
implementation in line with their interests’ (Knill, 1999: 115). Insofar
as politicians and bureaucrats are ‘interlinked’ the capacity for admin-
istrative reform goes down. This means that systems with bureaucra-
cies that are more autonomous from politicians have less capacity to
reform. Conversely, those systems with strong political executives
(where there are fewer veto points and interlinkages) have a greater
capacity for reform. Based on Knill’s framework we might hypothesize
that those countries with high reform capacity would have significant
reform achievements. External pressures for reform (globalization, IMF
pressures, etc.) and the availability of reform ideas (NPM, etc.) ought to
push those countries with high capacity to actually carry them out. This
notion ignores domestic political considerations which I argue in this
chapter are critical for understanding reforms actually implemented.
In order to evaluate this hypothesis we need some understanding of
how to determine ‘significant reform achievements.’ With a great deal
of arbitrariness I have chosen three measures: (a) economic growth
(measured as GDP annual growth from 1990 to 2003); (b) the incidence
of corruption (measured by Transparency International’s Corruption
Explaining Civil Service Reform in Asia 79

Table 5.1 Economic growth, quality of public institutions and corruption of

selected Asian states

GDP annual GDP annual

GDP per growth growth Corruption
capita (PPP) 1975–2003 1990–2003 Perception
2000, US$ (%) (%) Index

Japan 26,640.03 2.4 1.0 6.9

Singapore 21,194.29 4.9 3.5 9.3
Taiwan 18,000 (2002 est.) NA 3.3 5.6
South Korea 16,969.33 6.1 4.6 4.5
China 3,842.41 8.2 8.5 3.4
Vietnam 1,877.04 5.0 5.9 2.6

Source: Transparency International (2014a); UNDP (2005); World Bank (2002); World
Economic Forum (2004).

Perceptions Index); and (c) significant downsizing (defined as cutting

the total number of public sector employees by 20 percent or more in a
relatively short period of time, say five years). The first measure assumes
that public sector reform is related to economic growth and that states
that undertake reform are likely to improve the rate of growth. Some
countries in Asia, such as Singapore, explicitly adopt such logic. Still,
we must recognize that economic growth is a product of many factors,
not only public sector reform. The second measure may be seen as a
proxy for civil service management reform outputs. Insofar as civil
service reforms have been implemented I would expect lower levels of
perceived corruption.1
The third measure may be seen as a proxy for many different admin-
istrative reforms such as contracting out and privatization, structural
reorganization, reorganization of work, re-defining the scope of the
state, and so forth. We may take a significantly smaller public sector as
an indicator of these reforms, the output of which may be difficult to
measure directly.
Applying Knill to our Asian countries we find some unexpected results
(Table 5.2). Arguably the countries with only moderate reform capacity
(China and Vietnam) have shown the greatest results in terms of growth
and smaller public sectors, while the country with the highest reform
capacity (Singapore) has shown only modest, largely symbolic results. If
we take incidence of corruption as a measure of results, however, then
the outcome is not surprising. The country with the highest reform
capacity (Singapore) has the best results, as predicted.
80 John P. Burns

Table 5.2 Public sector reform capacity: institutional veto points, bureaucratic
autonomy and reform results in selected Asian countries in the 1990s

Number of Autonomy Predicted

institutional of reform
Country veto points bureaucracy capacity Reform result

China Moderate Low Moderate (a) High growth

(b) Highly corrupt
(c) Significantly smaller
public sector
Vietnam Moderate Low Moderate (a) Moderate growth
(b) Highly corrupt
(c) Significantly smaller
public sector
Korea Moderate Relatively Low (a) Moderate growth
low (b) Relatively low
(c) Modest downsizing
Japan Many High Low (a) Low growth
(b) Relatively low
(c) Modest downsizing
Taiwan Many Low Low (a) Modest growth
(b) Relatively low
(c) Modest downsizing
Singapore Few Low High (a) Modest growth
(b) Very low corruption
(c) Very little downsizing

Source: Based on Knill (1999).

2.1 The socialist states: China and Vietnam

The need for social transformation in China and Vietnam meant the
party/state took control over virtually all aspects of public life and oblit-
erated the boundaries between state and society (Schurmann, 1971;
Vogel, 1969). The revolutionary state operated through institutions of
central planning for a command economy. State planning commissions,
led by the Communist Party, aggregated plans and determined produc-
tion targets for economic and social agencies in virtually every sphere,
from industrial undertakings to universities and hospitals (see Barnett,
1967; Harding, 1981). Chinese culture and institutional arrangements
required consensus and inhibited horizontal communication, placing
a premium on bargaining (Lieberthal, 2004: 191–192) and exhibiting
Explaining Civil Service Reform in Asia 81

a number of pathologies, including ‘blocked leadership, minority veto,

[and] control by the organized (which in China generally means powerful
bureaucracies)’ (Lampton, 1992: 37). Numerous veto points weakened
the power of the political executive. Having adopted a policy of aggres-
sive economic development, authorities in both China and Vietnam
had little choice but to undertake reform of their public sectors.
The reforms with the greatest impact have been those that (1) decen-
tralized power over management of the economy to local governments;
and (2) forced thousands of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) into the
market. In the early 1980s the central government decentralized power
to manage the economy to provincial and county governments. Powers
previously held centrally, such as authority to approve foreign invest-
ments and to grant tax concessions, were handed over to local govern-
ments. The center also created special economic zones along the coast
to encourage foreign investment. These reforms all boosted investment
and economic growth especially in China’s coastal provinces.
The second reform, forcing SOEs into the market, had major conse-
quences for government revenue and for employment. As a result of the
declining profitability of SOEs, government revenues in China fell from
more than 35 percent of GDP to a low of 10.7 percent of GDP in 1995.
Only when a new tax sharing reform was introduced did government
revenues begin growing again, to stand at about 15 percent of GDP in
2000. The impact of SOE reform on public employment was even more
dramatic. From 1995 to 2003 public employment fell from 112 million
employees to 68.8 million, a decline of 40 percent (see National Bureau
of Statistics, 2005: 122). In relatively short order the public sector shed
44 million jobs without causing massive instability. Rapid economic
growth has been the key to accomplishing this task. This is a remarkable
result and clearly demonstrates the growing autonomy of the Chinese
Other public sector reforms in China have included government
restructuring and civil service reform. Neither has had the dramatic
impact of the public sector downsizing, however. In wave after wave
of structural reform (1988, 1992, 1998) the central planning apparatus
was merged, downsized, and then abolished altogether. Ministries in
charge of each area of economic activity were stripped of their produc-
tion functions (these were corporatized or privatized2) and turned their
government regulatory functions over to, first, the State Economic and
Trade Commission (which was itself abolished in 1998) and then to
the State Planning and Development Commission. The impact of civil
service reform, including institution building, new regulations and
82 John P. Burns

various management reforms (Burns, 2005), is even more nebulous.

Although civil service capacity clearly increased, so too did corruption
(see Transparency International, 2014a), evidence that these reforms
have had only a modest impact.
Public sector reform in Vietnam has followed a similar track and
included economic decentralization and moving SOEs into the market.
Driven by the growing demands of marketization and globalization,
authorities pushed to reform the SOEs. From 1986 to 1994 many
smaller SOEs were restructured through mergers or liquidation. As a
result the number of public sector workers fell by 35 percent (Painter,
2003: 214). Further restructuring during the 1990s saw the number of
SOEs decline from about 12,000 in 1990 to 5300 in 2000 (Painter, 2003:
214). Although the process of reforming the country’s state-owned
enterprises has demonstrated weaknesses in Vietnam’s reform capacity
(such as ambivalence about how to proceed with SOE reform), the huge
number of public sector workers laid off from their positions indicates
the growing autonomy of the state.
Authorities have also implemented institutional restructuring and
civil service reform but ‘changes on the ground have been very slow to
happen and the signs suggest a less than whole-hearted commitment to
effective implementation of many of the [reform] proposals’ (Painter,
2003: 225). Within the civil service monitoring, inspection and supervi-
sion remain weak and the civil service system as a whole evidences ‘a
high level of personalism and patronage’ (Painter, 2003: 222). Vietnam
ranks 102nd on the 2004 Corruption Perception Index, undoubtedly an
indicator of weaknesses in this aspect of public sector reform (see also
Table 5.1).
Because of numerous veto points and a dependent bureaucracy the
administrative reform capacity of the two socialist states was relatively
weak, yet remarkably achieved a smaller public sector.

2.2 The developmental states

Among the developmental states Japan and South Korea remain the
archetypical examples of states with ‘embedded autonomy’ that have
had difficulty pushing public sector reform. Both have entered into
periods of democratization or at least de-concentration of power within
the political executive. As a result government has become a matter of
putting together coalitions. Gone was the stable rule of either the mili-
tary (Korea) or a single dominant party (the LDP in Japan lost power in
1993). These changes have increased the number of veto players within
the political executive, thus frustrating reform in both countries. A move
Explaining Civil Service Reform in Asia 83

toward pluralism and democracy has also characterized Taiwan. I turn

now to a brief discussion of each of these states.

2.2.1 Japan
The Japanese political system is organized in a way that frustrates the
political executive. First, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Japan’s
current ruling party, is composed of institutionalized factions that
provide financial support for faction members and bargain among
themselves for leadership positions. Which faction leader becomes the
leader of the LDP (and thus perhaps the prime minister) depends on a
bargain worked out among the various faction leaders (Painter, 2003:
241–242). This sort of structure institutionalizes veto points. Second,
within Japan’s LDP, policy cliques (zoku) of sectorally organized groups
that bring producers and bureaucrats together, increase the number of
veto players considerably. The cliques develop close ties to private busi-
nessmen and civil servants. They are seen as the experts in the policy
sector. They are also important instruments for distributing spoils within
the party and are part of a vast network of money politics and corruption
that characterizes the political system (Beeson, 2003: 33; Painter, 2005:
242). Factions and policy cliques play a key role in the LDP and help to
disable the political executive. Third, in Japan politicians are recruited
in large numbers from among retired bureaucrats, and this ensures that
the political executive is weakened in its struggles with the bureaucracy
(Beeson, 2003: 32–33).
In spite of this institutional set-up, there has been no dearth of admin-
istrative reform policies, programs and plans. The First and Second
Provisional Civil Service Reform Councils in 1961 and 1981 have had
limited success but did manage to cut the civil service by 5 percent and
reorganize some central ministries. The participation of senior civil serv-
ants as members of the councils allowed them to effectively protect
their interests (Painter, 2003: 243–244). The LDP’s loss of power in 1993
allowed further public sector reform on to the agenda. Struggles over
structural reform of the Ministry of Finance (MOF) lasted for years and
only culminated in 2000 when a new bureau, the Financial Services
Agency, took over some MOF duties. Generally public sector reform
in Japan has been characterized by delay, reluctance to reform, grid-
lock, and opposition from the bureaucracy (Beeson, 2003; Nakamura,
2003: 37; Painter, 2003: 242–243). Struggle over public sector reform,
however, has not prevented some privatization of public assets, such
as the Japanese National Railways in 1987, and the huge postal savings
84 John P. Burns

system which includes the largest banks and insurance companies in the
world and other businesses starting in 2006.

2.2.2 South Korea

The Korean political system is usually described as president-led
(Moon and Ingraham, 1998). During the heyday of the Korean devel-
opmental state the President (Park Chung Hee), installed in a military
coup, presided over a coherent power center that was able to impose
reform on the bureaucracy. The bureaucracy in Korea depended on
the president for privileges, including organizational growth, greater
job security, and cabinet appointments. Jung concludes that bureau-
crats in Korea came to see that their ministries’ ‘political power solely
depended on President Park’s favor’. Hence, there were few veto points,
and presidential rule was the norm.
As a result of democratization, new players have emerged on the
scene. Korean presidents who depended on coalition governments,
such as Kim Dae Jung, have seen their position vis-à-vis the bureauc-
racy weakened considerably. In these conditions, the number of veto
points has increased and the president’s power over the administra-
tive reform process has weakened. The fact that reform of budget and
personnel functions had to be negotiated among coalition members in
1998 demonstrated the debilitating impact of coalition government on
the president’s powers.
Without exception presidents have come to power with public
sector reform programs (Painter, 2003: 248). These have included
some cuts to the civil service (50,000 were cut under Chun) and
major structural reorganizations (Painter, 2003: 248). Arguably the
most significant structural reform was the demise of the pilot agency
the Economic Planning Board, which personified the Korean devel-
opmental state. A cohesive political executive in 1994 was able to
quickly merge the Board with the Ministry of Finance with little
opposition from the bureaucracy (perhaps because the new Ministry
of Finance and Economics was even more powerful than either
agency was before).
Reform initiatives have come from the political executive in Korea
which has been able to impose its will on the bureaucracy in spite
of considerable bureaucratic resistance. The number of veto points
has varied, but has perhaps been somewhat fewer than in Japan. The
capacity of the bureaucracy to resist in Korea has also been somewhat
lower than in Japan.
Explaining Civil Service Reform in Asia 85

2.2.3 Taiwan
Since the mid-1980s public sector reform strategies in Taiwan have
been designed in the context of democratization. When opposition
forces coalesced into the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in 1986
and many non-governmental organizations emerged, the relationship
of the state to society changed fundamentally. The authoritarian state
no longer imposed its will on society . State–society relations had to be
negotiated. Clearly the state in Taiwan was losing autonomy, becoming
more embedded in society. As a result calls to modernize the state struc-
ture became more insistent (Cheung, 2003a: 100).
The democratization of Taiwan in the 1990s has expanded the
number of veto points considerably, thus undercutting the capacity of
the political executive to carry out administrative reform. The election
of DPP candidate Chen Shui-bian to the Presidency in 2000 while the
traditional ruling party, the Kuomintang (KMT), still held control of the
legislature resulted in stalemate in many areas, including administrative
Unlike the governments of Japan and Korea, the traditional post-
1947 leadership in Taiwan (the KMT) used SOEs as key instruments of
industrial development (Evans, 1995: 55).3 In the 1950s, Taiwan’s SOEs
accounted for over half of all fixed industrial production. It fell in the
1960s, but expanded again in the 1970s (Evans, 1995: 55–56; Wade,
1990). As Wade points out, unlike Japan and Korea, the private sector
was largely absent from policy networks dominated by the KMT. To a
large extent, Taiwan’s network of strategically placed SOEs, each with
its own set of relations with private firms, compensated for the lack of a
well-developed network of ties between the state and the private sector
(Evans, 1995: 56).
Authorities in Singapore have adopted a similar strategy in some
respects, relying to a large extent on government-linked corporations
(GLCs), which partnered with multi-national corporations to grow the
economy. In the mid-1980s there were more than 500 GLCs. After some
privatizations (1991) 419 remained providing ‘an important support
for the Singapore economy’ (Cheung, 2003b: 139). In both states, these
public companies, whose leaders were appointed by the government,
linked the state to the private sector. We should not, though, exaggerate
the lack of embeddedness (Evans, 1995: 56).
Perhaps because of the bureaucracy’s relative autonomy, public
sector reform in Taiwan has been modest. Not until the 1990s, when
the KMT came under serious challenge from the DPP, did the political
86 John P. Burns

executive consider reform of Taiwan’s ‘anachronistic’ public administra-

tion (Cheung, 2003a: 90). The administrative institutions until then had
been transported from mainland China. Only in 1987, for example, did
authorities lift martial law on Taiwan. In spite of the political differences
between the two rival parties (and now a third party, the New Party,
which broke away from the KMT when it lost power in the late 1990s),
the political elites appear to share a broad consensus on the issues of
public sector reform.
As we have seen, the KMT established SOEs to fuel its drive for indus-
trialization. Under the rule of the KMT, appointees to positions in SOEs
came from the Party, ex-generals, and retired civil servants. The Party
used SOEs to ‘tame the indigenous Taiwanese private entrepreneurs who
had to depend on public enterprises for credit and raw material supply
(such as steel and petro-chemicals products)’ (Cheung, 2003a: 101).
The growth of SOEs and the core state in the 1950s and 1960s meant
that by 1965 some 14 percent of the workforce was employed by the
state sector. Since the 1970s, however, the relative size of the state sector
declined to 12.5 percent of employees in 1977 and 11.8 percent in 1993.
By 2001 Taiwan’s SOEs contributed about 10 percent of GDP, down from
15–16 percent in the 1960s and 1970s. In the same year the 31 main SOEs
employed about 185,000 people (Council for Economic Planning and
Development, 2002). SOEs have also contributed from 7 to 10 percent
of government net revenues, although since 1996 the trend has been
declining (Jian, 1996).
Taiwan’s political elite, both KMT and DPP, agree that SOEs should be
privatized. Labor unions and some legislators have opposed the policy,
but with little success (Council for Economic Planning and Development,
2002; Taiwan Confederation of Trade Unions, 2005). By the end of 2002
some 27 SOEs had been privatized and 13 small-scale state-owned facto-
ries shut down. The state still retains shares in the privatized companies
although the policy has been to eventually achieve complete divest-
ment. Another 17 SOEs are scheduled for privatization by 2007 (Council
for Economic Planning and Development, 2002).
I have no data on the impact of privatization on employment in
Taiwan. Labor unions claim that thousands have lost their jobs as a
result of privatization (Taiwan Confederation of Trade Unions, 2005).
Aggregate studies of the impact of privatization that include Taiwan,
however, appear to suggest that the privatized companies are more prof-
itable and efficient, but they do not address the long-term impact on
Explaining Civil Service Reform in Asia 87

Elite consensus also exists on the nature and content of public admin-
istration reforms, such as depoliticizing the civil service, one the one
hand, and more managerial reforms, on the other. These have included
downsizing, pay reform, performance management and contracting
out. Bureaucratic resistance to these changes has thus far been minimal
(Cheung, 2003: 100, 112) but progress in these areas has been slow.

2.2.4 Singapore
The political system of Singapore is structured to enable the People’s
Action Party (PAP) to dominate elections and indeed, for much of the
past 40 years or so since Singapore became independent, the PAP has
held all but a few seats in the legislature (Worthington, 2003). Since
the PAP took power in 1959, the party actively fostered the unity of the
political and bureaucratic elite in a ‘power sharing pact’ which is the
foundation of the PAP’s social control and policy capacity (Worthington,
2003: 20–21). The inner core executive of PAP ministers and higher civil
service is effectively fused. This arrangement and the suppression of
any effective political opposition means that few veto points exist to
constrain the political executive.
The autonomy of the Singaporean state has allowed it to design
and implement public sector reforms with a more or less free hand. As
Worthington and others have pointed out,

the penetration of the state into civil society is such that Singapore
is unique in [non-socialist] East and southeast Asia in the extent to
which its managerial state is able effectively to engineer the economic,
cultural and political behavior of its society. This has resulted in a
state which has been described as a curious cross between the Leninist
cell system and the Confucian Chinese Mandarinate. (Worthington,
2003: 2)

Singapore’s public sector reforms have included incremental changes

to budgetary processes and institutions, some privatization (mainly
corporatization), modest personnel reforms, and reforms to make the
government more citizen-oriented. The highly publicized Public Service
21 (PS21) (1995) focused on ‘soft’ reforms such as improving staff well-
being, suggestion schemes, and so forth, and achieved few measur-
able results (Cheung, 2003: 140–143; Li, 2005). Thus, while the state
in Singapore has the autonomy and therefore the capacity to initiate
sweeping public sector reform, authorities have not seen the need.
88 John P. Burns

The autonomous state in Singapore arguably remains in the best posi-

tion to carry out civil service reform, unencumbered by pressures from
civil society. Yet, in the absence of significant external or internal pres-
sure for reform, the results measured in terms of a smaller public sector
have been modest. Singapore has, however, scored significant achieve-
ments in terms of our other measure, perceptions of corruption. Our
review of reform capacities reveals that arguably the least capable (China
and Vietnam) have achieved the greatest results (shrinking the public
sector) while the state with the most capacity (Singapore) has achieved
relatively little. If we measure reform results to mean corruption free,
then the state with the highest capacity has achieved the most. I turn
now to an explanation of these reform results.

3 Discussion: public sector reform results

Our discussion of civil service reform in Asia’s Confucian states has

mainly focused on the relationship of the political executive to the
bureaucracy. I have identified various veto points that tie the hands of
the political executive and have examined the relative autonomy of the
bureaucracy. I have also highlighted the ties of the state to civil society.
In the paragraphs that follow I further develop this idea.
Moon and Ingraham offered the political nexus triad (PNT) as an
explanation of reform results. PNT is ‘an interactive power structure
that is formed by the processes of politicization in which politicians,
bureaucrats, and citizens communicate with each other and attempt to
protect and increase their political and administrative power’ (Moon
and Ingraham, 1998: 78). This approach brings in civil society, which
includes citizen political participation, institutionalized interest group
activities (business, labor union) and non-institutionalized political
demands (such as political protests). Moon and Ingraham argue that
the nature of the relationship between politicians, bureaucrats and civil
society on the one hand and politicization on the other ‘contributes’ to
the impact of administrative reform.
State policy on trade unions is illustrative of the generally repres-
sive nature of state–society relations in the socialist states. In China
and Vietnam, for example, all autonomous trade unions were abolished
when the Communist Party came to power. The party organized workers
into officially sanctioned unions, over which the party maintains tight
control. Attempts to organize autonomous trade unions in China have
been met with repression, including the arrest, indefinite detention,
and exiling of trade union leaders (see He, 2003). In Singapore labor
Explaining Civil Service Reform in Asia 89

is also subordinated to the state. The National Trades Union Congress

(NTUC) has a symbiotic relationship to the state and is incorporated
into it. The strategy in Singapore has ‘allowed the political and bureau-
cratic executive to be projected into and assume control over the unions
thus removing workers from any control over policy’ (Worthington,
2003: 28).
In the developmental states that have democratized, such as Japan,
Korea and Taiwan, civil society plays a more active role (Hsiao, 2003;
Kim, 2003; Mouer and Sugimoto, 2003). Although the density of trade
unions in Japan and Korea has declined, they have autonomy and have
been able to exercise some influence in the political process.
Citizen pressure, however, can both help and hinder reform. The
re-election of Japanese Prime Minister Kiozumi in September 2005 on
a single issue – carrying out reform of the huge postal savings bank – is
a case in point. Citizen pressure, especially the pressure of public sector
unions or businesses with clientelistic ties to bureaucracies being consid-
ered for restructuring can also delay reform. Exactly how civil society
plays into the reform equation depends on the political context.
With economic development, civil society in the socialist states has
become more pluralistic. The role their more autonomous civil societies
will play in public sector reform remains to be seen.
The extent to which civil liberties such as freedom of speech and
freedom of association exist in a country are also indications of the
strength of civil society. According to an index of press freedom
compiled in 2004 by Reporters Without Borders, Japan and South Korea
have the freest presses (ranked 48th and 42nd respectively), followed
by Taiwan, ranked 60th (Reporters Without Borders, 2004). The two
socialist states and Singapore are clustered near the opposite end of the
index (In 2013, Japan 53, South Korea 50, Singapore 149, Vietnam 172,
China 173 out of 179 states Reporters Without Borders 2013). I sum up
my brief discussion of the strength of civil society in the six Asian states
in Table 5.3.
Our brief examination of public sector reform in the six Confucian
states indicates that reform achievements have been the greatest meas-
ured in terms of growth, achieving clean government and a significantly
smaller public sector in those states with relatively weak civil societies.
As I have shown, leaders of the socialist states of China and Vietnam
destroyed civil society in their quest for social transformation. The
leaders of Singapore also exercised a heavy hand on civil society, control-
ling and repressing organizations that might challenge the state. These
results seem to indicate that civil society does not play the enabling role
90 John P. Burns

Table 5.3 Moon and Ingraham’s PNT and public sector reform in selected Asian
countries in the 1990s

Strength of
Country Politicians Bureaucracy civil society Reform result

China Lead Follow Weak (a) High growth

(b) Highly corrupt
(c) Significantly smaller
public sector
Vietnam Lead Follow Weak (a) Moderate growth
(b) Highly corrupt
(c) Significantly smaller
public sector
Korea Lead Follow/resist Moderate (a) Moderate growth
(b) relatively low
(c) Modest downsizing
Japan Follow Lead Relatively (a) Low growth
strong (b) Relatively low
(c) Modest downsizing
Taiwan Lead Follow Moderate (a) Moderate growth
(b) Relatively low
(c) Modest downsizing
Singapore Lead Follow Weak (a) Moderate growth
(b) Very low corruption
(c) Symbolic downsizing

Source: Based on Moon and Ingraham (1998).

suggested by Moon and Ingraham. Rather, in Asian states with stronger

civil societies interests organize to frustrate the reforms. Our discussion
also indicates the importance of selecting appropriate measures for eval-
uating the results of reform. None of the Asian states considered here
did well on all of the measures.

4 Postscript

To analyze the capacity of political executives to implement public

sector reform in this chapter we have used economic growth, the inci-
dence of corruption and significant downsizing as measures of reform
Explaining Civil Service Reform in Asia 91

Table 5.4 Economic growth and corruption of selected Asian states

GDP annual Corruption Perception

GNP per capita growth Index, 2013
(PPP) 2012, 2000–2012
US$ (%) Score Rank

Japan 36,750 0.7 74 18

Singapore 60,110 5.9 86 5
Taiwan 39,400(GDP est.) NA 61 36
South Korea 30,180 4.0 55 46
China 9,040 10.6 40 80
Vietnam 3,620 6.6 31 116

Note: Highest score (least corrupt) =91, lowest score (most corrupt)= 8.
Source: Transparency International (2014b); World Bank (2013).

achievements. The growth and corruption data updated to 2012 appear

in Table 5.4. We can see that from 2000 to 2012, China, Vietnam and
Singapore have grown the fastest, followed by South Korea, while the
Japanese economy has stagnated. The relative corruption perception
rankings of our six places have changed little, although China has moved
up the rankings somewhat. This is not a surprise, however, because these
rankings correlate highly with GDP per capita.
The public sector reform capacity of our six places, based on Knill
(1999) and reported in Table 5.2 above, remains largely unchanged.
That is, China and Vietnam, with predicted moderate reform capacity,
have made the most significant strides in reducing the size of their
public sectors. Singapore, with the highest predicted reform capacity,
has achieved little in terms of this dimension of public sector reform
since 2000. Although the political executive designed and imple-
mented comprehensive public sector reforms soon after the ruling
People’s Action Party took power in 1959 (Quah, 2010: 130–146),
subsequent reforms, such as PS21, which focused on much more diffi-
cult challenges such as changing culture, have had a more modest
result (Quah, 2010: 165–170). Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, each
with relatively lower levels of predicted reform capacity, have imple-
mented limited administrative reforms, measured in terms of down-
sizing of the public sector. They have all, however, implemented broad
programs of reform in other areas, including intergovernmental rela-
tions, performance management, civil service reform, and developing
92 John P. Burns

and implementing e-government programs (Berman, Jae Moon and

Choi, 2010).

The author gratefully acknowledges the support of the Hong Kong Research
Grants Council which provided funding for this research.
1. Bribery of public officials is highly correlated with economic development,
which may indicate that poorer countries such as China and Vietnam can
expect to ‘grow out’ of corruption. Other forms of corruption, however,
that link politicians to business interests are probably not captured by these
indices. These forms of corruption have characterized politics in Japan and
Korea (Beeson, 2003; Painter, 2003) and could develop in the socialist states as
they become richer. These problems raise questions about how best to measure
the outputs of administrative reform.
2. Unlike Russia and the Central European states neither China nor Vietnam
adopted large-scale ‘big-bang’ type privatization. While there have been priva-
tizations of locally owned state-owned enterprises, official policy has been to
preserve large strategically important SOEs in both countries. In China by
2003 there were about 23,000 state-owned enterprises of which about 2000
were classified as ‘large.’ About 200 of these are owned and managed by the
central government.
3. The establishment of many of these SOEs dates from the Japanese colonial era
in Taiwan.
4. See the summary provided of such studies in UNESCAP, ‘Evaluating the Impact
of Changes in Ownership’.

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94 John P. Burns

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Africa: Revitalizing Civil Service
Systems to Enhance Economic
Ladipo Adamolekun and Dele Olowu

1 Introduction

One of the most remarkable changes that occurred since the publication
of the first edition of The Civil Service in the 21st Century is the drastically
improved economic performance of African countries. It is particularly
noteworthy because this upturn occurred at a time when the rest of the
world was plunged into a profound financial and economic crisis. In
contrast to the comparatively low performance of African economies
in the years before the crisis, many countries in the region have posted
5–8 percent GDP growth figures. The reasons for this turnaround are
multiple and complex but there is also a discernible worrying trend, and
that is of the increasing fragility of states in the region. Most of these
states have existed for 50 years and more since their independence from
colonial powers but they systematically lost their authority, capacity
and legitimacy to perform the basic state functions of security, welfare
and representation of their people.
One explanation for the above twin phenomena is that few of these
states’ political leadership appreciate the fact that economic perform-
ance provides an opportunity to restructure their economies and their
public administration systems. In this chapter, we analyze these two
trends, discuss their implications for civil service reforms and propose
a way forward. But we begin with a discussion of the historical back-
ground to the present juncture.

96 Ladipo Adamolekun and Dele Olowu

2 Historical background: from relatively healthy to weak

civil service institutions

The civil service institutions (CSIs) inherited by the new African states
that emerged in the 1950s and 1960s had three advantages that enabled
many of them to perform satisfactorily during the immediate post-in-
dependence years. First, the CSIs operated in a context in which the
goals of governments were clearly articulated: win independence and
seek to improve the quality of life of the mass of the population through
the provision of infrastructure and services such as roads, energy, water,
education and health. Second, the political leaders who progressively
took over executive powers from the departing colonial rulers from
the early 1950s through the early 1960s were nationalists who were
committed to winning independence, and, in most cases, were conscious
of the need for strong and well-equipped CSIs that would serve as instru-
ments for ensuring the continuity of the state, maintaining law and
order, and assuring better living standards for the people.
The third advantage was the inheritance (from the departing colonial
governments) of career civil service systems led by small numbers of well-
trained, experienced and committed senior civil servants that provided
quality leadership for the institutions in most of these new states in
the different sub-regions of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).1 These higher
civil servants were as committed to the principles of the inherited civil
service institutions (notably, merit-based recruitment and promotion,
political neutrality and security of tenure) as they were to the goals of
government articulated by the new political leaders. In some cases, the
two groups of leaders forged strong partnerships to nurture a competent
administration in the service of the state (Adamolekun, 2005: 25–27).
The initial tasks of localizing staff (replacing expatriates with nationals)
through merit-based recruitment and staff development and training
were launched and implemented fairly satisfactorily. At different times
in the 1960s, some CSIs in SSA (e.g. those in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and
Uganda) were favorably compared with the best in different parts of the
world (Olowu, 2001).
However, these advantages barely survived the first decade of inde-
pendence in most countries. The clarity of the goal of independence and
the shared commitment of political leaders, civil servants and the general
population to that goal were not transferred to the other goal of assuring
better living standards for the people. No sooner was independence won
than political leaders began to articulate different ‘paths’ to develop-
ment: ‘socialist,’ ‘capitalist,’ ‘non-capitalist’ and ‘mixed-economy.’
Africa: Revitalizing Civil Service Systems 97

Furthermore, military officers who had seized power in some countries

before the end of the first post-independence decade failed, like the
civilian political executives, to articulate a clear path to development.
Both civilian and military political leaders rapidly established self-per-
petuation in office into their primary objectives (Adamolekun, 1988).
The CSIs were caught in this muddle. The principles of merit-based
recruitment and promotion, political neutrality and security of tenure
were abandoned and replaced by either the doctrine of party supremacy
in one-party states that required civil servants to be party militants (e.g.
Guinea and Tanzania) or by varying degrees of patronage in many coun-
tries, regardless of whether the political leaders were civilians or soldiers
(e.g. Benin, Nigeria, Kenya, Togo and Uganda).2 The inherited career CSIs
were set on the road to decay. In the countries under military rule (e.g.
Benin and Nigeria), the CSIs became political arenas where competition
over the allocation of resources became entrenched in the absence of the
traditional political institutions such as political parties and legislative
bodies that the military had proscribed. Two notable exceptions were
Botswana and Mauritius, which maintained career civil service systems
together with the principles of merit-based recruitment and promotion,
political neutrality, and security of tenure.
It should also be mentioned that the commodity-based economies of
the SSA countries generally prospered in the 1950s and 1960s, thereby
providing the resources with which the nationalist leaders were able to
pursue the goal of improving the quality of life of citizens. Some of
these resources were also used to nurture the CSIs. Thus, quality polit-
ical leaderships ran governments jointly with quality leaderships of the
CSI at a time of relatively well-performing economies. The decline in
the quality of the political and administrative leadership groups coin-
cided with a decline in the economies of most SSA countries, beginning
in the early 1970s and reaching crisis proportions in the 1980s. By the
second half of the 1980s the political and administrative institutions in
many SSA countries were in a shambles. This combination of a declining
economy and collapsing political and administrative institutions in the
late 1980s and the consequences for deepening poverty in the region
was commonly referred to in the literature on African studies from then
on through the next decade or so as a ‘crisis of governance’ (World Bank,
1989). Some observers would argue that the crisis of governance has
persisted to the present, notably in countries referred to as ‘failed’ or
‘failing’ states.
By the time the twin waves of democratization and economic liber-
alization were sweeping across all continents from 1989 through the
98 Ladipo Adamolekun and Dele Olowu

early 1990s, most countries in SSA were characterized by weak polit-

ical and administrative institutions as well as by declining economies.
Responding to democratization and economic liberalization on the one
hand, and the institutional weaknesses cum economic decline on the
other, the rehabilitation of CSIs was considered a priority in most of the
SSA countries. As we shall see below, most of these efforts did not lead to
any substantial change in the decay of the state and of the CSIs in most
countries – and the economic turnaround at the turn of the century did
not help matters either for most countries.

3 State of African economies and civil services since 2005

Africa is in positive economic news in recent years. Close observers in

particular of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) have noted a resurgent Africa:
economically, politically, demographically and technologically. In fact,
some have referred to this as a multi-dimensional revolution that has
swept through the continent (Kapstein, 2009). The most self-evident of
these is the economic revolution. The statistics are impressive. African
countries have grown at over 5 percent in 2012 and are projected to
have a GDP growth of nearly 6 percent in 2013. The IMF (2012) noted
that seven of the ten fastest-growing economies in the world are in SSA
and this at a time when many other regions have experienced down-
turns. Some World Bank economists write of a resurgent Africa that
will be a middle-income economy by 2025 and the ‘new China’ of the
next decade. Politically, many more countries have democratized and
have regular elections, some of which are adjudged by domestic and
international observers to be free, fair and credible. Africa’s population
is growing faster than any other continent but the fertility rate is also
coming down, with a large youthful bulge. Finally, SSA is rapidly adapting
to technology from outside. It has the highest new mobile telephone
subscription, for instance, compared to any other region of the world
and several multi-national companies are relocating their investment
portfolios and operations to this region, hitherto described as the ‘dark’
and ‘lost’ continent (Economist, 2010, 2012; Time Magazine, 2012).
However, these multi-dimensional African revolutions are taking
place side by side with severe failures of the state. There is also a wide
variety among the 54-odd counties in the continent. Many economies
are still not able to provide jobs to young people, whose ranks continue
to grow, and if the Arab Spring is to provide any lesson it is that these
elements represent a time bomb that could unravel and ultimately
set back whatever positive GDP figures show presently. Paradoxically,
Africa: Revitalizing Civil Service Systems 99

SSA’s fastest-growing economies – which include Rwanda, Ethiopia,

Tanzania and Uganda – also have the lowest employment intensity
growth. Even countries like Botswana, Nigeria and South Africa have
‘alarmingly high youth unemployment rates’ – and when they find
jobs at all it is in low-paying, informal sector work, not in the booming
(natural resource) sectors (Africa Confidential, 2013: 6).
According to close students of the African condition, the situation
summarized above occurs because the continent is actually experiencing
de-industrialization and that many of these countries, including the
ones growing at double digit figures, lack the effective institutions that
can transform windfalls – or booms from which Africa has benefited
in the past and in recent times – to enduring and sustainable improve-
ment in the overall welfare of the people. Most have few and decaying
infrastructures and their tax systems are obsolete. Labor market reforms
and policies are needed to accelerate the growth of high-quality jobs
(Africa Confidential, 2013: 6). About two-thirds of African youths lack the
critical skills needed in the workplace. Moreover, industry, tradable serv-
ices and agro-industry remain a small proportion of employment and
output. Africa’s resource sector has expanded to 25 percent of GDP while
manufacturing as a share of GDP has fallen to about 10 percent. This
contrasts with the prevailing situation in Asia where manufacturing is
35 percent of GDP.
All of these require action by intelligent states that can combine
appropriate policies with production and provision options (Ostrom,
Schroeder and Wynne, 1993; Wunsch and Olowu, 1996). In most
countries, both civil and military bureaucracies have experienced
systemic breakdown as explained and amply demonstrated by events
in many different African countries, such as Zimbabwe, Congo, Nigeria,
Mali, Central African Republic, DRC, or even in North Africa or the
Cameroon – where the state’s integrity has been called into question.
Public officials not only lack the required basic operational resources
and equipment but also rarely get paid a decent wage. This combina-
tion undermines the intelligence, ethics, integrity and commitment to
any semblance of public interest as jobbery, political and other subjec-
tive considerations have replaced meritocracy, neutrality and profes-
sionalism. Consequently, many countries are still not able to achieve
the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Furthermore, some are
experiencing severe education deficit while others face a looming food
crisis. In the meantime, inequality has widened between the few that are
opulent and the mass of the people that are poor (Brookings Institution,
2013): for example, in 2012, the Gini coefficient in South Africa and
100 Ladipo Adamolekun and Dele Olowu

Nigeria (the two largest economies) was close to 0.6 and 0.5 respectively.
For the mass of poor people, to assert as some observers do that over
22 countries in Africa have a GDP per capita of over 1000 US$ is little
consolation (Economist, 2012). And security of life and property is a
major concern in many countries in the region.
The above state of affairs has spurred and encouraged violence of diverse
types, from wild-cat strikes in RSA to the resurgence of Islamic extrem-
ists in Northern, Western and Eastern Africa. Hence, a Hobbesian state of
nature dawns for many countries in the continent. Consequently, regional
and national leaders have had to call up external assistance (either from
the United Nations or their former colonial powers) to help defend the
integrity of the state. Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Central Africa Republic, Sierra
Leone, Guinea, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, the two Sudans and the
two Congos, and so on, are all examples of countries confronting strong
resurgent elements that have exposed the extreme fragility of the state in
different parts of the continent (Olowu and Chanie, 2013).
There are controversies also about the nature and source of African
economic growth. There are those who explain such growth as due to
weak integration into the Eurozone economies (Africa Economic Outlook,
2012; African Development Bank Group, 2013). But many others who
have studied the subject more closely point to the fact that most of
the growth in Africa, as in the past, has been spurred primarily by
commodity booms, particularly by three forces: namely the discovery of
minerals, especially oil in many countries in the region (Ghana, Uganda
and Tanzania recently became oil and gas producers), the huge demand
for mineral and other natural resources by Asian emerging industrial
giants especially China and India, and the search for global capital for
higher yields in risk economies. All these forces can be reversed easily
and there are already worrying projections of the present strong Asian
demand for Africa’s natural resources (IMF, 2013). The question is will
Africa and African governments take advantage of this great opportunity
to fundamentally restructure their economies for longer-term growth
rather than ride the short-term spurts? This brings us to a proper appre-
ciation of the discourse on state fragility as it relates to African states.

4 State fragility and African public administration

From the growing and extensive literature on the subject, state fragility
is defined by three core expectations of a state in any political culture
(see especially Anten, Briscoe and Mezerra, 2012; Brinkerhoff, 2007;
Gravingholt, Ziaja and Kreibaum, 2012; Robinson and White, 1998;
Africa: Revitalizing Civil Service Systems 101

Table 6.1 Attributes and broad indicators of state fragility

Core expectations
of a state Attributes Indicators

Authority Monopoly of Absence of civil strife and war

violence Law and order maintenance
Peace & security Enforcement of contracts and
of persons property rights
Capacity Effective policy Competent, non-corrupt, well-
process for economic compensated & high-performing
management & public institutions
service delivery Solid & improving infrastructure &
Societal innovation basic services
Research & development/
economic success
Legitimacy Virile institutions for No repression or politically
state–society motivated emigration
interface Guaranteed freedoms (association,
Accountable and religion, expression, movement,
transparent political participation)
institutions Effective state–society and central–
local engagement

Source: Acemoglu and Robinson, 2012; Anten et al., 2012; Brinkerhoff, 2007; Gravingholt
et al., 2012; Robinson and White, 1998.

United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, 2012). These are:

authority-effectiveness in securing societal security through the control
of violence; the capacity to improve social welfare through a combina-
tion of effective management of social resources (via effective policy
management) that leads to improvement in societal welfare; and legiti-
macy: the fact that citizens of a state willingly accept the state’s rule. See
Table 6.1 for the core elements of each of these attributes and indicators
of state fragility.
These elements help ensure that the state becomes the ‘visible’ hand
that enables society to benefit from the ‘invisible hands’ of globaliza-
tion and help transform a failed or failing state to a democratic develop-
mental state or a resilient state, which can absorb shocks and challenges
from its environment.
According to findings in research on African fragility, the majority
of African states have not been able to perform the following three
core functions of a modern state: security, welfare and representation. To
perform these functions a state requires three major attributes, listed
in Table 6.1: authority, capacity and legitimacy. The major causes of this
limited capability include:
102 Ladipo Adamolekun and Dele Olowu

● Wars: especially civil wars; but surprisingly, wars are not the sole cause
of fragility. Some of the most fragile countries have not experienced
any wars since independence, but widespread domestic dissent has
made them ungovernable, leading to the unraveling of the economy
and society (Zimbabwe);
● Resource curse: which is essentially the perverse manner in which
weak governance interacts with the discovery of natural resource in
any economy, bringing poverty and the worst elements of greed into
rulership as war-lords struggle for power (Congo, Angola);
● The lack of bureaucratic capacity and social embeddedness (RSA);
● Absence of political compromise among differing elements in a
post-conflict country makes that country remain fragile even if
major achievements are recorded in the economic and social sectors
● Even governance reforms, when not properly organized, might also
become a source of institutional failure (e.g. Malawi, with electoral
reforms that serve as an illustration of other African electoral reforms
that have only inflamed religious and ethnic tensions and divides;
see Olowu and Chanie, 2013);
● State fragility might also be transferred across borders to another
state: for example, Zimbabwe and the rest of the South African
Development Community (SADC) (Olowu and Chanie, 2013).

The African Development Bank (AfDB) (2012) estimates that one-third

of the continent’s 600 million population live in fragile states. But the
AfDB’s definition must be conceived as a narrow one as it includes only
(17) countries that have experienced conflict (the presence of a UN
peace-keeping/building mission) or have an economic/governance score
of 3.2 (the Country Policy and Institutional Assessment Score3). The Mo
Ibrahim Governance (MIG) data sets would suggest that this narrow
definition of fragility that uses mainly economic performance and
conflict is totally inadequate. The Mo Ibrahim 2012 data sets compared
the performance of African countries between 2006 and 2011 and found
that overall, only 17 countries out of 53 (32%) improved in terms of
safety and rule of law (authority), 25 (or 47%) in terms of participation
and human rights (legitimacy).
With respect to capacity, Table 6.2 suggests that only a few of the
fast-growing African countries, as judged by GDP growth rate, have a
high public management score (Mozambique, Ghana, Gabon, Ghana
and arguably Kenya). Of these only two have overall good govern-
ance ranking (Ghana and Tanzania). But none has any high scores for
Africa: Revitalizing Civil Service Systems 103

Table 6.2 Comparison of GDP and governance and output indicators


GDP Public Overall

growth management governance Infrastructure
Countries 2012 (%) score 2011-MI ranking 2011 score-MI

Oil exporters
Nigeria 6.3 56 43 11
Angola 8.4 56 40 34
Eq. Guinea 2.0 56 44 31
Gabon 6.2 59 22 31
Congo Rep 3.8 64 41 1
Middle income
South Africa 2.5 76 5 41
Ghana 7.0 60 7 29
Cameroon 4.7 58 36 31
Cote d’Ivoire 9.8 49 46 37
Botswana 3.5 72 3 62
Senegal 3.5 61 16 24
Low Income
Ethiopia 7.0 55 33 33
Kenya 4.7 60 25 15
Tanzania 6.9 58 10 33
Uganda 2.6 53 19 31
DRC 7.1 45 51 1
Mozambique 7.5 61 21 31

Source: International Monetary Fund (2013) imf.org/external/pubs/ft/reo/2012/afr/eng/

sreo0412; Mo Ibrahim Governance Index for 2012, London.

infrastructure: an important surrogate measure of both the quality of

bureaucratic capacity (input) and also development impact (Olowu,
2012). In fact, of all the fast- and medium-growing countries in the
region, only Botswana, distantly followed by South Africa, has high
scores for infrastructure (Table 6.2).
Table 6.3 is quite revealing in many ways. First, public management
together with infrastructure and human development are used to
measure sustainable economic development on the MIG index. The
scores therefore count for overall economic development. But the more
important issue is that public management measures such as statistical
capacity, budget management, fiscal policy, revenue collection and a
clustered indicator which assesses public administration, that is, the
extent to which civilian central government (including teachers, health
workers and police) is structured to design and implement government
104 Ladipo Adamolekun and Dele Olowu

Table 6.3 African public management capacity, 2011: Mo Ibrahim governance


Human development
Public (welfare, education,
management Infrastructure and health)

RSA: 76 Seychelles: 82 Seychelles: 91

Botswana: 72 Mauritius: 71 Mauritius: 85
Tunisia: 70 Libya: 85
Tunisia: 82
C.Verde: 81
Botswana: 80
RSA: 77
Algeria: 75
Egypt: 74
Namibia: 70
Mauritius: 68 Tunisia: 64 Ghana: 69
Morocco: 68 Botswana: 62 Morocco: 69
Congo: 64 Namibia: 61 SaoTome: 66
Algeria: 64 Swaziland: 66
Rwanda: 63 Gabon: 65
Burkina Faso: 63 Rwanda: 64
Mozambique: 61 Kenya: 63
Namibia: 61 Gambia: 62
Mali: 60 Comoros: 60
Ghana: 60 Zambia: 60
Kenya: 60
Gabon: 59 Egypt: 59 Lesotho: 59
Malawi: 58 Cape Verde: 58 Uganda: 58
Cape Verde: 58 Morocco: 52 Tanzania: 56
Cameroon: 58 Lesotho: 52 Senegal: 56
Tanzania: 58 Eq.Guinea: 56
Zambia: 57 Djibouti: 56
Egypt: 57 Cameroon: 56
Lesotho: 57 Benin: 56
Benin: 57 Ethiopia: 53
Nigeria: 56 Malawi: 52
Angola: 56 Zimbabwe: 52
Ethiopia: 55 Madagascar: 50
Seychelles: 55
Mauritania: 55
Djibouti: 54
Niger: 54
Libya: 54
Swaziland: 53
Liberia: 51
G/Bissau: 51
Togo: 51
CAR: 50
Africa: Revitalizing Civil Service Systems 105

Table 6.3 Contiuned

Human development
Public (welfare, education,
management Infrastructure and health)

Cote d’Ivoire: 49 Djibouti: 47 Eritrea: 49

S/Leone: 49 Libya: 45 Liberia: 49
Guinea: 47 South Africa: 41 Togo: 48
Eq.Guinea: 46 Swaziland: 40 Burundi: 48
Chad: 45 Nigeria: 48
Congo DRC: 45 Mali: 48
Zimbabwe: 44 Congo: 48
Comoros: 43 Angola: 48
Sao Tome/Principe: 41 Mozambique: 47
C.d’Ivoire: 47
Mauritania: 47
B/Faso: 46
G/Bissau: 43
Niger: 42
Guinea: 42
Eritrea: 33 B/Faso/Gambia/Algeria: S.Leone: 39
Somalia: 2 /C. d’Ivoire: 37 DRC: 33
Zimbabwe/Malawi: 36 Chad: 31
Angola: 34 Somalia: 12
Eq.Guinea: 33
Gabon/Uganda: 31
Mozambique: 30
Ghana/Madagascar: 29
Benin/Congo: 28
Senegal/Sao Tome &
Prince: 24
Eritrea: 23
Togo: 22
Rwanda/Mauritania: 21
Guinea: 19
Liberia/G/Bissau: 18
CAR/Chad/Mali: 17
S/Leone: 16
Kenya: 15
Nigeria: 11
Niger: 6
Comoros/Somalia: 4
Congo DRC: 1

Source: Mo Ibrahim African Governance Indicators.

106 Ladipo Adamolekun and Dele Olowu

policy and effectively deliver services. Only three countries make first
class, while only 11 make second class, making a total of 14 countries
in the whole region that can be described as having an ‘above average’
public management system. Infrastructure measures access to hard social
overhead services such as electricity, road and rail networks, air trans-
portation facilities, telephones and IT infrastructure and digital connec-
tivity: the goods that actually constrain production in Africa and make
the region a costly place to do business (Calderon, 2009; Mbaku, 2013);
only two countries (Seychelles and Mauritius) make first class while three
others make second class (Tunisia, Botswana and Namibia). Even only
four others make the third class based on their total scores on the MIG:
Egypt, Cape Verde, Morocco and Lesotho. None of these countries are in
the high economic growth categories with 5 percent GDP per annum.
Even when we focus on soft social overhead infrastructure – welfare, educa-
tion and health, the areas that the international community has high-
lighted as a part of the MDGs since 2000 – only 10 countries are in the
first class, and another 10 in the second class, making a total of only 20
In all, then, and using this last index (social overhead infrastructure),
only 20 countries, at most, can be said to have a healthy state capacity
in the whole region. This reality has implications for the state public
and civil service in the region in every sense as demonstrated in the
next section.

5 Reform directions and challenges

What emerges from Tables 6.2 and 6.3 is a sobering sense of weak state
capacity generally and also of Africa’s public management capacity
in particular. State capacity is critical in the sense that this is the one
attribute that is available to a society to transform other state attributes
(authority and legitimacy) and the outcomes they bring about: namely,
security, welfare and representation. The crucial indicators that focus
on the hard and soft social overheads are particularly crucial because
these anchor sustainable economic growth and enhance human devel-
opment. The linkages between solid and sustainable infrastructures
on the one hand and sustainable development on the other are quite
robust and so are also the linkages of both to effective and virile public
services as well as the promotion and defense of freedom (Calderon,
2009; Mbaku, 2013; Suleiman, 1999). Public servants are responsible
for providing but not necessarily producing infrastructures. They must
identify the critical stakeholders in the production process and devise
appropriate institutional mechanisms that will ensure that hard and
Africa: Revitalizing Civil Service Systems 107

soft infrastructures are available, accessible and sustainable, and are well
maintained and accountably managed. This is why the campaign to
discourage public investment in hard (in favor of soft) infrastructures
and also for a robust higher public/civil service, though understand-
able in view of scarce resources, represented one of the most unsavory
developments in Africa’s development in the late 1970s and 1980s. And,
when these twin weaknesses are accompanied by a third phenomenon,
the degeneration of higher education in the continent, again in favor
of basic education, in the light of resource constraints (Assie-Lumumba,
2006), indebtedness and structural adjustment loans (SALs) with stiff
conditions, the continuing overall poor performance of the continent in
the years up to the turn of this century is understandable.
What the leading reforming countries have done, and these are not
necessarily the countries that are growing in double digits, but countries
whose national leaders or political environment have recognized the
need for change, is to articulate and begin to implement appropriate
policies and programs in these three areas. First, they are focusing sharply
on hard as well as soft infrastructures. Thus, for example, the govern-
ment of the Republic of South Africa has established a Development
Bank whose primary focus is to mobilize resources for hard and soft
infrastructures. Even though it is confronted by a declining economic
circumstance in view of its stronger linkages to the Eurozone, it has
also embarked on rebuilding the capacity of its public administration,
especially the higher civil service. Finally, RSA is allocating significant
resources to higher education. These three policy thrusts, together
with governance reforms and financial sector reforms, constitute the
core staple of reforms for countries in the region that are serious about
simultaneously rebuilding their civil services and achieving enhanced
economic performance.
South Africa’s incumbent Minister for Economic Planning, who
formerly had responsibility for managing the country’s finances, recently
summarized the ‘broad consensus across the political spectrum’ on the
need for a professional and competent civil service, and the principles
for developing such a service. According to him, the principles:

include the need for accountability, for professionalism, for service

to the citizenry, for being neutral in relation to party-political contes-
tation, for public servants to be dynamic change-agents seeking to
change society while adhering to the law at all times, for public servants
to be prudent with the use of public funds and to be responsible stew-
ards of the public’s trust. (http://www.southafrica.info/about/govern-
ment/civil-service- 040413.htm#.UaOQhG0mPsd#ixzz2UVsZHLBM)
108 Ladipo Adamolekun and Dele Olowu

Countries that are also implementing reforms similar to those of South

Africa include Botswana, Kenya, Mauritius, Namibia and Senegal. The
reforms are mutually reinforcing because they relate to both the demand
and supply sides of the efforts to enhance public management capacity:
restoring the primacy of the merit principle in recruitment and promotion
of staff, an emphasis on a politically neutral career civil service, strength-
ening budget and financial management, enhancing accountability, trans-
parency and ethical behavior, and achieving improved performance in
service delivery, notably through citizens’ charters. They are also funding
their educational institutions at fairly adequate levels to assure a supply of
trained indigenous manpower. Significantly, these countries are progres-
sively consolidating democratic political culture (including respect for the
rule of law), thereby providing an enabling governance environment that
helps retention of trained national experts and encourages both domestic
and foreign investment that contributes to economic growth. In a sense,
these developments constitute a kind of virtuous cycle and the countries
concerned would qualify as vibrant reformers.
However, several countries are still stuck in the reforms of the past
promoted by international financial institutions (IFIs) to reduce the size
and scope of the state through civil service staff reduction, freezing of new
recruitments, and removal of ‘ghost workers.’ The result of two decades
of these kinds of reforms is to produce reform fatigue, an anaemic state
and poorly performing CSIs. Ghana and Nigeria would readily fit into
this group of countries, as do the other countries in the third tier of
public management capacity in Table 6.3. A few countries in the fourth
and fifth tiers in the table that would qualify as the most fragile remain
caught up in a vicious cycle of unending conflicts (civil strife or civil
wars), poor economies and decaying civil services (e.g. Central Africa
Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia).
A final group of countries such as Rwanda, Uganda and Ethiopia with
questionable democratic qualifications (in comparison to the vibrant
reformers in a virtuous cycle) have embarked on ambitious reforms
(hence best termed ambitious reformers) aimed at building a strong
and dynamic economy, following the trajectory of the Asian Tigers. For
instance, Rwanda, though a one-party state with a civil service that is
completely party based, aspires to become a middle-income country and
Africa’s ICT hub by the year 2020. To this end, Rwanda’s leadership has
articulated a clear vision of what it needs to accomplish in education,
and its plans to rebuild the civil service and other governance institu-
tions including the national government (a coalition of government and
opposition members), and develop a computerized integrated personnel
and payroll system, with performance contracts for targeted professional
Africa: Revitalizing Civil Service Systems 109

groups in ICT industry, and a governance score card. Uganda similarly

wants to become an upper-middle-income country by 2040.

6 Way forward and conclusion

In concluding this chapter, it is evident that the present time repre-

sents a great opportunity for African governments, their people (civil
society, including faith-based organizations) and international develop-
ment partners to review their approaches to African development and
especially the rehabilitation of the CSIs. A fundamental rethinking of
governance and especially of the public service is required – one that
is targeted at rebuilding the culture of a merit-based civil service with
the following key elements: a professional bureaucracy that has integrity
and intelligence and is committed to the public interest. The public-interest
goals would include sustained economic progress and national cohe-
sion. Such a bureaucracy would be characterized by: relative autonomy
(the ability to rise above special interests and avoid state capture but
functioning as a rational bureaucracy that is characterized by meritoc-
racy and professionalism); social embeddedness (the ability to fully reflect
the diversity of interests of the whole of society and not just of those
in power); and insulation (through legal and operational measures such
as generous remuneration including pension, meritocracy, innovation
and performance management) (Evans, 1995; Leftwich, 2000).
A professional and insulated civil service is the sure antidote for
containing corruption, which has become the most serious problem
confronting many fragile African countries. The reason professional
bureaucracies are so effective is that they promote a culture of ethics that
has proven effective in fighting corruption from within rather than from
outside. Also, when it works well, it prevents the commission of the crime
rather than prosecuting the criminals after the event. This explains why
most countries within and outside the Commonwealth have subscribed
to what has been referred to as the Whitehall tradition whereby political
officials head departments of government but the leading appointed
officer (called permanent secretary in some countries) not only leads
the department professionally based on expertise and his/her minis-
try’s institutional memory but also serves as the accounting officer. It is
noteworthy that this system has been well documented to have served
African countries well in the past (Adamolekun, 1986; Hyden, 2000;
Olowu, 2012) as it has in other countries around the world.
Other governance elements are included in Table 6.4 below. In fact,
the good news is that most of today’s industrialized countries have gone
through this historical juncture as have other countries that are distant
110 Ladipo Adamolekun and Dele Olowu

Table 6.4 Core reform elements required for revitalizing Africa’s civil services in
the 21st century

Key reform
elements Essential elements/ indicators

1. Governance (1) Emergence of central state power: coalition of social &

architecture political forces
(2) Consensus on long/medium-term vision: above party
and sectional interests
(3) Independent institutions for ensuring accountable use of
power – legislature and executive; field agencies distinct
from efficient & accountable local governments
(4) Involvement of professional groups and cultural
organizations in governance and policy review
(governance & policy score cards)
2. Creation of a (1) Merit-based civil service – competition in recruitment,
professional selection and promotion
bureaucracy (2) Permanent and politically neutral civil service
(3) Effective performance evaluation/performance contracts
(4) Competitive remuneration
(5) Vertical decompression
3. Modernization (1) Reinvestment in relevant higher education and
of higher promotion of autonomy with inputs from private
education (for-profit and not-for profit)
and heavy (2) Higher-quality outputs from the primary & secondary
investment levels
in research (3) Heavy investment in research by state and non-state
organizations actors, closer linkage between policy & research
4. Prioritization of (1) Regional & national long/medium-term infrastructure
hard and soft plans including maintenance and sustainability
infrastructure (2) Effective participation of the private sector and NGOs
including faith-based organizations
(3) Use of multiple financing options including bonds and
property taxes in cities
5. Taxation and As in (4) above. Taxation and enforcement to be
financial focused as a part of aid conditionality; special case for
reforms to natural-resource-rich countries via Extractive Industries
reduce growing Transparency Initiative (EITI) and investment of resources in
inequality infrastructure bonds and banks
and finance
6. Rigorous search As in (4) above, via regional and sub-regional organizations.
for regional
Africa: Revitalizing Civil Service Systems 111

from one another in history, culture, orientation and stature which are
regarded as rapidly developing. This is true of the G20 and BRICs coun-
tries, and new research has provided vivid evidence of this (Acemoglu
and Robinson, 2012; Chang, 2003, 2010).
The above governance-cum-civil-service reform agenda would involve
struggle by the social forces within each country as they seek to trans-
form exclusive political and economic institutional arrangements into
inclusive ones. International development partners (both old ones such
as the IFIs and new ones such as nationals of Africa in diaspora who
have become important agents of financial intermediation and develop-
ment) would also need to ensure that they join the progressive forces
for change. The goal must be to re-create resilient civil service systems,
drawing on good practices that have worked in the continent in the
past combined with selected international good practices, which are
featured in Table 6.4 above. Resilient civil service systems help societies
to confront challenges and take advantage of opportunities to ensure
socio-economic progress irrespective of the challenges confronting them
in their environment.

1. In this chapter, Sub-Saharan Africa and Africa are used as synonyms. North
Africa is regarded as part of the Middle East, as is the practice in some interna-
tional organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the World
Bank. However, there are references to North African countries in some parts
of the chapter.
2. Of course, commitment to the merit principle does not mean total lack of
attention to representativeness. Typically, there is attention to representation
in both old and new states, based on class (Britain), geographical area (France),
or racial or ethnic groups in heterogeneous societies such as Ethiopia, Nigeria
and South Africa in SSA.
3. The CPIA estimates a country’s governance based on 16-point criteria carried
out by the World Bank with the concurrence of the host country. It assesses
economic management (three elements), structural policies (three elements),
social inclusion policy (five elements) and public management and institu-
tions (five elements).

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National Civil Service Systems
in Western Europe: The End
or Endurance of Weberian
Caspar van den Berg and Theo A.J. Toonen

1 Introduction

Previous publications in this project demonstrated that state-level

administrative systems were increasingly affected by intergovernmental
interaction. It is important to stress that the notion of intergovernmen-
talism involves both the exchange between various national states and
the exchange between territorial levels within the state. The increased
importance of these two types of intergovernmental exchange raises
pressing issues, which shall be addressed in this chapter. The first is
whether the available tools for comparative analysis of civil service
systems are still adequate. The second is whether the national state is
still the most appropriate level of analysis for understanding the nature
and dynamics of contemporary governance.
The paradox that forms the starting point of our exercise consists
of (a) the observation that in literature on administrative systems, the
expanding practice of multi-level governance and network-style deci-
sion making seems to signify an erosion of ideal-typical bureaucratic
features (Handler, 1996; Kanter, 1989; Lane, 2000; Osborne and Gaebler,
1992), while (b) there is a trend, at least in continental Europe and North
America, towards the re-appreciation of Weber’s ideas (Du Gay, 2000;
Meier and Hill, 2005; Olsen, 2005; Peters and Pierre, 2004; Pollitt and
Bouckaert, 2004; Terry, 2005). This paradox leads us to our central ques-
tion: how can the re-acknowledgment of Weber’s ideas be reconciled
with an empirical reality of inter- and cross-nationalized multi-level and

National Civil Service Systems in Western Europe 115

network governance, in a way that opens possibilities for comparative

analytical research of civil service systems in the 21st century? Before
we discuss the change processes, we need to address the misunder-
standing and misinterpretation of Weber’s ideal types and the concept
of ‘bureaucracy.’
One form of misinterpretation stems from the assumption that the
bureaucratic organization of government is purposely rooted in a national
context. This idea is possibly inspired by the more or less simultaneous
rise of public bureaucracies in the Weberian sense and the nation-state
in Western Europe. However, the synchrony of the two processes does
not mean that ideal-typical ‘bureaucracy’ thrives exclusively or even
preferably in the context of the national state. Bureaucratic administra-
tive systems have been in place in multi-national empires (Habsburg
Empire, Ottoman Empire) city-states (Singapore) and multi-national
states (USSR). This wrongly assumed connection between bureaucracy
and the nation-state might lead to the suggestion that challenges to
the national state as the pivotal unit in governance, also bring about
challenges to bureaucracy as the nation-state’s matching administrative
We first briefly sketch our conceptual approach of the multi-level
governance metaphor and the Weberian conceptualization of bureauc-
racy (Section 2). In the next section, we identify and discuss five dimen-
sions of internationalization and multi-level governance that are
expected to have an impact on the nature and functioning of national
civil service systems. In the fourth section we discuss how these devel-
opments affect the Weberian model of bureaucracy. In our conclusion
we pull the various changes together and evaluate the possibilities for
future comparative research.

2 Multi-level governance and bureaucracy: a multi-tiered


Multi-level governance as a metaphor for present-day political and

administrative steering rests on three pillars (at least in the EU). The first
is that there is no single center of authority, but that authority is exerted
at different territorial levels that are connected with and interdependent
on each other. The second pillar is the involvement of non-state actors
in decision making, implementation and enforcement processes. The
third pillar is the notion that relations between actors and institutions
are not only constitutionally fixed and hierarchical, but that a large part
of governance takes place through informal, flexible and even horizontal
116 Caspar van den Berg and Theo A.J. Toonen

interaction (Marks, Hooghe and Blank, 1996; Scharpf, 2002; Van den
Berg, 2011). While as an analytical metaphor it was first coined in the
1990s, the governance of Western Europe has always been of a more of
less multi-level nature. Examples of layered government can be found
even in the oldest systems of government, and corporations and other
extra-governmentals have been involved in the dealings of administra-
tions at least since the 17th century (consider the church and guilds
as mediators and regulators of social life) (Toonen and Van der Meer,
2005). Indeed, the practice of multi-level governance long predated the
emergence of the analytical metaphor (Benz, 2003; Mayntz, 2004).
Having placed the novelty of multi-level governance somewhat in
perspective, this metaphor is useful since it makes us aware of the increasing
degree to which various tiers of government (local, regional, national,
European) and various types of actors and institutions (state, business,
organized interest, media) have come to share responsibilities and depend
on each other. The multi-level approach makes us aware of the comple-
mentary presence of non-hierarchical and non-legal provisions and of the
room for informal exchange and negotiated policy outcomes between and
among the various tiers of government (Peters and Pierre, 2004).
The question now is in what sense the increasingly multi-level nature
of governance influences national civil service systems. Since the 1920s,
Weber’s writings on bureaucratization have been the pre-eminent tool
for the analysis of bureaucracy. He analyzed the rationalization of social
life and the concurrent type of legal-rational rule. Within a system of
legal-rational rule public and private activities are best organized and
executed through bureaucratic organizations. Within these organiza-
tions tasks and responsibilities are coordinated by means of hierarchi-
cally ordered offices. These offices are filled by bureaucratic officials. By
making this distinction between three levels (system level: legal-rational
rule; meso-level: bureaucratic organization; and individual level: the
officeholder) we have a lever with which to identify and interpret the
potential changes related to increasing multi-level governance for civil
service systems.

3 Expanding multi-level governance: constituent trends

Change processes that increase the degree of multi-level governance

of national administration and may impact the bureaucratic nature
of national civil service systems are (1) internationalization and
Europeanization; (2) agencification; (3) mediatization of governance;
and (4) judicialization of governance.
National Civil Service Systems in Western Europe 117

3.1 Internationalization and Europeanization of public

For present purposes, we define internationalization in public adminis-
tration as the process in which global, international and transnational
activity and interaction between actors and institutions become more
frequent, more intensive, and expand to more policy areas (see Caiden,
2006). This activity and interaction may take place within the frame-
work of international regimes and organizations (e.g. the EU, the UN
or the IMF), but also in less organized or structural ways (e.g. through
lobbying, and informal interaction).
European integration may be seen both as a specific manifestation of
internationalization on a regional scale and as a catalyst of increased
supranational activity and interaction. The impact of European integra-
tion is known as Europeanization. Although at first this term was used
to describe various phenomena, the most widely adopted meaning is
that of the ‘adaptation of national and sub-national systems of govern-
ance to a European political centre and European-wide norms’ (Olsen,
2002). This conception ‘focuses on change in core domestic institutions
of governance and politics, understood as a consequence of the devel-
opment of European-level institutions, identities and policies’ (Olsen,
2002). Indicative for the increased activity of civil servants beyond
the nation-state is, for instance, the steady growth of the Permanent
Representations of a group of EU-member states over the last decades
(see Figure 7.1 below).



80 The Netherlands
United Kingdom
40 Germany


1984 1987 1990 1993 1996 1999 2002 2005

Figure 7.1 Number of policy officials employed by the Permanent Representations

at the European Union of four EU-member states
Source: Council of the European Communities (1984, 1987); De Zwaan (1993: 417–419);
http://www.eu-nederland.be/, http://www.ukrep.be/, http://www.rpfrance-ue.org/rubrique.
php3?id_rubrique=3, http://www.eu-vertretung.de/de/
118 Caspar van den Berg and Theo A.J. Toonen

Another indicator of the increased civil service activity beyond the

national context is the share of senior civil servants who can be consid-
ered Europeanized, that is, those who are in one of more EU-related
activities.1 For the UK, it appeared that 87 percent of the senior civil
servants are Europeanized, and for the Netherlands, 90 percent. In
2007, 44 percent of the British senior civil servants were experiencing
an increase of the relevance of the European Commission to their work,
and 55 percent of the Dutch senior civil servants were experiencing the
Several implications of the internationalization and Europeanization
for national civil service systems have to be noted here. The increased
international activity of an increasing number of civil servants raises the
question whether their actions can still be steered and checked by their
political superiors as effectively as in a system of exclusively nationally
operating civil servants. The larger spatial distance to their mandating
political leaders and the complexity of decision making in international
organizations is expected to increase their discretionary freedom. Thus,
internationalization may threaten effective democratic accountability
for bureaucratic action.
At the supranational level they meet with potential competition from
bureaucrats from the 24 other member states, which creates a dynamic
of information exchange, winning support and forging coalitions. Since
these are political rather than bureaucratic activities, it can be argued that
Europeanization makes bureaucratic action more political in nature. In
some cases, this politicization of civil servants’ activities may be at the
authority of political superiors, but it is conceivable that the openings
for increased political activity by civil servants enlarge their independ-
ence. This raises the question again of political control over bureaucrats
in an internationalized context. EU-level legislation also means that
civil servants are involved in interpreting, transposing and implementa-
tion directives for and into the national context. Especially when policy
issues are politically contentious, civil servants may be successful in
influencing the final outcome.
On the other hand, Van den Berg found that the specificities of the
EU-level cooperation and bargaining process are such that the possi-
bility of national bureaucrats ‘going rogue’ is not very large. The hybrid
nature of the EU arena, in which policy making has relatively strong
elements of diplomatic interaction, makes it particularly important for
national bureaucrats operating there to secure national administra-
tive and political backing for their conduct. Political credibility and
trustworthiness are of vital essence for bureaucrats to be effective in
consecutive rounds of decision making, so staying closely within one’s
National Civil Service Systems in Western Europe 119

mandate and having close political backing from the home govern-
ment are in most cases necessary conditions for success (Van den Berg,
2011: 385).
The increasing number of internationally active civil servants also
challenges coordination among national bureaucracies. System-wide
coordination is especially important in international arenas, since the
turbulence of multi-lateral negotiations can easily require adjustments
in bargaining strategies. Without a coherent and consistent political
agenda from national institutions, the risk of conflicting agendas, both
across governmental organizations and across policy sectors, becomes
pressing. Since multi-level governance means a larger number of actors
(besides national state actors) and a greater importance of different
centers of authority (besides the central state), established structures
and processes at the national level may have to be revised or transferred,
either to semi- or non-state bodies, or to supra- or subnational tiers
(Kohler-Koch and Eising, 1999: 13).
A number of studies suggest that in the decision-making process of
the EU, middle-ranking national officials seem to play a more impor-
tant role than top-level civil servants. Thus, European integration may
shift primary bureaucratic influence on policy making from the top
levels of civil service systems to middle-ranking civil servants (e.g. Page
and Jenkins,, 2005). While our findings clearly support the notion that
the bulk of EU-related activity is done at the middle ranks of the civil
service rather than at the top echelons, it is doubtful whether this signi-
fies any change from a less Europeanized past, in which most policy
formulation was also done at the middle-ranking level, and not at the
top (Van den Berg, 2011: 397).
Also, internationalization is expected to have implications for career
systems. Promotion, secondment, and outplacement to national repre-
sentations or to international organizations may add an extra dynamic
to established bureaucratic career structures. In France, the senior civil
service has quietly been able to fit the developing EU institutions into
its elitist corporate structure and modes of operating. Since temporary
secondment to other ministries, other sectors and other types of organi-
zations have been common practice among the members of the higher
corps, the addition of EU-related activities and postings has been a
relative matter of course. Indeed, it has created a sort of European club
within the top layers of the French civil service, just as there is an educa-
tion club, a financial club and an agricultural club. This club can be
understood as an informal network of about 1000 members of the upper
corps, consisting of senior civil servants who presently hold or in the
past held positions (a) within the Commission or other EU institutions;
120 Caspar van den Berg and Theo A.J. Toonen

(b) at the French permanent representations to the EU in Brussels; (c) at

European and international divisions within ministries and agencies; (d)
with private-sector organizations with a clear European interest; or (e)
at Ecole Nationale d’Administration (ENA), where EU-related research
and education is provided to the senior civil service (Van den Berg,
2011: 185). Bezes and le Lidec (2007) observe for France that the systems
of national expert secondment to the European Commission provide
young civil servants from various corps with opportunities for acceler-
ated career development at home.
Finally, European integration influences the modus operandi of
national bureaucracies given the inducement of EU policies to adopt
network-style governance. National and subnational governments
benefit more from EU-funded programs if they adopt the open way of
policy making that includes all actors the European Commission sees as
relevant (Kohler-Koch and Eising, 1999). In this sense, Europeanization
promotes greater negotiability of policies at the national level. But, at
the same time, it appears that policy negotiability at national level is
decreasing. Rules, regulations, and lines of command and control have
in many countries been sharpened over the past decade, to the detri-
ment of organized interests who seek to intervene after EU directives
have been transposed and integrated into national legislation.
This can be illustrated by the previous misfit between the tone and
style of public decision making in France and that at the EU level. In
France, important decisions are traditionally politically arbitrated, for
instance by the prime minister. In such a system, political considerations
are ultimately decisive, whereas in the Brussels decision-making struc-
tures, a consensus is normally negotiated based on a collegial weighing
of interest, power and ability to convince based on technical evidence
rather than political arguments (Schmidt, 2006). Pascal Lamy signaled
in 1992 that this misfit caused great difficulty to adapt to on the part
of French officials (cited in Muller, 1992: 23) Similarly, Rouban (2007)
notes that, by 2007, the work of senior civil servants had become more
technical and juridical in nature as a result of adapting to the style of
decision making at the EU level and the application of EU directives at
the national level.
By contrast, and in line with the notion that a closer fit between the
national and the EU level accounts for less drastic domestic change, there
seems to a relatively limited impact of European integration on civil serv-
ice–interest group interaction in the Netherlands (Braun and van den
Berg, 2013) and on the acquisition of external policy advice in both the
Netherlands and Belgium (Van den Berg, Braun and Steen, 2014).
National Civil Service Systems in Western Europe 121

3.2 Agencification
Agencification is the process in which national governments increas-
ingly delegate mainly implementation and regulatory activities to
national-level agencies that are either completely privatized, or operate
at arm’s length from the ministerial department and enjoy relative
autonomy, at least with respect to managerial affairs, but under the
direct political responsibility of a minister. Since the early 1980s most
Western states pursued some sort of agencification strategy, often as a
part of New Public Management (NPM)-inspired reforms (Van Thiel,
2005). It should not be overlooked, though, that patterns of semi- and
para-governmental governance of executive tasks existed for a long time
in continental European systems (Dijkstra and Van der Meer, 1997.
Besides purely domestic motives, agencification is also regarded as
an indication of internationalization. First, the inter- and transnational
nature of governance is a potential driving force behind agencification
(Christensen and Lægreid, 2005: 19). In a complex system of multi-level
governance, national executives need to be vigorous and efficient in
pursuing their goals, both in a strategic sense and in terms of tackling
substantial policy problems. Offloading some of their implementa-
tion and regulatory tasks (especially those that would otherwise bear
considerable political sensitivity) to agencies may be instrumental to
enhancing performance on their primary goals (Toonen, 2001).
Empirically we see that the national civil service in most countries has
become more decentralized in an organizational sense. That is, central
departments have shrunk in terms of tasks and size, and subsidiary
executive and regulatory organizations have either been established, or,
where they already existed, have been expanded. Across the systems of
France, the Netherlands and Britain, it is evident that tasks and staff
have been transferred from central departments to executive agen-
cies (on the largest scale in Britain); regulatory bodies have been set
up or have been given a more independent status vis-à-vis their parent
ministry; and tasks and – usually to a lesser extent – staff have been
transferred to regional field service or subnational authorities (on the
largest scale in France).2
It should be noted here that this process of fragmentation and diver-
sification of the previously more monolithic national civil service has
had a stronger impact where the civil service was more centralized to
begin with than in an already fragmented system. From its inception,
the Netherlands’ civil service system has been relatively fragmented,
which dampened the impact of this reform wave in this country. In
122 Caspar van den Berg and Theo A.J. Toonen

this sense, the civil service systems of the respective EU-member states
show a partial convergence: the changes are similar both in extent and
in direction, but depending on each country’ strain position, each coun-
try’s trajectory of change and adaptation, and endpoint, also differ, and
therefore mutual differences do not dissolve entirely (Van den Berg,
2011: 351).
Second, internationalization encouraged new forms of regulation
and the creation of ‘independent’ inspectorates (Christensen and
Lægreid, 2005; Hood et al., 2004). Where until the late 1970s regula-
tion and inspection used to be carried out by integrated sections within
the central bureaucracy, in an internationalized governance system a
stronger focus is put on re-institutionalizing the separation of powers,
that is, the formation of regulatory agencies and inspectorates outside
the central departmental structure. Ultimately, the more important
the role of supra- and transnational organizations in monitoring the
behavior of the national state, the higher the need for a national regu-
lation system that is high in credibility and legitimacy and therefore
independent and relatively autonomous from the central executive.
Thus, internationalization contributes to the fragmentation of bureau-
cratic structures.
Whether the power of the administrative heads of agencies is signifi-
cantly greater than the power of top bureaucrats in core ministries is a
question that cannot be answered in general terms. On the one hand,
top officials in agencies enjoy more managerial autonomy and, given the
difficulty of clearly separating managerial decisions and policy decisions,
the overall political control over top officials in agencies is generally
not as strict as in ministerial departments. On the other hand, political
leaders may see agencification also as an instrument to enhance their
grip on the civil service, for two reasons. By fragmenting large minis-
terial departments, they hope to regain some control over individual
units under their responsibility (Van der Meer, 2006, forthcoming).
Also, the creation of agencies mostly coincides with the introduction
of clearly formulated performance contracts that increase the degree of
ministerial control over the heads of agencies (Pollitt and Bouckaert,
2004: 144–146).

3.3 Mediatization of governance

Mediatization of governance concerns the trend toward a more impor-
tant and more autonomous role of the mass media in scrutinizing and
steering governance. In almost all Western states, governments have
embraced or have been forced to embrace the idea of greater transpar-
ency to acquire greater democratic legitimacy for their policies, implying
National Civil Service Systems in Western Europe 123

more communication with the public and less secrecy surrounding

policy practices. This increased transparency of governance is further
reinforced by the development and application of new (social) media,
strengthening direct exchange between citizens and bureaucratic offi-
cials. Citizens have more and faster access to information and services
through the internet. Also, the increased speed and range of information
diffusion has enabled the press to take a more active and autonomous
role in scrutinizing political decisions and decision making. Citizens
and other societal actors can inform themselves quicker and better
about government issues, strategies, successes and failures (Toonen,
Kuypers (2001) noted an increasing degree of ‘structural inciden-
talism’ in politics, that is, the notion that political action has come to
be more and more characterized by short-term responses to perceived
acute problems rather than long-term strategies. Often these acute prob-
lems are signaled in the media and they encourage politicians to take an
immediate position. Politicians seldom resist the temptation to blame
their civil servants for negligence, wrong action or incorrect informa-
tion. Structural incidentalism may pose problems for the functioning
of bureaucratic organizations that are typically characterized by perma-
nence of office and longtime horizons.
Related to this and the accelerated and intensified scrutiny by the
media, it appears that politicians:

now find themselves in an environment where the mass media

(television, radio, the Internet, journals, and newspapers) are 24/7,
aggressive, intrusive, combative, in several cases explicitly partisan,
and catering to specialized and fragmented audiences. In the
economic marketplace of the media, increased competition produces
not only vigorous scrutiny of politics and government but also, and
increasingly, tabloid journalism that is nasty, vile, or worse. Media
management now requires virtual instantaneous response. (Aucoin,
2012: 181)

In France the media have become more investigative and insistent in

the past decades, but the originally high degree of deference towards
authoritative institutions, including executive politicians and senior
civil servants, seems to have been retained. It seems as if the British
media have become considerably more aggressive. Positive coverage has
become more acutely vital for a minister’s survival, let alone success.
The relative ease with which a prime minister can replace ministers and
reshuffle his or her cabinet contributes to this. This dynamic also has
124 Caspar van den Berg and Theo A.J. Toonen

serious consequences for the working environment of senior civil serv-

ants. Policy priorities are at least partly based on the potential degree of
positive media coverage an issue can generate for a minister. Substantive
arguments may thus shift to the background. Moreover, against this
backdrop it is quite natural that permanent senior civil servants feel
bypassed to the advantage of spin doctors.
Aucoin points out that governments are tempted to treat media that
are not on side politically as ‘hostile forces to be managed with tactics
that emulate the worst of the fourth estate themselves: gross misrepre-
sentation, out-right untruths, and the suppression of government infor-
mation that should be publicly accessible according to the law’ (Aucoin,
2012: 181). As a result, the media management of many administrations
has become both highly centralized and more politicized. In turn, this is
seen to heighten the pressure on the public service to engage in media
management, where it has become more and more difficult for civil
servants in the front line but also increasingly in policy-advising roles,
to retain their political neutrality. This supports the notion presented
by Van Twist that even policy advice to ministers has in recent years
increasingly become a matter of ‘framing, casting and scripting’ (Van
Twist, 2010).
Moreover, many Western countries witness the increasing practice
of top civil servants to contact the press and to speak out on policy
issues, for which – according to the doctrine of ministerial responsi-
bility – ministers are answerable to parliament. The doctrine of ministe-
rial responsibility can only be maintained if bureaucrats are loyal and
refrain from seeking publicity or venting their own opinions in the
media. While interactive governance and increased transparency are
perceived as positive from a legitimacy and accountability perspective,
they have come at a price in terms of capabilities of political control
over bureaucrats.

3.4 Judicialization of governance

In most Western countries, the popularity of NPM led to one or more
waves of regulatory reforms. Also, international organizations such
as the European Union (emphasizing competition and the develop-
ment of a free internal market), the OECD, WTO and the World Bank
(encouraging new reform ideas across the globe) have stimulated the
development of tighter evidence-based legal controlling mechanisms
in countries that used to employ more consensus-based regulatory
processes (Christensen and Lægreid, 2005, see also Laffan, 2001 and
Majone, 1999).
National Civil Service Systems in Western Europe 125

Simultaneously, academics have observed the advance of network-

style decision making that is in fact characterized by less regulation and
more voluntary cooperation (Kohler-Koch and Eising, 1999; Marks et al.,
1996). Nonetheless, they too sense that wherever informality seems to
be winning ground, formal-legal restrictions to guarantee political and
financial control usually follow at short distance. Network-style decision
making may uncover gaps in existing accountability relations and the
division of competencies, invoking either tighter legal demarcations or
the intervention of the judiciary (Peters and Pierre, 2004).
So, governance processes are seen to be subject to judicialization by
the ideologically inspired and internationally encouraged application
of legal norms and working methods, and by seemingly inevitable legal
measurements taken by politicians to compensate for more informal
exchange. In addition to this, the importance of the judiciary in eval-
uating political and administrative behavior is another indication of
the judicialization of governance (see Christensen and Wise, in this
volume). Next to the judicial questions as a result of sometimes unclear
constitutional relations of accountability and competencies, the height-
ened complexity of policy problems has made it increasingly difficult
for the initiators of legislation (parliament and the executive) to satis-
factorily design laws that address all aspects of a policy problem. Where
legislation is not fully adequate to resolve a policy problem or societal
conflict an appeal is made to the judiciary. Moreover, social individuali-
zation and the empowerment of citizens vis-à-vis the state have lowered
thresholds for litigation, including cases in which individuals address
the courts for perceived unlawful actions by administrative bodies.
A final indicator of judicialization, and this holds for EU-member
states in particular, is the increasingly proactive and powerful posi-
tion of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Owing to the primacy of
European law over national law, member states cannot interpret their
way out of compliance with European Community law. Since the 1970s,
the ECJ has made more and more decisions with a noteworthy political
and material impact, constraining national government and administra-
tive bodies in unanticipated ways and in unforeseen policy areas (Alter,
Judicialization in relation to increasing multi-level governance can be
illustrated by looking at France, the Netherlands and the UK. Over the
past decades, the judiciary in each of the three countries has gained
importance. A part of this importance can be observed in terms of public
visibility in matters dealing with public policy and with interactions
between the state and private actors. While many societal factors can
126 Caspar van den Berg and Theo A.J. Toonen

be identified to account for this judicialization of public governance,

European integration seems to be a significant one.
While the EU’s legal system relies to a considerable extent on case
law, which is also a basic characteristic of the British legal system, EU
membership has contributed to a relative legalist turn in both policy
making and policy implementation in Britain. Senior civil servants have
had to adapt to this new approach to regulation in many sectors, but
this development has not fundamentally altered the relations between
the executive and the judiciary to any real extent. However, since senior
civil servants have more influence on the making of legislation than
they have on decisions of court and similar tribunals the move towards
codified legal systems in Britain can be seen to increase the potential for
bureaucratic dominance, albeit in a fairly limited and indirect manner.
Perhaps more significantly, the difference in legal culture between
Britain and continental EU-member states creates an extra challenge for
British civil servants cooperating with their continental counterparts,
be it at the EU level or in bi- or multi-lateral interaction outside of the
framework of Brussels institutions (Fry, 2000; Greenaway, 2004).
In France and the Netherlands, the differences in legal culture between
the national level and the EU level are not as great. Yet, in France the
judiciary has only slowly adapted itself to the institutional and policy
framework imposed by the EU. Accepting the prevalence of EU law, and
acting proactively on it, has made it possible for both the Conseil d’Etat
and the Conseil Constitutionnel to strengthen their position as legal
watchdogs over the executive. These two arms of the judiciary now func-
tion more powerfully in containing the potential of dominance by civil
servants (Bezes and Le Lidec, 2007; Kessler, 1996; Mangenot, 2005).
For the Netherlands, it is observed that in relation to European inte-
gration, the judiciary has become a more important actor within the
political-administrative system because of legislative ambiguity that
requires judicial interpretation and adjudication. That is, given the
nature of European framework legislation and the sometimes limited
capacity of national parliaments and the executive to remove ambigui-
ties from EU legislation in the transposition process, the judiciary has
increasingly been called upon to fill in the blanks. In this sense, the
judiciary has gradually become a greater force determining the legal
boundaries within which civil servants operate (Dijkstra, 1996).

4 Implications for the Weberian framework?

Civil service systems have been confronted with changing circum-
stances and many of these have been absorbed or adjusted to by civil
service systems. But does that imply that the Weberian conception of
National Civil Service Systems in Western Europe 127

bureaucracy is now less useful than in the past for the comparative anal-
ysis of national civil service systems?
Following Page (1992), and taking the potential for bureaucratic domi-
nance as a central notion in Weber’s writings, we focus on the coun-
tering forces of a number of institutions: parliaments, interest groups,
political leadership, personal staff and the judiciary. We turn to each of
these pillars and institutions and assess their relevance or obsolescence
for present-day analysis.
The principle of hierarchy in organizing and coordinating the admin-
istrative apparatus has by no means become obsolete. However, in some
parts of the civil service, hierarchy is now complemented as a coordina-
tion principle by contractual market principles and networks (i.e. volun-
tary cooperation based on mutual dependence rather than hierarchy).
These mechanisms are primarily visible in those parts of the bureaucracy
that were established or reformed within a NPM-context (Pollitt and
Bouckaert, 2004: 82). In this sense, a differentiation is conceivable in
terms of the importance of hierarchy between the core departmental
organizations and the decentralized units.
Similarly, when looking at the much-debated erosion of professional
career patterns, a mixed picture emerges. On the one hand, in several
systems the debate about the normalization of the legal position of
the civil servant with the position of employees in the private sector is
reopened. This indicates that the distinctness of ‘serving the state’ is in
decline. Also, for a considerable share of the managerial offices (espe-
cially those in decentralized organs) in practically all Western states,
contracts become less permanent, more flexible, and in some cases
connected with specific performance targets. On the other hand, inter-
nationalization has opened an extra dimension to the career system,
perpetuating and perhaps reinforcing the existing principles of career
constitution (see on new career opportunities Caiden, 2006: 537–541).
Moreover, when trying to assess the degree to which the Weberian
principle of candidates being selected on the basis of technical qualifica-
tions and being appointed, reality shows variation. It appears that in the
more peripheral parts of the system technical qualifications are highly
valued. Most of the decentralized tasks and processes were intentionally
depoliticized when placed at arm’s length. Since these bodies deal with
technical rather than political issues, it is to be expected that they rely
more heavily on technically qualified staff than the core ministries.
These core ministries (especially at the higher levels) are more and
more exclusively in charge of strategic decision making. This requires
a more strategically minded and politically responsive staff for these
offices; promotion is less likely to be based on seniority, but rather on
128 Caspar van den Berg and Theo A.J. Toonen

achievement or political or personal loyalty to the incumbent minister

or government. At the top, the number of strategic advisors, separate
from the career civil service, has been growing.
On this variable, the core bureaucracy seems less bureaucratic in a
Weberian sense than the peripheral bodies. This raises the question
whether internationalization and multi-level governance lead to politi-
cization of the core bureaucracy and depoliticization and profession-
alization in more peripheral units. This development may point at a
broader trend. In the classical conception, the division between poli-
tics and technical work used to coincide (at least theoretically) with the
division between politicians and bureaucrats. It is now worth trying to
empirically establish if this dividing line coincides more with the sepa-
ration between the core ministerial departments and the decentralized
administrative bodies.
Another element of the bureaucratic ideal type is that the office is
treated as the sole, or at least primary, occupation. The changes discussed
here involve a greater usage of external strategic consultants who work
on short-term or part-time contracts, which lowers the score on this
variable, at least for the central departments. Whether this holds to
the same extent for staff in organizations outside the core bureaucracy
remains an open question.
Weber emphasizes official secrecy as one of the tenets of bureaucratic
power (1976). On the basis of the changes described above, it can be
expected that secrecy is decreasing as a source of bureaucratic power. Two
reasons for this are increased transparency of governance and the increas-
ingly critical and autonomous role of the press. In addition, we witness the
greater external profile of a number of top bureaucrats (Steen et al., 2005),
which might enhance the power of these civil servants and thus compen-
sate for the loss of power caused by the erosion of official secrecy.
A number of (comparative) studies point at the decreased ability of
national parliaments in scrutinizing the executive, including the bureau-
cratic apparatus (Börzel and Sprungk, 2007; Wessels and Rometsch, 1996).
This is partly explained by the expanded role of European institutions in
initiating legislation and policies, although there is considerable cross-
national variation. In Denmark and the UK parliaments play a relatively
important role in the endorsement of European policies whereas in the
Netherlands and various other countries, many EU-level policy issues
are hardly politicized, implying less prominence for parliaments in
mandating negotiators and in integrating EU directives into national
legislation. We expect that, ceteris paribus, the more an issue is politicized,
the more parliamentary debate takes place, and the more explicit the
political mandate of internationally active bureaucrats will be, resulting
National Civil Service Systems in Western Europe 129

in more negotiation power of national bureaucrats at the EU level. The

converse mechanism is also expected to hold: low politicization leads to
weaker political direction for bureaucrats, and less negotiation power of
internationally active bureaucrats.
The capabilities of interest groups in constraining the bureaucracy
have been in motion during the past decades. Generally, organized
interests enjoy a stronger position in networks of interactive govern-
ment than in a more strictly vertically oriented command and control
system. Shaping long-term partnerships, agreement on problem defini-
tion and wider support for policies are among the reasons ministers and
civil servants are interested in the inclusion of these actors. It should be
noted here that the EU structures and its procedures for allocating funds
encourage further institutionalization of interest group representatives
into policy making.
Moreover, the scope of an increasing number of interest groups has
grown to be European or even global. Since the main policy frame-
work for a large and ever-growing number of policy issues is shaped
in and around the institutions of the European Union, interest organi-
zations (such as associations of producers, professionals, workers and
consumers) more and more merge with their counterparts in other
member states, in order to obtain a more powerful position within the
EU decision-making process. This means that the bargaining position of
an individual member state against pan-European interest organizations
becomes weaker, and that national governments will have to find other
ways to retain their influence in the European arena, such as seconding
national experts to the European Commission (Suvarierol and van den
Berg, 2008).
At the same time, stronger rule-bound and regulatory control in the
implementation phase of policies seems to diminish the influence of
interest groups in the later stages of the policy cycle, at least in tradition-
ally neo-corporatist countries such as the Netherlands. Interest repre-
sentatives have more to gain by focusing on the European level where
framework legislation and directives are formulated rather than by
concentrating on transposition and implementation processes. There,
exerting influence is limited by the necessity to comply with EU direc-
tives and by the monitoring of regulators and inspectorates. An inter-
esting proposition, therefore, is that the center of gravity of organized
interest activity has shifted from the policy interpretation and imple-
mentation stages at the national and subnational level to the agenda-
setting and decision-making stages at the EU level.
Europeanization leads to increased inter- and transnational activity
both by ministers and by civil servants. The number of bureaucrats and
130 Caspar van den Berg and Theo A.J. Toonen

the intensity of their participation will in part depend on the interest a

minister takes in EU-level developments and on the domestic political
salience of an issue. Also, ministers will be more active in controlling
their supranationally active bureaucrats as the issue concerned is more
domestically politicized. At any rate, the increased activity of civil serv-
ants in supranational arenas calls for reinforced political control over
those bureaucrats.
Although Europeanization and mediatization potentially erode polit-
ical command, the picture is not entirely bleak from the perspective
of ministerial control. Ministers have an arsenal of specific countering
measures at their disposal (Van der Meer, forthcoming 2006), some of
which may be more successful in one institutional context or issue area
and others in other contexts or areas. However, whether these attempts
are successful and sufficient in closing gaps in ministerial command
remains an open question.
Two implications of internationalization and multi-level governance
promote the reliance of ministers on personal advisers. First, multi-level
governance requires more and better political communication than in
a nation-state-centered system primarily characterized by hierarchical
command and control. Second, internationalization requires national
executives to be more vigorous and more efficient in pursuing their
goals. The advisers may come in different shapes and forms – ministerial
cabinets, political assistants, political civil servants, spin doctors and/
or press officers – but should always be loyal, politically mindful and
strategically competent (Steen et al., 2005). In many cases these advi-
sors are far removed from ideal-typical bureaucrats as Weber described
them. Thus, personal advisers operate at the nexus between politicians
and career civil servants. Their responsibilities usually include serving as
liaison between political party, the minister and the parliamentarians,
as public relations officer and/or spin doctor. They raise positive media
attention and recast negative media attention to the benefit of their
political superior. The expectation is thus that the enlarged significance
of these advisors enhances their potential role in constraining the power
of conventional civil servants. In the end, who wins and who loses
depends on the wishes of the minister, the personal traits and activities
of the advisor, and the watchfulness of the civil service.
As a system of governance internationalizes, it becomes more difficult
for national parliaments and executives to draft exhaustive legislation,
given the preferred usage of framework rules and directives in a system
of multi-level governance. Framework laws from the upper levels are
transposed into legislation and policies fitting with national, regional
or local circumstances. As a system of law becomes more open, more
National Civil Service Systems in Western Europe 131

gaps in legislation will occur and more disputes about interpretation of

framework legislation may arise among interested parties. As a result,
and reinforced by the increased complexity of policy issues, the courts
have taken on a more intensive role in terms of regulation and the inter-
pretation of legislation. In this manner internationalization inherently
fosters the role of judicial institutions and methods in the political and
administrative realm.

5 Conclusion

In this chapter we explored the analytical possibilities of reconciling

the movement toward less hierarchy, more networks, more multi-level
governance and allegedly less bureaucracy, and the increasing call of
academics and citizens for the revitalization of the idea of a public
service with a distinctive status, clear lines of accountability, hierarchy,
expertise and neutrality.
These two ideas can be reconciled if we use the Weberian analytical
model in a way that leaves the fundamental principles intact but that
takes on the widened scope of multi-level governance. The Weberian
framework for comparative analysis of contemporary civil service systems
remains appropriate. After all, the variables and mechanisms Weber iden-
tified still apply and real-life conditions can still adequately be analyzed
on the basis of their resemblance (or non-resemblance) to the pure ideal
type. Also, when we use Weber’s reference points in assessing current
situations, a considerably differentiated picture emerges. Apart from
differentiation between national systems and policy sectors, variation is
likely between the bureaucracy in the core ministries and bureaucracy in
the decentralized bodies, and between individual bureaucrats (e.g. those
who are internationally active or those with a high external profile)
and the whole bureaucratic apparatus. Interestingly, although varia-
tion is expected, it is not expected that this variation will follow some
uniform pattern: on some parameters a specific part of the bureaucracy
may become more bureaucratic in the Weberian sense, and on other
parameters not at all. While some of these propositions can already be
observed, other trends can only be hypothesized for lack of in-depth
empirical investigation. The intensity and practical consequences of the
trends described in this chapter still need much investigation.

1. In the survey, seven types of EU-related activities were distinguished: (1) prep-
aration of national input for EU-level meeting; (2) participation in working
groups for the Council of Ministers; (3) participation in meetings organized by
132 Caspar van den Berg and Theo A.J. Toonen

the European Commission (e.g. expert meetings); (4) informal consultations

by/with colleagues from other member states; (5) transposition of European
policies into national legislation; (6) involving subnational authorities in
EU-level decision making and policy making; and (7) involving national
interest organizations in EU-level decision making and policy making.
2. On France, see Albertini (1998), Delamarre (2008) and Meininger (2000). On
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Civil Service Reforms, Public
Service Bargains and Dynamics
of Institutional Change
Philippe Bezes and Martin Lodge

1 Introduction

Following three decades of managerialist change and privatization, the

aftermath of the financial crisis has launched another age of civil service
reform. Initial responses to the age of austerity have been pay freezes
and cuts, a further push towards outsourcing of public services, as well
as, in some countries, extensive redundancies. Furthermore, decades
of civil service reform across OECD and non-OECD countries have not
led to a sense of stability: across countries, politicians are bemoaning
the lack of a responsive civil service and a civil service that is ‘fit for
purpose.’ Such calls for responsiveness contrast with those who argue
that a ‘Weberian,’ ‘merit-based’ bureaucracy is at the heart of ‘good
governance’ (see Dahlström, Lapuente and Teorell, 2012). The politics of
austerity, climate change and aging populations will provide for further
tension between the competing preferences for political responsive-
ness, on the one hand, and supposedly detached expertise, on the other
(Lodge, 2013).
The ongoing tensions between contradictory principles are one of the
standard concerns in debates about civil service reform (Simon, 1947).
Another standard concern is to argue that civil service reforms are shaped
by particular national historical institutional features. So-called legacies,
consisting of both ideational and structural features, are said to impact
on the ways in which civil services evolve (Bezes and Parrado, 2013;
Knill, 1999; Meyer-Sahling and Yesilkagit, 2011; Painter and Peters,
2010). While the field has generated large number of studies about proc-
esses of civil service reform, far less is known about what actually has

Civil Service Reforms, Public Service Bargains 137

been achieved (see Hood and Dixon, 2013). Indeed, it might also be
argued that the literature on civil service reform has shown only limited
interest in applying and assessing the underlying causal mechanisms
that have been put forward in the historical institutionalist literature
(Pierson, 2000, 2004; Streeck and Thelen, 2005; Thelen, 2003).
This chapter puts forward an institutional perspective on civil service
reform. The emphasis in this chapter is how trajectories of reform of
civil service systems are influenced by their interdependent and comple-
mentary institutional components. Civil service systems are inherently
‘path dependent’ owing to their robust institutional arrangements that
are, at times, entrenched in specific legal orders. Reforms are ‘embedded’
in the legacies of civil service systems: the key features of civil service
systems cannot be reversed easily.
We develop the historical institutional argument in four steps. First,
we develop an institutional perspective that highlights the interdepend-
ence of various aspects that define civil service systems. We do so by
relying on the concept of Public Service Bargains (Hood and Lodge,
2006; Lodge and Hood, 2012), highlighting the endogenous and exog-
enous dynamics that affect civil service systems. Second, we consider
the underlying causal mechanisms that are at the heart of the institu-
tional literature and discuss how these mechanisms have affected civil
service reform. Finally, we consider how an institutional perspective can
address some of the key questions in civil service reform.

2 Civil service systems, Public Service Bargains and change

Civil service systems are, unsurprisingly, complex institutions. In many

ways, they resemble welfare states: they include a set of expectations
and obligations based on explicit and informal rules and conventions. It
is therefore also not surprising that there have been varied attempts at
establishing civil service typologies that resemble those of welfare states
(for the latter, see Esping-Andersen, 1990) or types of capitalism (Hall and
Soskice, 2001). In the case of the civil service, this relates to issues such
as the nexus between politics and administration (Aberbach, Putnam
and Rockman, 1981; Peters, 1987), the relationship between central and
local governments (Page, 1991), internal labor markets (Wise, 1996) and
representativeness (Van der Meer and Roborgh, 1996). More compre-
hensive accounts have sought to develop typologies of reform (along
the lines of New Public Management-inspired reforms) (see Pollitt and
Bouckaert, 2011), and of administrative systems more generally (Heady,
1996; Heywood and Wright, 1997; Page, 1992, 1995; Peters, 2001).
138 Philippe Bezes and Martin Lodge

One way to illustrate the institutional stickiness of civil service systems

is to use the Public Service Bargain perspective (Hood and Lodge, 2006;
also Hondeghem and Steen, 2013). PSB defines an (implicit) exchange
relationship in which both parties, politicians and civil servants, give
up some of their powers in exchange for some guarantees and thus
characterizes civil service systems through three crucial dimensions:
the issues of reward, competency and loyalty. In other words, PSBs
emphasize mutual expectations and the interaction between public
servants, politicians and the wider political system. Historical legacies
are said to shape the way in which conventions are used to interpret
issues of loyalty, competency and reward. For example, in the UK (and
derivative) Whitehall civil service system, the dominant PSB was about
civil servants offering loyal support in exchange for security of office,
whereas politicians were guaranteed loyalty in exchange for giving up
their right to hire and fire (Lipson, 1947; Schaffer, 1973). Public Service
Bargains therefore are not just about formal institutional arrangements,
they are about informal understandings, and how change may be the
result of shifting understandings that are moderated by existing formal
arrangements and informal conventions (for a different perspective that
emphasizes informal understandings, see Rhodes, 2011). Furthermore,
the PSB approach highlights distinct, but interdependent components
(reward, competency and loyalty) that might be the target of reform on
their own, or in combination. However, regardless of reform focus, any
change will have effects on the wider PSB. We consider each of the three
central components in turn.
First, the politics of rewarding civil servants and how to manage their
careers has been at the heart of considerable debate. Rewards-related
aspects reflect on social status, civil service salaries and pensions.
Reward is however not just about material reward. Immaterial reward
also features prominently, and not just in the way in which the ‘public
service motivation’ literature suggests, namely that civil servants are
intrinsically motivated to ‘do a good job’ or be part of important political
decisions. Immaterial rewards include, for example, the Japanese and
British systems of honors and medals. In contrast, post-1945 Germany
had no such tradition for its civilian bureaucrats (and, since the 1970s,
also not for its armed forces).
The reward dimension also includes expectations regarding career
advancement. A traditional part of any Public Service Bargain is an expec-
tation as to the level within bureaucracy a public servant can expect to
rise and the extent to which this rise on the bureaucratic ladder is exposed
to competition from within and outside the bureaucracy. Cross-national
Civil Service Reforms, Public Service Bargains 139

differences exist between those systems that rely on career progression

within a corps, within departments, or within bureaucracy at large – or
as a result of an ‘in and out’ structure. For example, attempts at creating
an ‘internal labor market’ in Central and Eastern European countries
are said to have largely failed, owing to a reluctance to pass civil service
laws, or, more likely, the creative ways in which politicians have gone
about appointing trusted individuals, thereby creating more of an ‘in
and out’ system (Meyer-Sahling, 2011). Countries differ in the extent to
which career progression and recruitment are based on party member-
ship or other aspects of ‘representativeness.’ Some systems, such as the
German one, distinguish between political civil servants and ‘technical’
civil servants, the former exchanging access to high political office for
job safety. However, the extent to which ‘political’ appointments reach
‘down’ in the respective hierarchies varies across departments and levels
of government.
The ‘managerial age’ of the late 20th century is said to have chal-
lenged many of the traditional reward patterns. One of the key themes
in the age of so-called New Public Management has been the move
towards ‘performance pay,’ namely the idea to award some degree of
discretionary pay in order to incentivize performance (see Hood and
Peters, 1994: Hood and Peters with Lee, 2003). The politics of reward
has witnessed a number of pressures. One is that the politics of reward
has become more political, especially as politicians and their renumera-
tion have become increasingly the target of public attention. In turn,
and related, there has been pressure from the civil service to decouple
their salaries from those of politicians. However, the extent to which
civil servants succeeded in outpacing politicians in terms of their pay
package varied across countries. For example, the UK and New Zealand
did reward civil servants more than their political masters (and increased
their salaries more at the top than lower ranks of the civil service); the
US and Germany did not (see; Lodge and Gill, 2011).
Post-financial crisis, the pay of civil servants became a political issue
in the UK, with those departmental civil servants whose pay topped
that of the prime minister being ‘outed’ on governmental websites. One
further effect of the financial crisis was the further de-privileging of civil
service rewards relative to top salaries in the private sector. More gener-
ally, there was also a de-privileging of the post-career earning potential
of civil servants. For example, in Japan, the long-established tradition
of moving from civil service to business came under pressure since the
late 1990s. Reward is, however, not just about career- and post-career
earnings, it is about recruitment and expectations regarding career
140 Philippe Bezes and Martin Lodge

advancement (i.e. whether advancement is foreseeable or a matter of

unpredictable political constellations). Here again, some countries like
New Zealand (Lodge and Gill, 2011) have introduced core changes to
the traditional PSB by moving to time-limited contracts for top public
Questions of reward in civil service systems are therefore closely tied
to questions about expectations regarding the skills and competencies
that public servants are supposed to display. The competency compo-
nent reflects on key aspects regarding professionalization (see Silberman,
1993:10–15), in terms of required qualifications and skills, appointment
processes and training. The competency component refers to the forms
of the public service ‘labor market,’ the timing of the establishment of
supposedly merit-based appointment procedures through examination,
and the differences between job-based and career-based appointments.
Understandings and expectations regarding competency are said to
have changed over the past decades as well: they have moved away from
the view that civil servants (especially at the top) should provide policy
advice to a view that regards civil servants as ‘deliverers.’ The advice
function, nowadays, is said to have moved to trusted political advisors.
For example, Savoie argues that Canada and the UK have moved to
‘court government’ in which ministers rely on small circles of advisors
(Savoie, 2003, 2008).
However, historically grown differences remain (Brans and Hondeghem,
2005; Hood and Lodge, 2005; Ingraham and Getha-Taylor, 2005; Van der
Meer and Toonen, 2005). One historical difference is whether ministers
are supported by cabinet-type arrangements or not. Even those systems
that traditionally have not featured a cabinet-style system are alleged to
have witnessed a ‘thickening’ of ministerial offices. In general, however,
demands for more ‘leadership’ and ‘professional skills in government’
have received considerable currency in Anglo-Saxon civil services. For
example, the New Zealand civil service has been frequently criticized
regarding the quality of policy advice over the 2000s (with some blaming
‘freedom of information’ legislation). Similarly, concern with the lack of
‘professional skills’ in the UK central government led to a variety of
initiatives, involving civil servants’ individual skills and departmental
capacities (so-called ‘capability reviews’). In the same vein, the universal
spread of the ‘competency’ language for the assessment of civil servant’s
aptitudes (in terms of ‘excelling behaviors’) in the higher civil service
throughout the 1990s has also been a dominant dynamic of reform
(Hondeghem, Horton and Scheepers, 2005; Hood and Lodge, 2004,
2005; Lodge and Hood, 2003).
Civil Service Reforms, Public Service Bargains 141

Questions about competency, in turn, also relate to the third institu-

tional component of the PSB: the issues about loyalty. One key aspect of
this component relates to sources of loyalty and obligation – for example,
whether bureaucrats owe their position directly to their political master
or to some other source. Examples of the former include those ‘direct
loyalist’ systems such as the United States with their ‘in and out’ pattern
while, in contrast, in the UK no civil servant faces the sack after a change
in government. In mixed cases, political civil servants can be fired at
any time without reason (in exchange for a comfortable pension, as in
Germany) or are appointed by discretion of the political executive to
ministerial cabinets (as in France). In other words, loyalty is about the
question as to whom civil servants are loyal to: to a party in govern-
ment, to an individual politician, or to a constitution or ‘the state.’
Such questions have also featured in discussions about the loyalty of
the military, and whether the military should be ‘directed’ by civilian
politicians and under what circumstances. It is therefore not surprising
that demands for a ‘merit-based’ bureaucracy conflate the two dimen-
sions of competency and loyalty. One the one hand, a ‘merit-based
bureaucracy’ is supposed to offer competence (although it is not clear
what kind of competence this is supposed to be). On the other hand,
a ‘merit-based bureaucracy’ is to suggest that loyalty is not directly to a
politician or a party in government. In turn, this assumes that rewards
are not set by politicians, but are responsive (if at all) to the performance
assessment by some third party.
In many ways, managerial reforms and ‘spin doctoring’ have been
said to increase political control and bureaucratic receptiveness to
the needs of modern-day politicians. First, the classic loyalty under-
standing, namely a view that the traditional assumptions about being
able to give ‘free and frank advice,’ has come under pressure and has
been said to have led to a deterioration in policy advice (for the UK,
see Foster, 2005). Second, recent scholars have been debating the exist-
ence of an increase in policitization (see Lewis, 2008; Peters and Pierre,
2004). A third dynamic has been the explicit codification of the rights
and duties of top bureaucrats. Thus, a rise in performance management
by targets, growing numbers of political advisors, and increases in the
appointment of ‘outsiders’ have created an environment that has led
to a growing codification of loyalty understandings (Hood and Lodge,
2004, 2006.
In sum, civil service systems have to be understood as a system of
interdependent complementary dimensions. Taking a Public Service
Bargain perspective, therefore, generates a number of implications. One
142 Philippe Bezes and Martin Lodge

is that any reform on one dimension will have direct implications for
other aspects of the Bargain: attempts at fiddling with rewards will have
implications not just in terms of motivation, but also for loyalty and
competency. Second, it highlights the importance of understanding
civil service reform as a process that involves formal reform announce-
ments and changes that are filtered by informal institutional conven-
tions and understandings. Third, it highlights that civil service reform is
a matter of mutual adjustment: it is about the demands and organization
of politics and party organizations (see Bezes, 2012) that interact with
the demands and expectations of civil servants. Fourth, Public Service
Bargains often come in numerous ways and there is not one nationally
distinct PSB.
However, some factors that generate degrees of national distinctive-
ness can be distinguished. In general, national distinctiveness relates
to issues of rule-boundedness and distinctiveness from other labor
markets. One key aspect is the way in which civil service systems have
been historically legally entrenched. For Weber the process of estab-
lishing a specific legal order facilitated political centralization and the
rise of rational-legal bureaucracy (Page, 1992: 19–24). Others, too, have
noted differences between Rechtsstaat and public interest type bureauc-
racies (Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2011). Some civil service systems are placed
in distinct systems of administrative law. The French case, for example,
is characterized by complex legal entrenchment that involves extensive
legal provisions that rule bureaucratic life, and the life of bureaucrats as
well (statut général des fonctionnaires). Scandinavian countries differ in
the extent to which a specific administrative law exists. Elsewhere, ordi-
nary courts may witness specialization effects in terms of a particular
‘chamber’ concentrating on administrative law cases.
A second feature generating national distinctiveness is the pervasive-
ness of one model of civil service across all spheres of bureaucracy. Put
differently, the notion of pervasiveness defines the degree to which
central governments possess central leverage over networks of power
(and thus types of civil services) (see Page, 1995: 259–261). Pervasiveness
points, for example, to the spatial distribution of civil service posts, the
‘division of labor’ and hierarchical relationships among public servants
across different levels of government. In short, pervasiveness is about the
historical trajectories of state building and the extent of administrative
centralization which, in turn, impacts on the existence (in number and
type) of different Public Service Bargains in a given state. Differences, for
example, exist as to the way in which different countries have tradition-
ally delivered public services. Sweden, for example, has historically relied
Civil Service Reforms, Public Service Bargains 143

on a large number of implementing autonomous agencies, Germany on

local government and third-sector organizations, and France on an inte-
grated central administration with a large network of state field units
in local authorities. In other words, there is no one single PSB in any
given country. Instead, PSBs come in different forms and number, and
are themselves constituted by formal and informal components. This
complexity alone facilitates gradualism in civil service reform.

3 Institutional stickiness of civil service systems and

gradual institutional changes

Key concepts of historical institutional analysis, such as ‘stability,’

‘stickiness,’ ‘path-dependency,’ ‘timing’ and ‘policy feedback,’ travel
easily into the field of civil service reform research. As already noted in
the previous section, civil service reforms offer an ideal case for exam-
ining these concepts and their underlying causal mechanisms. Taking
such a perspective offers insights as to why contemporary civil service
reform has, as yet, been far from the kind of transformative or radical
that has been promised or lamented in the literature. Indeed, this is
the finding of the research on administrative reform that has used
historical institutional analysis. Some have focused on traditions (Alba
and Navarro, 2011, Painter and Peters, 2010), on historical neo-institu-
tionalism (Bezes, 2009; Bezes and Parrado, 2013; Ongaro, 2009), or on
combining concerns from both historical and sociological institutional-
ises (Christensen, 2012; Christensen and Lægreid, 2007).
The standard stereotype is one in which critics of bureaucracy
clash with more or less robust civil service systems. The bureaucratic
response is, unsurprisingly, creative when it comes to demands for
change. The (exogenous) demands for civil service system change are
often associated with political criticism about a lack of responsiveness,
or a more general ideological predisposition against ‘big government.’
A critical approach towards bureaucracy has not just been a feature
across Anglo-Saxon countries, but also in other ‘administrative tradi-
tions,’ such as the continental European (France, Italy and Spain) or
the Scandinavian welfare state tradition (Sweden). These political pres-
sures can be understood as a response to the rise of ‘anti-tax electoral
coalitions’ among middle-class voters who have increasingly turned
against redistributional politics, and sustained fiscal pressures. The
‘needs’ of politicians have also changed: after all, if politicians rely
solely on advice from personal advisors as the most promising route
to manage blame and media pressure, then it is not surprising that
144 Philippe Bezes and Martin Lodge

civil service advice becomes less important. These pressures are said
to be partly responsible for the emergence of the so-called New Public
Management (NPM) (Hood, 1991, 1995). NPM has become a global
label to characterize many, often contradictory elements associated
with ‘managerialism’ and ‘reform.’ However, broadly defined, NPM
has been about decreasing the distinctiveness of the public from the
private sector, and it is about reducing the rule-boundedness of public
sector behavior. Whatever the factors that led to the rise of doctrines
attached to the NPM label, the high tide of supposedly NPM-informed
reforms during the 1980s and 1990s has been seen by many as a crit-
ical juncture in that bureaucratic standard operating procedures were
challenged. More generally, civil service reform policy attracted higher
political salience and was therefore no longer processed within the
‘internal’ civil service networks.
However, the view that civil service reforms over the past three
decades should be understood as a radical departure, or as a critical junc-
ture, can also be challenged. It is difficult to identify one system which
fundamentally transformed its PSBs that would make them unrecogniz-
able to previous incarnations. Indeed, it could be argued that change
within PSBs has been far less extensive than changes to the ‘machinery
of government’ (i.e. the organizational arrangement of government), or
financial and budgetary systems. Three decades of civil service reform
have arguably led to an increase in the number of PSBs, and to some
gradual changes within PSBs, but not to their overall transformation
(Hood and Lodge, 2006). Identifiable changes have sought to introduce
greater flexibility (see Bach and Bordogna, 2011; Lægreid and Wise, this
volume; Moynihan, 2004). Growing flexibility is evident in the use of
fixed-term contracts, private-sector-style recruitment practices at all
levels of the civil service, an emphasis on performance management and
political responsiveness, and the reduction of formal statutory employ-
ment protections.
Many of these changes were already initiated in the 1960s and 1970s.
For example, Donald P. Moynihan shows that the US 1978 Civil Service
Reform Act can be seen as the basis for public management reform debates
in the US. Despite much anti-bureaucracy rhetoric, the Republican presi-
dencies under Reagan and George W. Bush did not succeed in eroding
the special employment status of federal employees (Bach and Kolins
Givan, 2011). Similarly, many of the UK reform themes that emerged
during the 1980s and 1990s could be seen as responding to the 1968
Fulton Report with its emphasis on removing internal departmental
boundaries and encouraging the development of a cross-departmental
Civil Service Reforms, Public Service Bargains 145

go-anywhere structure (Gally, 2012). New Zealand offers arguably one

of the most extensive reform examples, especially in the context of the
1988 State Sector Act. However, even here the reforms were carefully
crafted to sustain certain key conventions of the existing central govern-
ment PSB (especially in terms of ensuring neutrality) (Lodge and Gill,
2011). One might even suggest that Italy has gone through far-reaching
reforms, such as reforms in 1993 which reduced the scope of a large
part of Italian public agents’ special prerogatives. The reforms did so by
abandoning the special statute based on administrative law, and thereby
placing private sector employment conditions onto a majority of Italian
public agents (Bordogna and Neri, 2011; Capano, 2003; Ongaro, 2009,
In general, therefore, in contrast to the creation of ‘agencies,’ changes
to PSBs were far more gradual in style and scope, at least at the center
of government. Rather than directly attacking the PSB, administrative
reforms prioritized other aspects. This raises questions about the timing
and sequencing of administrative reforms in general, and civil service
reforms in particular (Bezes and Parrado, 2013). Civil service reform did
not feature as highly as other administrative reform aspects, such as
agencification or decentralization. It mostly arrived on the agenda as a
consequence or side-effect of other reforms. For example, agencification
in the UK (Next Steps) created a new kind of PSB for chief executives of
these agencies that contrasted significantly from that for the ‘normal’
departmental permanent secretary. However, over time, the PSBs of
these two senior bureaucratic posts became less dissimilar, especially
regarding reward (Lodge, 2011).
Why, then, did civil service systems prove to be more resilient against
reform demands? As noted, civil service systems are formal and informal
institutions. They consist of formal legal provisions, they allocate power
and resources to public sector unions and others, and they generate
expectations as to what is seen as appropriate in the relationship between
politicians and civil servants. One might, therefore, argue that civil
service systems generate their own type of increasing returns (Pierson,
2004). After all, a career system creates its own fixed costs, as it estab-
lishes entry barriers, expectations regarding careers, social conventions
and its own constituency of supportive (existing and retired) civil serv-
ants. Thus, so-called veto players emerge that will oppose any attempt
at dismantling some of the privileges that are associated with the civil
service. For example, the French grand corps have been very successful
in defending their interests and privileges, thereby ensuring their long-
term survival (Gally, 2012; Gervais, 2010).
146 Philippe Bezes and Martin Lodge

At the same time, civil service systems are not static: PSBs are open
to challenge, misunderstandings and cheating. Certain aspects are
therefore more ‘mutable’ than others (Clemens and Cook, 1999); for
example, the promise of higher pay may lead civil servants to consent
to performance-pay systems that reduce their security of tenure. It is
difficult to envisage what the benefit of changes to competency require-
ments might be.
A second explanation as to why civil service reforms – especially at
the top – did not feature as prominently as other elements of wider
administrative reforms is that such reforms are likely to have negative
consequences in terms of trust and motivation. After all, politicians
require ‘enthusiastic’ civil servants, and thus might be averse to directly
challenging those working near to them. Besides, a challenge to employ-
ment rights is also likely to bring the wrath of trade unions. Given
such strong forces of resistance to major change, it is therefore hardly
surprising that political demands for reform focused on less resourceful
targets, and that civil service reform agendas focused mostly on adding
complexity to existing arrangements, rather than on thorough reform
per se. Politicians are likely to seek compromise with top bureaucrats to
push through reforms, which consequently end up being about status
reaffirmation (of civil servants at the top) and ‘defensive.’ In contrast,
politicians are unlikely to pursue ‘offensive’ strategies as this will merely
stir opposition (Bezes, 2001; Bordogna, 2008).
A third explanation is that civil service systems are informal insti-
tutions. As such, they rely on implicit knowledge and therefore make
reform ‘from the outside’ more difficult (Pierson, 2004: 24). At the same
time, informal institutions evolve as changes in wider society lead to
different expectations and understandings, for example, regarding the
importance of immaterial and material reward, the significance of status,
or the role of gender at the workplace. All of these wider changes have
direct implications on the way civil services operate. However, such
changes cannot be found in official reform announcements, but gradu-
ally emerge over time. An example of such gradual change is demo-
graphic profile, not just in terms of gender, but also in terms of the
considerable aging within European civil services. Systems that age, and
that therefore face considerable inter-generational replacement activity
during a relatively short period of time, will be challenged in their
informal understandings regarding collaboration and coordination, but
also in terms of institutional memory.
A promising way to approach civil service reform, therefore, is to
explore in more depth the causal mechanisms that are associated
Civil Service Reforms, Public Service Bargains 147

with historical institutionalist terms such as ‘displacement,’ ‘layering,’

‘conversion’ or ‘drift’ (Mahoney and Thelen, 2010; Streeck and Thelen,
2005 ; Thelen, 2003). Recent years have witnessed a growing interest
in applying these mechanisms to the study of administrative reforms
(Bach and Bordogna, 2011; Bezes, 2009; Bezes and Parrado, 2013; Di
Mascio, Natalini and Stolfi, 2013; Meyer-Sahling and Yesilkagit, 2011;
Ongaro, 2009, 2011; Parrado, 2008).
As noted, civil service reforms have been characterized by the addi-
tion of different PSBs rather than by direct challenges to existing PSBs.
This process of ‘layering’ has been part and parcel of administrative
history. Layering denotes the way in which additions are placed onto
existing institutional arrangements: ‘new coalitions may design novel
institutional arrangements, but lack support, or perhaps the inclina-
tion, to replace pre-existing institutions established to pursue other
ends’ (Schickler, 1999 quoted in Thelen, 2003: 226). Such developments
are said to lead to ‘differential growth’ (Streeck and Thelen, 2005: 23),
leading to the incorporation of a new set of arrangements into estab-
lished standard operating procedures.
Arguably, the UK’s Next Steps reform is good example to illustrate
layering processes. The bifurcation of the traditional Whitehall PSB
was made through an organizational reform (agencification) changing
the rewards and the loyalty dimensions of the PSB by the set-up of
performance-related and time-limited contracts for Next Steps agency
chief executives. This has indirectly introduced a new Public Service
Bargain in the British context and thus opened the space for possible
extension of the managerial PSB to other top bureaucrats. A greater
‘risk reward’ and new expectations in terms of loyalty were later intro-
duced into the contracts of ‘normal’ Whitehall civil servants (Hood
and Lodge, 2006).
In France, a country where the career-based system and the special legal
status of all French civil servants are institutionally protected, layering
can be observed in the introduction of new devices ‘at the margins’
of well-protected legal frameworks and statutes (Bezes and Jeannot,
2011; Chevallier, 2010; Eymeri, 2012). Examples include the growing
acknowledgment of professional qualifications and competences (even
in the ENA), the introduction of differentiated pay for certain positions
and individualized pay agreements, or a 2009 law on mobility which
increased the opportunities for temporary work contracts that also
granted human resources managers the power to force civil servants to
change jobs in case of reorganizations (this right was, however, amended
in 2012 by the Socialist administration).
148 Philippe Bezes and Martin Lodge

Civil service reforms in Sweden initially transferred employer respon-

sibilities to government agencies in the 1980s, allowing them to recruit,
dismiss and negotiate wages, but within the framework of central collec-
tive agreements. In the 1990s, as a second stage, the central collective
bargaining system was decentralized: the fixed salary grade system was
replaced by individual pay schemes that were based on qualifications
and performance (Ibsen et al., 2011). More generally, it can be argued
that civil service reforms have witnessed increasing flexibilization in
terms of employment. Short-term, part-time or fixed-term contracts
have altered understandings within the rewards dimension of PSBs (for
data, see Vaughan-Whitehead, 2013).
So-called displacement effects are also prominent features in civil
service reforms (Streeck and Thelen, 2005: 19–22). Displacement effects
point to the growing importance and dominance of institutional
arrangements that were created at different points in time, and were
previously latent or of minor significance. Gregory and Christensen
(2004), for example, suggest how in the Danish case the development
of fixed-term contracts and performance review for top civil servants
in 1987 was based on older forms of fixed-term appointments that had
been created in 1971. What started as a device for specialized jobs has
grown in significance over time, leading to the adoption of perform-
ance contracts for all agency directors. In France, the use of an aggre-
gate wage bill ceiling to estimate the civil service’s overall personnel
expenditure provided bureaucrats within ministerial budget direc-
torates with considerable discretion to decrease the sum that could
be negotiated with the social partners in public service bargaining
during the 1980s. This tool was initially used as a ‘low-profile’ instru-
ment but turned into a major devolved managerialist device in the
early 2000s as part of a new comprehensive reform, the 2001 Act on
Budget Legislation (Bezes, 2007). The reform devolved the ordinary
management of personnel expenditures to ministerial regional public
managers and forced them to develop consolidated appropriation tools
including a global wage bill ceiling and a jobs ceiling. More generally, a
displacement strategy has been frequently observed in the devolution
of human resource management to local authorities. In Scandinavian
countries, where agencies and local governments (regions, municipali-
ties) have occupied a prominent role, recent reforms have gradually
strengthened their role: for example, by granting them decentralized
powers to operate collective bargaining systems, including recruitment
and wage determination (for variations between Denmark, Sweden and
Norway, see Ibsen et al., 2011).
Civil Service Reforms, Public Service Bargains 149

Finally, ‘drift’ (Hacker, 2005; Mahoney and Thelen, 2010; Streeck and
Thelen, 2005: 24–26) characterizes a pattern of change where ‘rules
remain formally the same but their impact changes as a result of shifts
in external conditions’ (Mahoney and Thelen, 2010: 17). This mode of
change is related to the idea that although politicians or others may not
respond to environmental change, the external changes do change the
resources and effects of existing institutions. For example, demographic
change, the impact of climate change and the consequences of austerity
will have an impact on existing civil service systems, even though
formally no changes may have been forthcoming (so far). Furthermore,
the age of financial austerity, with its staff and wage freezes and squeezes,
is likely to have consequences on motivation, loyalty and competency,
even though no formal changes may have occurred in those areas (Lodge
and Hood, 2012; Vaughan-Whitehead, 2013).

4 National distinctiveness in civil service reform

trajectories and institutional influence: absorption and

Variation in patterns of change is a further way in which historical

institutional analysis can be applied to the study of civil service reform.
Evolving institutions structure the kind of issues that rise up the admin-
istrative reform agenda, and those that do not. They shape discussions
regarding the design of reforms. They also ‘filter’ environmental pressures
and external shocks, such as economic crises, or constraints imposed
by European Union or other supranational/transnational organizations.
Institutional arrangements are not just a constraint on reform; they also
offer institutional capabilities. Two particular institutional effects can be
distinguished: one is about absorbing, the other about shaping reforms.
Institutions rarely get transformed by the arrival of new ideas. Instead,
‘new’ ideas are incorporated into existing frames of action, but only
where they reinforce or succeed in replacing existing patterns of domi-
nance. In the area of civil service reform, reform initiatives may be
announced with great fanfare, but then vanish once these reform ideas
hit the ‘coal face’ of existing standard operating practices.
A good example of such an absorbing effect are reforms in the PSB
dimension of competencies and skills. Despite the universal spread of the
‘competency’ language for the assessment of civil servants’ aptitudes (in
terms of ‘excelling behaviors’) in the higher civil service throughout the
1990s, the national ‘competency’ policies were distinctively self-referen-
tial, in the sense of reflecting distinctly national characteristics (Hood
150 Philippe Bezes and Martin Lodge

and Lodge, 2004, 2005; Lodge and Hood, 2003). In the German case, a
number of debates regarding the competency and skills of civil servants
have been held since the early 1970s, but were repeatedly frustrated. For
example, in the 1970s competency was discussed while heated debates
were conducted about whether the German civil service was sufficiently
competent to deal with the complexities of the modern welfare state.
This debate died in the mid-1970s. The competency debate returned in
the 1980s, but was interrupted by the demands of unification. When
the Red–Green coalition returned to competency in its ‘activitating
state’ reform program, it again got ‘flooded away’ (the rising tides of
the river Elbe in 2002 led to reallocation of central resources away from
administrative reform and to crisis management). The German story,
however, is also one of departmental frameworks (given their constitu-
tional autonomy) as well as the continued importance given to subject
expertise as key feature of competency – rather than social aspects (such
as behavior) that had been long-standing features of German assessment
In the British case, the language of competency in terms of ‘excelling
behaviors’ emerged in the 1990s (later than Germany or the US) and
at the time of the establishment of the Senior Civil Service (SCS). The
SCS was in itself a compromise between some politicians who sought to
establish a New Zealand-type contract system and those who wanted to
preserve the traditional ‘serial loyalist’ system. The SCS was to establish
(preserve) a ‘go anywhere’ elite. As a result, competency was defined in
ways that resembled those of a typical go-anywhere Whitehall bureau-
crat rather than in terms of a German ‘subject expertise’ emphasis or
a managerial understanding of competence in the sense of minimal
standards that had been applied by the top public servants to the rest of
the public sector throughout the 1980s.
Other examples can be taken from the loyalty dimension of the PSB.
In Belgium, the Copernic reform, launched after the 1999 elections,
was said to redefine the relationship between ministers and civil serv-
ants. First of all, it replaced tenure by fixed-term contracts for the three
upper grades of the hierarchy. Furthermore, it also sought to reduce the
political influence during the recruitment process by introducing an
appointment process based on a comparative selection procedure oper-
ated by an independent public sector recruitment agency (de Visscher
and Salomonsen, 2013; de Visscher, Hondeghem et al., 2011). However,
political parties have resisted these reforms and party-political criteria
are still said to play an important role.
Civil Service Reforms, Public Service Bargains 151

Elsewhere, too, the importance of inheritance over reform announce-

ments has been emphasized. For example, Capano (2003) describes
how, in Italy, the ‘hegemonic paradigm’ of the administrative law tradi-
tion has survived and shaped the managerial turn of the Italian PSB
of the 1990s and 2000s. New tools did not replace the legal paradigm
of the Italian civil service, but were incorporated into existing frame-
works. This incorporation led to considerable side-effects: for instance,
because of the so-called ‘privatization’ of the employment relationship,
‘the collective bargaining of conditions of employment becomes an
instrument guaranteeing the rights and privileges of employees, rather
than an instrument of human resources management’ (Capano, 2003:
The shaping influence of institutions over reforms is visible in the
national varieties of civil service reform trajectories (Bach and Bordogna,
2011; Bezes and Parrado, 2013; Ongaro, 2009). National civil service
systems have responded in a variety of ways to external and internal
challenges, ‘filtered’ them and also responded in distinctly institutional
ways. Some countries (New Zealand, UK but also Italy) witnessed civil
service reforms in terms of organization, status and reward. Other states
(France, Spain) may have witnessed change in the wider political-ad-
ministrative system (e.g. through decentralization), but only gradual
and ‘at the margins’ reforms of their civil service systems. A third group
of countries (mostly Scandinavian countries) have developed along both
dimensions. They have witnessed profound changes to their civil service
systems but these occurred indirectly, through, for example, processes of
These varieties of civil service reform patterns can be related to the
different fit between opportunities and motives for change and insti-
tutions. On the one hand, political reformers have been more eager
to target civil service systems in some countries than in others. This
has required political motive. On the other hand, certain institutional
components of a civil service tradition also provide for different degrees
of opportunity, as they have been historically less entrenched and there-
fore more ‘mutable’ (Clemens and Cook, 1999) and more easily targeted
by reformers. In other words, some civil service systems and their PSB
may be less ‘robust’ than others because they are weakly entrenched or
less tied to stable support coalitions, while others are locked in because
they are defended by actors who have developed investments, inter-
ests, relationships or privileges in a particular arrangement (Gourevitch,
2000: 144–145, quoted in Pierson, 2004).
152 Philippe Bezes and Martin Lodge

Political systems such as the US that are characterized by two prin-

cipals rather than one have witnessed more gradual ‘NPM’ reforms,
despite much talk under Al Gore and his National Performance Review,
given the institutional jealousies of Congress and the President over the
bureaucratic agent.
Similarly, Bezes and Le Lidec (2007) suggest that the managerial PSB
is less likely to be developed in the French context because the Fifth
Republic highly ‘hybrid’ arrangement between politicians and top
bureaucrats (a mix between politicized and merit appointment princi-
ples) benefits both parts. The French PSB offers ministers the possibility
to share the blame with bureaucrats through ministerial cabinets; it also
creates low agency costs to keep public servants under control through
two ‘politicized’ mechanisms of appointment and control (cabinets and
appointments ‘at the discretion of the government’ in central directo-
rates). Finally, it also provides for a high degree of credible commitment.
Even if cabinet members are only loyal to the minister of the day, other
higher civil servants within the bureaucracy (or former cabinet members
who return to the administrations) will ensure the durability of meas-
ures. More generally, the historical features of the French civil service,
such as administrative training schools (such as the ENA), competitive
examinations, corps and grands corps, have not been dismantled. They
remain structuring institutions, although they have been ‘at the margin’
penetrated by new managerial devices (Eymeri, 2012).
In other words, the story of motive and opportunity offers a good
way to account for the variety of extent and type of civil service reform
across countries. However, there are other moments when such insti-
tutional arguments do not seem to apply. One example is Italy. Here, a
mix of NPMization and politicization of the top civil service took place
through a series of reform in 1993, 1998 and 2002 (Ongaro, 2011). This
change has been explained by a strengthening of the political execu-
tive as a result of changes to the electoral system (the introduction of
a majoritarian system at the center and the direct election of the presi-
dents of the regional, provincial and municipal executives). For Cassese
(2002) and Ongaro (2009), this change has affected Italian PSBs and has
led politicians to exert more politicized control on top bureaucrats by
granting themselves more power over appointments/dismissals. At the
same time, it has led to a redesign of managerial responsibilities for top
bureaucrats in order to make them more accountable and responsive.
The change in the Italian PSB has been described as moving from ‘a
condition for civil servants of low risk and stability “in exchange for”
Civil Service Reforms, Public Service Bargains 153

low power and low remuneration in exchange for instability and higher
risk’ (Ongaro, 2009: 165).
In contrast, Westminster systems such as New Zealand faced limited
formal resistance (Boston et al., 1991). Equally in Britain, the introduc-
tion of executive agencies was facilitated not only by strong political will
(and opportunities) but also by top civil servants and widespread institu-
tional fragmentation within the British core executive (Hogwood, 1993).
Managerialist ideas have been said to find more resonance in bureaucra-
cies like the UK where public servants’ loyalty is directed towards their
political master (‘the government of the day’) instead of something
more abstract, such as a constitution (Hood and Lodge, 2006; see also
Hondeghem and Steen, 2013). In some ways, the observed changes in
Anglo-Saxon civil service systems could be seen as ‘path-dependent’ in
that they extended and reformulated the traditional ‘professional orien-
tation’ that ‘takes advantages of the existing high social and economic
incentives for individuals to take on professional training and roles’
(Silberman, 1993: 13). Similarly, the distinctly ‘decentralized’ tone of
NPM-inspired reforms in Scandinavia has been linked to the pre-existing
emphasis on delegated authority (Christensen and Lægreid, 2002). As
argued by Jon Pierre (2004), the Social Democrat reform program was
mostly concerned with ensuring loyalty and compliance. Changes were
therefore tied to the inherited structures that also allowed, since the
1990s, for a growing politicization of agency appointments.

5 Civil service reforms in comparative perspective

So what, then, can be said about the value of an institutional perspec-

tive to civil service reforms? In this section, we consider a number of
questions that have underpinned debates over the past decade or so.
One key question is whether contemporary civil service reforms have
witnessed continued diversity or a trend towards convergence (Bach and
Bordogna, 2011; Hood and Lodge, 2006). Taking a PSB perspective high-
lights a number of responses to this question. One hardly surprising
response is that civil service systems have not witnessed a trend of
‘convergence’ in the sense of moving from a degree of distinctiveness
to a degree of growing similarity. Indeed, an institutional perspective
suggests that civil service systems are not in one ‘reform race’; different
systems are exposed to different pressures and vulnerabilities. In other
words, just as in the case of the supposedly Weberian bureaucracies that
displayed remarkable differences in the 19th century (Silberman, 1993),
154 Philippe Bezes and Martin Lodge

national civil service systems have not become alike. A second response,
however, is to suggest that national distinctiveness should not be over-
emphasized. There are common challenges that confront national civil
services, and there are considerable varieties within national civil service
systems that blur, to an extent at least, the degree of national distinctive-
ness. Indeed, an emphasis on informal institutions also highlights that
formal provisions can be ‘stretched’ in the light of changing expecta-
tions and understandings.
A second theme that emerges from an institutional argument is
that contemporary reforms have led to growing hybridity and diver-
sification. Civil service roles are usually about dealing with sometimes
competing logics of action (i.e. a managerial and a professional logic of
action). Therefore hybridity is not that surprising. However, what can
be observed is that different PSBs within national systems develop in an
interactive and responsive way. In some cases, the hybridization process
has been complexified by the fact that so-called neo-managerial reforms
have led to the return of some ‘bureaucratic’ tools. For example, the
extensive reforms in the New Zealand civil service established a formal
arrangement that the State Services Commission was to act as employer
of civil servants and assess their performance, therefore supposedly
safeguarding the ‘neutrality’ of the civil service. Similarly, the greater
prominence of ‘outsiders’ in the British core executive (in the form of
spin doctors, special advisors and civil service outsiders recruited into
the civil service) since 1997 has triggered the countervailing devel-
opment of greater codification and boundary controls between civil
service and party-political work for ‘normal’ civil servants. More gener-
ally, some scholars have emphasized trends towards centralization of
human resources management of the civil service, specifically for top
bureaucrats in France and the UK (Gally, 2012) or more globally for HR
functions (Truss, 2008). Growing diversification, and complexification,
generated scope for misunderstandings and conflict. These, in turn, trig-
gered further calls for civil service reforms, by politicians and civil serv-
ants alike.
A third theme is whether contemporary civil service system reforms
have witnessed growing ‘politicization’ (Eichbaum and Shaw, 2008,
2010; Mair et al., 2012; Peters and Pierre, 2004). David Lewis (2008, 2012)
has noted not just how politicization in terms of number of appoint-
ments has actually declined in number since the 1980s (in the US), but
also that the extent of political appointment in an agency is detrimental
to that agencies’ performance. Elsewhere, too, civil service watchers have
sought to develop an understanding as to whether civil services have
Civil Service Reforms, Public Service Bargains 155

witnessed increased party patronage or other forms of growing respon-

siveness to politics (Dahlström and Niklasson, 2013; Van Thiel, 2012).
As noted, the UK system has, in fact, witnessed growing codification
in terms of appointment and relationships with special advisors and
ministers, partly in response to concerns about ministerial involvement
in appointments, and the power of special advisors in decision making.
More generally, it is difficult to come to a conclusive finding that holds
across countries. After all, civil servants may be more open about their
party-political leanings than in the past; for example, the German
ministerial bureaucracy has always featured ‘Kampfgruppen’ (the term for
largely informal party networks within departments), and whether the
age of ‘club government’ (in the UK in particular) was ‘responsive’ to the
needs of the ruling political elite in earlier times of ‘club government,’
albeit not in terms of party membership, is worth exploring further. An
institutional perspective encourages the exploration of ‘who does what’
in bureaucracies, and whether the roles and expectations on civil serv-
ants have changed and whether previous roles have been filled by other
types of public servants (i.e. political advisors).
The fourth, and final, theme is whether nearly four decades of mana-
gerialism have made civil service systems more ‘managerial.’ An institu-
tional perspective as developed here would suggest that it is important
to go beyond reform slogans and announcements, and to explore to
what extent changes have actually become embedded in civil service
practices. It is undoubtedly the case that concern about performance
and measurement have affected reward systems, and not just in the
‘Anglo-Saxon’ paradigm cases. It is also not the case that the ‘managerial’
reforms have been all but abandoned, even though some observers have
noted the emergence of an age of ‘post-NPM’ (Christensen and Lægreid,
2007; Lodge and Gill, 2010). However, it is undeniable that changes
have occurred and are likely to have a degree of lasting effect, whether
this is a result of changing party politics or technologies, civil service
systems and their underlying PSBs. In other words, national civil service
systems are witnessing the pressure on long-established institutional
understandings and formal arrangements, and they deal with common
challenges such as ‘transboundary crises’ (Boin, 2009), the import of
programmatic ideas such as ‘audit’ and ‘risk management’ (Power, 1999,
2007), as well as societal change. In other words, change in civil service
systems, both as an intentional reform program and as gradual adapta-
tion to environmental change, leads to processes of continuities and
discontinuities, as well as complexification and differentiation (Lodge,
156 Philippe Bezes and Martin Lodge

6 Conclusion

This chapter has advanced two arguments. First, national civil service
systems are not simple constructs that are likely to respond in similar
ways to exogenous pressures. Instead, what has emerged are patterns
of different institutional configurations that consist of interdependent,
often complementary components. Civil service systems have not been
‘designed,’ but have evolved over time, in a process that resembles
layering, displacement and drift effects, as suggested by the historical
institutionalist literature. This chapter has argued that the causal mech-
anisms that have been identified by the historical institutionalist litera-
ture have a critical impact on the way in which civil service systems
evolve. In particular, we have argued that the discussion of reform
therefore also needs reconsideration. States are not in the same ‘reform
race’ (Hood and Lodge, 2005), but are engaged in dealing, in their varied
ways, with responses to peculiar side-effects arising from their distinct
PSBs and with common challenges that affect civil service systems more
generally, such as demographic change, austerity and climate change.
The second argument is that taking as a starting point the three compo-
nents of the PSB (career, competencies, loyalty) and the two modes of
variations (entrenchment and pervasiveness) should allow for consid-
erable scope for extensive comparative research. Using the conceptual
tools developed in institutional analysis allows for a more theoretically
informed analysis of both reproduction and change (Thelen, 2003).
We have pointed to the importance of looking not only at the various
components on their own as ‘opportunity structures,’ but also across
all five components. Civil service systems therefore emerge as complex,
non-linear, partly loosely coupled, partly tightly coupled systems that
have their own particular vulnerabilities and reform opportunities.

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Public Service Systems at
Subnational and Local Levels
of Government: A British–
German–French Comparison
Sabine Kuhlmann, Sylvia Veit and Jörg Bogumil

1 Introduction

The subnational and local levels of government have hitherto been

largely understudied in comparative civil service research. Against this
background this chapter focuses on two central questions. First, we
analyze whether and how the local public service and – if existing – the
subnational public service can be distinguished from the central state/
federal level of government and to what extent a ‘local public service
system’ or a ‘subnational public service system’1 can be identified with
specific structures and development patterns. Second, we question to
what extent and owing to what factors country-specific patterns and struc-
tures of local and subnational public employment, inherited from the
past, have been subjected to major changes and ruptures diluting histor-
ically ingrained differences or whether those national peculiarities of
local public services have been retained. In order to answer these two
compound questions we primarily draw on a literature review as well as
on official statistical data, and restrict ourselves to three cases: Germany,
France and the UK. The case selection is justified by the fact that these
three countries represent important models of European administrative
culture and crucial variations of decentralized institution-building and
public employment in Western Europe, the analysis of which is essential
to comparative public administration in general. These countries will be
scrutinized and compared with regard to the predominant features and
developmental patterns of public employment and human resources

Public Service Systems at Subnational and Local Levels 163

management at the local level of government (Section 2). In addition,

for the German case the subnational level – the public service systems in
the 16 federal states – will be analyzed because of its independent posi-
tion from both the national and the local level (Section 3). In the fourth
section of this chapter patterns of continuity and patterns of change
in the development of public service systems at subnational levels of
government will be discussed. We conclude with some final remarks.

2 Local public service systems in comparative perspective

The nature of local public service systems is not only linked with the
nature of public employment and civil service systems but also with
specific features of local government systems. Local personnel struc-
tures and public servants’ qualifications largely depend on the local
governments’ functional responsibilities. Furthermore, state–local inter-
action and the position of state authorities in relation to local authori-
ties strongly account for local governments’ weight within total public
employment. Territorial boundaries of the local system determine to a
large extent local functional ‘viability’ and thereby likewise local public
service structures and functioning. Therefore, we first provide a brief
overview of the three local government systems before examining and
comparing their specific local personnel structures.

2.1 Local government systems in Germany, France and the UK

Within the German federal and highly decentralized political system, the
municipalities (Gemeinden), the county-free cities (kreisfreie Städte), and
the counties (Kreise) enjoy a constitutional guarantee as institutions of
local self-administration (Art. 28, paragraph 2 Basic Constitutional Law;
Grundgesetz). They are basically responsible for all local public tasks (‘all-
purpose institutions’; Allzuständigkeit), which mirror a historical path
dependency dating back to the 19th century, when the communes came
up as functionally strong, multi-purpose organizations. Until today, a
peculiar feature of the German model can be perceived in the fact that
both state tasks and local self-administration functions are institution-
ally integrated at the local level (Wollmann, 1999), whereas only very
few (single-purpose) state agencies are operating at local level. This
strong model of local government was strengthened in the course of
the 1970s when, as a result of the territorial reforms, large units of local
authorities emerged, despite the fact that significant territorial differ-
ences between the Bundesländer still remained.2
164 Sabine Kuhlmann, Sylvia Veit and Jörg Bogumil

The French constitutional and administrative system was up to the early

1980s characterized by a very weak local self-government and a domi-
nant executive-centralist administration of the state, with the prefect as
the central figure. State administration within the ‘indivisible republic’
followed a strictly hierarchical structure ranging from the ministries in
Paris and the prefects – appointed by central government – as the chiefs
of the départements’ administration down to the municipalities. In addi-
tion to its own tasks the state administration fulfilled the départements’
and the prevailing number of the municipalities’ self-administration
tasks. The new constitutional situation of the year 1982 marked an all
but revolutionary rupture with the Jacobin tradition (Mabileau, 1996:
33), which is reflected in the fact that the prefect lost his strategic key
position in the local system. His executive function in the département
was transferred to the general council (conseil général). Furthermore, the
self-administration tasks of the départements, but also of the municipali-
ties were significantly expanded. Especially in the field of social welfare,
important parts of the prefect’s personnel were transferred to the dépar-
tements’ administration. Numerous new local administrative professions
came up in former state policies, and consequently the bandwidth and
professional composition of the local workforce changed significantly
(Bodiguel, 2004: 157).
The UK is – like France – historically a unitary state, which at the
same time was – contrary to France, but similar to Germany – distinctly
decentralized for the reason of its politically and functionally strong
local self-government which traces back to the 19th century. The
British model of local government is based on two conflicting insti-
tutional principles. First, according to the principle of ‘parliamentary
sovereignty,’ every political and constitutional question can be ruled
by a parliamentary law for which a simple parliamentary majority is
sufficient. Consequently the municipalities only have those compe-
tences they are explicitly assigned by parliament whereas all other
tasks are ‘ultra vires’ (Wollmann, 1999: 188). Second, within the tradi-
tion of ‘dual polity,’ according to which local and central govern-
ment functions are distinctly separated, the municipalities are in fact
endowed with extensive room for maneuver. While the central govern-
ment deals with legislation and ‘high politics,’ local authorities are
responsible for all local tasks and act as ‘multi-function’/‘all-purpose’
organizations. Owing to the fact that the British parliament prevented
the creation of central government branches at meso- and local levels
(Sharpe, 1993), British local governments were in charge of the whole
range of local social services, a large part of the education system and
Table 9.1 Local government systems (traditional profiles)3

Germany* France** United Kingdom***

Territorial structure
11,161 municipalities 26 regions England: Two-tier system: 27 counties,
107 ‘county-free’ cities 100 départements 201 (non-metropolitan) districts, Greater
295 counties 36,767 municipalities London: GLA + 32 boroughs and the City of
London; one-tier system: 36 metropolitan
districts, 56 other unitary authorities
Wales: 22 unitary authorities
Scotland: 32 unitary authorities
Northern Ireland: 26 district councils
Differences between the Länder Myriad of tiny communes (1754 Large administrative units (counties: 760,000
Nordrhein-Westfalen: 396 municipalities with on inhabitants on average) inhabitants, districts: 102,000 inhabitants
average 44,329 inhabitants 90 percent of all communes have less than on average)
Rheinland-Pfalz: 2306 municipalities with on 2000 inhabitants ‘Viable’ (partly over-sized) structures
average 1730 inhabitants Territorial fragmentation
Functional responsibilities/administrative structures
Communes as ‘multi-function’/ ‘all-purpose’ Communes with marginal functions Local authorities as ‘multi-function’/‘all-
institutions Predominance of the state (also in local purpose’ institutions (tradition of ‘dual
Integration of state and local self-administrative self-administration tasks) polity’)
tasks Many ‘deconcentrated’ (single-purpose) Few single-purpose state agencies at the local
Few single-purpose state agencies state authorities at the local level level
(95 percent of the state personnel) Comprehensive mandate in delivering social
services (‘municipal empires’)
Type of local government****
North Middle European Group Franco-Group Anglo-Group

* Source: Federal Statistical Office data: December 31, 2013. ** Source: http://www.collectivites-locales.gouv.fr/files/files/Publication_globale%281%29.pdf (March 25,
2014). *** Source: Kuhlmann and Wollmann (2014). **** According to Hesse and Sharpe (1991).
166 Sabine Kuhlmann, Sylvia Veit and Jörg Bogumil

numerous other local tasks for a long time. However, the traditional
‘ultra vires’ doctrine has been considerably attenuated under the
banner of ‘new localism,’ as proclaimed by the New Labour govern-
ment. This was first embarked on by the Local Government Act 2000
according to which local authorities were endowed with the task ‘to
promote the economic, social and environmental well-being of their
areas’ (cf. Wilson and Game, 2011: 32. With the explicit political goal
of strengthening local self-government, the Conservative–Liberal
coalition that was formed in May 2010 adopted the Localism Act on
November 15, 2011. This granted local authorities a ‘general power of
competence’ tantamount to a general competence clause (Kuhlmann
and Wollmann, 2014).

2.2 Peculiarities of local government employment

Different indicators can be applied to the question of the extent to which
the local public service constitutes a separate system of public employ-
ment with specific characteristics, structures and profiles. We will focus
on three aspects. First is the personnel ‘weight’ of local government
within the political and administrative system. This helps to measure the
significance of the local level within the entire system of public employ-
ment. Second, the legal embodiment of the local public service in the
three countries will be compared to show whether or not it has a separate
legal or institutional status apart from state/central government. Third,
the structural peculiarities of the local public service in contrast to the
upper levels of government will be analyzed and compared, confining
ourselves here to the status profiles.

2.2.1 Personnel weight

In all three countries the local level has a sizeable workforce which
reflects the important role of local government within the national
public sector. With a share of less than one-third in Germany, 35 percent
in France and 43 percent in the UK of total public employment, the
local public service consistently plays a decisive role within the national
public service system. There are significant differences between the
countries, though. These primarily arise from historical-institutional
imprints and path dependencies.
Despite changing governments in London and the extensive reforms
that have been pursued since the postwar period, the local public service
in the United Kingdom has shown itself to be remarkably stable and,
until the 1990s, even an expanding sector of the public service. Because
the local authorities are still responsible for school education, teachers
Public Service Systems at Subnational and Local Levels 167

are classified as local government employees, making up around one-

quarter of local staff (Schröter and Röber, 2000). In the early 1950s, local
governments still employed 1.4 million people, but this number grew to
1.8 million by 1962 and then reached almost 3 million in the mid-1970s.
Since the beginning of the 1990s local government personnel has been
reduced (by approximately 600,000 employees; see Table 9.2) as a result
of outsourcing and functional retrenchment. Up to today, the munici-
palities in the UK still have a high personnel size and a high density
of local employment. This mirrors the unequaled local strength within
the ‘dual polity’ model. Since 2010, there is a new decreasing trend in
local government employment in the UK owing to conversions (i.e.
local schools converting to academy status) and most recently the aboli-
tion of the regional Scottish police and fire services (Office for National
Statistics, 2013).
In France the Napoleonic centralism and the Jacobin tradition are
still – although decreasingly – influential, visible in the smaller size of
local compared to central public employment. Per 1000 French citizens,
there still are considerably more state servants (38) than local employees
(30). The state continues to have a larger share of public employ-
ment (44 percent) than the local levels (35 percent). Yet, the employ-
ment ratio between the state and the local levels has markedly shifted
towards the latter, which can undoubtedly be interpreted as a result of
the decentralization process in France (see further below). Today, local
governments encompass a greater share of the total public employment
than seven years ago (41 state servants compared to 23 local servants in
2005). Likewise, the local levels’ share of total public employment has
increased by 5 percent since 2005, whereas the state’s employment share
has markedly shrunk. Comparing France and the UK we can, however,
assume that the latter – despite the Thatcheristic ‘war against local
government’ – is still endowed with a stronger local workforce than –
meanwhile – decentralized France.
In Germany, too, the distribution of local employment across the three
levels of government (federation, Länder, communes) has remained
comparatively stable. The municipalities still represent 30 percent of the
total public employment (after the Länder with about 51 percent: see
Section 3). In this respect they are still a substantial cornerstone of the
public service which confirms the historic tradition of a strong local
self-administration. With its dual function of implementing state poli-
cies transferred by federal and Länder legislation on the one hand and
fulfilling own local self-administration tasks on the other, it forms the
backbone of the German public administration.
168 Sabine Kuhlmann, Sylvia Veit and Jörg Bogumil

Furthermore, the significance of the local public service can be meas-

ured by its share of general employment. In countries with a lean public
sector (like Germany) local governments, relative to total employment,
have a less important role as employers than in countries with an
extended public sector (like France). In Germany local public employ-
ment weighted by total employment has the least important position
in comparison to the other countries. This contrasts to Britain where
local public employment, with more than 8 percent of general employ-
ment, is at the top position, followed by France with 7 percent. These
figures reflect the evolution of the public sector. In Germany the share of
public employment as a percentage of the labor force (general employ-
ment) has decreased over the past two decades. Whereas it moved
between 16 and 17 percent in the 1980s (Derlien, 2008: 173), it was
then dramatically cut down during the 1990s, from 17.4 percent in 1991
to 12.5 percent in 2000. Today, the rate is 11.1 percent (Statistisches
Bundesamt, 2013), thus since the turn of the millennium being one of
the leanest among the OECD members (see also Derlien, 2002: 232).
The French public service, by contrast, continues to grow, irrespective
of the neo-liberal rhetoric under the former Sarkozy presidency (with
a rise in the quota from 17.8 in 1980 to 19.4 in 2001 up to 21.4 in
2012). In the UK, the share of public employment as a percentage of
general employment has slightly decreased from 20.2 percent in 1999
to 19.0 percent today (Table 9.2). However, these reductions are mainly
due to the reclassification of English further education colleges and

Table 9.2 Local public employment, general public employment and general
employment in country-comparative perspective 2012/2013

Local public Local public Public

Local public employment (% employment employment
employment of general public (% of general (% of general
Country (1,000) employment) employment) employment)

Germany* 1,386 30.0 3.3 11.1

France** 1,913 34.7 7.4 21.4
UK*** 2,448 43.2 8.2 19.0

Source: Translation of Statistisches Bundesamt*Figures for 2012 (June 30), Source: Federal
Statistical Office. ** Figures for 2012; including regions, départements, communes,
intermunicipal cooperation bodies (EPCI), établissements publics locales; http://www.
pdf; http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_Explained/index.php?title=File:Employed_
V2.png&filetimestamp=20130531091300 *** Figures for 2013 (second quarter); Source: Office
National Statistics, own calculations.
Public Service Systems at Subnational and Local Levels 169

English sixth form college corporations from the public to the private
sector in 2012. Hence, there was little change in the UK over the past
decade. Taking into consideration that the quota amounted to roughly
28 percent at the beginning of the Thatcher era (1981), it becomes clear
that the decrease of public employment in the UK and Germany was
about the same (roughly one-third of the public sector workforce was
cut down); the reduction process just started earlier in the UK (1980s)
than in Germany (1990s).

2.2.2 Legal distinction

In legal and institutional terms the degree of distinction between the
local public service on the one hand and the central state civil service
on the other, as a second indicator for measuring local public service
‘autonomy’ in comparative perspective, varies significantly between the
three countries.
Within the French model the local level has been quite visibly
acknowledged as a distinct sector of public employment. In the course
of the decentralization reforms, a specific territorial civil service
(Fonction Publique Territoriale: FPT) was created by law on January 26,
1984 – distinct from the state civil service (Fonction Publique de l’Etat:
FPE) – which was granted its own ‘statute’ and specific local provisions
(of course ruled by national legislation).
Before the reform of federalism in Germany in 2006, there were only
very few prescriptions within the German federal and Länder legislation,
which exclusively referred to the local public service personnel. Thus in
legal terms, the distinction between the state (federal/Länder) and the local
level of public employment was not very clear. Thus, local public servants
were basically subjected to the same nationwide uniform laws as the state
personnel. With the 2006 reform of federalism, this was changed. Since
then, the federal states have their own civil service legislation that also
applies to the communes. Wages, labor time and other working condi-
tions for public employees are not defined by civil service laws, but by
collective agreements. For employees in local administration the till then
nationwide uniform agreements Bundesangestelltentarif (BAT), MTArb and
BMT-G were replaced by the new Tarifvertrag Öffentlicher Dienst (TVöD)
in October 2005. The TVöD applies to employees at federal and local
level, whereas for employees at Länder level a separate agreement (TV-L)
was negotiated. Over the past decade, the local public service system in
Germany has become more diverse, because the employment conditions
for civil servants differ considerably (e.g. as regards labor time per week,
payment, and conditions for promotion).
170 Sabine Kuhlmann, Sylvia Veit and Jörg Bogumil

In the UK – unlike continental Europe – no explicit distinction is

made between public and private sector employment, even if public
employees – in particular those in ministerial administration – tradition-
ally have enjoyed certain privileges (e.g. a higher level of job security;
see Kuhlmann and Wollmann, 2014). In the areas of the military and
the police, there are also some restrictions with regard to the right to
strike and trade union activities. However, these provisions are neither
laid down in specific public service laws or statutes for civil servants,
separate from private labor law, nor are they recognized under common
law (Bach and Winchester, 2003: 286). Employment relations of public
employees are generally subject to free collective bargaining and
contractual negotiations between parties. Since the distinction between
the local government workforce and the central government civil serv-
ants in the UK is even more clear-cut than in France,4 different collective
bargaining authorities exist for public employees in central and local
government. Collective bargaining for local governments is organized
by the National Joint Council (NJC) for Local Government Services. This
clear-cut distinction between the local and central government levels
of public employment has even been reinforced by the new option for
local governments to negotiate their own local agreements in order to
replace the national one.

2.2.3 ‘Status structures’

Third, we draw upon the actual profiles and structures of the local public
service (compared with the other levels of public employment) and will
focus here on ‘status groups.’ In continental European countries the
local level has turned out to be a forerunner in challenging and ques-
tioning traditional ‘status models’ in public employment practice. The
national legislator, by contrast, continues to stick to the traditional stat-
utes for civil servants.
In Germany, there are two status groups in the public service (civil
servants: Beamte and employees: Angestellte). Civil servants’ employ-
ment conditions are regulated in public service laws. The employ-
ment conditions of employees in the public service, however, are
based on civil law. Wages and working hours are negotiated between
the employer (i.e. the state) and trade unions, and fixed in collective
agreements (contracts). Over the past decades, the traditional duality
of the status groups has lost importance at local level, especially in the
East German states where the local civil servants’ quota is distinctively
lower (ranging from 4.2% in Brandenburg to 8.5% in Mecklenburg-
Vorpommern) than in West Germany (with, e.g. 12.5% in Bayern and
Public Service Systems at Subnational and Local Levels 171

20.2% in Nordrhein-Westfalen) (dbb 2014: 13, own calculation; data for

June 30, 2012). In fact, an almost single-status system in the munici-
palities has meanwhile evolved with East Germany at the very top. Civil
servants who are still predominant at the federal and the Länder levels
are increasingly disappearing. Today, on average 13.4 percent (Source:
Translation of Statistisches Bundesamt. Federal Statistical Office; data for
June 30, 2012) of the personnel at local level are civil servants whereas
the majority 86.6 percent are employees (Angestellte). Thus the (British)
model of collective bargaining is coming to the fore, which stands in
marked contrast to the federal and Länder civil services with their Beamten
quota of 54.3 percent (excluding soldiers) and 55.4 percent, respectively
(Source: Translation of Statistisches Bundesamt. Federal Statistical Office;
data for June 30, 2012).
The British system is not familiar with status differences in the German
and French sense, taking into account that the traditional distinction
between ‘manuals’ and ‘non-manuals’ as ‘status groups’ does not imply
strict legal differences. Nonetheless, British local authorities have like-
wise been forerunners in blurring and abolishing traditional employ-
ment (or ‘status’) structures. The ‘single status agreement’ passed in 1997
by the NJC for Local Government Services made an end to the common
differentiation of manuals and non-manuals – at least in formal terms.
The local government services were the first to embark on a ‘single status
model’ in the UK.
The same basically applies to the French local governments, which
were path-breaking in the development of a ‘two status system’ evolving
in France. For it is mainly the communes which employ significant
parts of (private-law-based) ‘contractuels,’ owing to the fact that the
approximately 60,000 local employers (see Fialaire, 2014: 1) increasingly
prefer flexible (partly subsidized: emplois aidés) employment contracts.
Consequently the traditional employment via ‘statut’ is being pushed
back, particularly and mainly by the local employment practice whereas
national legislation is more hesitating in this regard. In 2008, the Rapport
Silicani that was published during the Sarkozy presidency in 2008
(see Rapport Silicani, 2008) proposed a radical expansion of contrac-
tual (‘non-statute’) employment and a rapprochement to private-law-
based working contracts in the public sector. However, contrary to this
proposal, the more recent Rapport Pêcheur presented in 2013 (see Rapport
Pêcheur, 2013) underlined the great importance of the traditional system
of ‘statut’ not least as a ‘trigger of motivation for civil servants’ (facteur
de motivation des fonctionnaires; see Marcou, 2014: 3). These statements
notwithstanding, the share of contract-based employment relations has
172 Sabine Kuhlmann, Sylvia Veit and Jörg Bogumil

in fact considerably increased during the past decades, which the Sénat
critically referred to as a ‘quantitative invalidation of the statut system’
at the local level of government (Sénat, 2014: 2).
In all three countries conspicuous peculiarities can be observed
concerning the local status profiles and developments that support the
theory of local public service constituting a specific subsystem of public
employment. Local governments have been the front-runners in chal-
lenging and reforming traditional status profiles, while national legisla-
tors as well as state public services showed resistance.

3 Public service systems in the German federal states

The Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) consists of 16 federal states

(Länder). Since only very few administrative tasks are carried out by the
federal administration (e.g. civil administration of the military, embas-
sies, the border police, inland waterways, customs and partly tax admin-
istration), responsibility for the implementation of most federal law and
for all Länder laws lies with the Länder, whereas the Federation domi-
nates the lawmaking process with only a few lawmaking competences
remaining solely at the Länder level.5 This constitutional division of
competences leads to an intense vertical coordination between execu-
tive politicians and bureaucrats at federal and Länder level in Germany.
Therefore, the political-administrative system of the FRG is often referred
to as ‘executive federalism’ with a high degree of ‘joint decision making’
(Politikverflechtung) (Benz, 1999; Scharpf, 1988). As a result, federal and
state ministries are quite similar with regard to their internal organiza-
tion, recruitment patterns, and the reward and promotion system. Thus,
turnover of ministerial civil servants from the Länder level to the federal
level (and vice versa) is quite common in Germany.
Apart from ministerial administration, however, federal and Länder
public service systems differ considerably, and this is mainly due to
their different functional responsibilities. Excluding the ministries, the
‘typical’ federal public servant is a soldier (Bogumil and Jann, 2009: 96),
whereas in the Länder administrations, most public servants are teachers
(36.4%) or university staff (21.0%), policemen (11.3%), employees/civil
servants in courts or prisons (7.5%), or in the tax administration (6.2%)
(Statistisches Bundesamt 2013: 58; data for June 30, 2012).
In total, 2,346,500 people work in the public service at Länder level in
Germany. Länder public employment accounts for 5.4 percent of general
employment in Germany. Summing up local and Länder public employ-
ment, 8.6 percent of general employment in Germany is subnational
Public Service Systems at Subnational and Local Levels 173

public employment (Source: Translation of Statistisches Bundesamt

Federal Statistical Office; data for June 30, 2012). Thus, as regards its
share in total public employment the subnational public service in
Germany is even bigger than in France or the UK (see Section 2.2).
As regards the two status groups – employees and civil servants – the
Länder public service systems differ considerably. On average, 44.6 percent
of the public servants in Länder administrations are employees, and
55.4 percent civil servants (Source: Translation of Statistisches Bundesamt
Federal Statistical Office; data for June 30, 2012). As at local level, there
is a huge variation regarding the share of civil servants in the different
states – ranging from 26.3 percent in Sachsen or 31.4 percent in
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (both situated in East Germany) to more than
60 percent in many West German states, such as Bayern, Niedersachsen
and Nordrhein-Westfalen (dbb, 2014: 13; own calculation, data for June
30, 2012). These differences can partly be explained by varying prac-
tices in the Länder as regards the legal status of teachers: in several East
German states teachers usually are public employees whereas in most
West German states teachers are civil servants.
Differences between the Länder, however, not only apply to the
share of the two status groups, but since the reform of federalism in
2006 also to the legal regulation of the public service systems and to
the collective agreements that apply to public employees at Länder and
local level. Some Länder have introduced a new system of civil servant
categories/career groups (Laufbahngruppen). Bayern has even abolished
the traditional system of career groups according to level of education
and replaced it with a uniform career system with different qualifica-
tion levels. After the reform of federalism, many Länder have intro-
duced their own regulations on payment, working time, pensions and
the career system. As to public employees, there is less diversity because
of the TV-L, a collective agreement that came into force in October
2006. There are some exceptions in this regard: First, the TV-L defines
no uniform rules as to the working time per week in different states.
Second, there are Länder-specific agreements for teachers, leading to
substantial differences in the wages of teachers. The TV-L is directly
applicable in 14 out of the 16 Länder (except Berlin and Hessen).
As a consequence, the Länder public service systems – and hence
also the local public service systems in Germany – have become more
diverse.6 As to its legal foundations, that is, the rights and obligations
of civil servants, this is a relatively new development that started with
the reform of federalism in 2006. Because of the different functions of
national and subnational public service systems however, federal, state
174 Sabine Kuhlmann, Sylvia Veit and Jörg Bogumil

and local public service systems have always been characterized by

considerable differences.

4 Public service development at subnational levels of

government: between inertia and rupture

4.1 Patterns of continuity

Very distinct structures and profiles of subnational and particularly local
public employment evolved in the three countries under scrutiny here.
They have largely been shaped by different ‘starting conditions’ and
long-lasting historical traditions. These illustrate the formative influ-
ence of past institutional choices and historically ingrained structures
which at least in the basic structures determine the local landscape
even in recent times. The duality between the continental European
(Hegelianic respectively Rousseauistic) state tradition on the one hand
and the (utilitarian-liberal) public interest tradition on the other, proves
to be a particularly influential inheritance in the three countries.
These traditions are reflected to this day in the different legal arrange-
ments of employment contracts in the subnational public service.
Within the British public interest tradition, which perceives the state
and local public service as a part of society, the regulative competence
of public employment is assigned to the bargaining units (except
teachers) and is part of normal industrial relations. In France and
Germany, public employment of civil servants is regulated by legislation
(Dienstrecht/statut): national legislation in France and mainly Länder
legislation in Germany. The prevailing legal and institutional distinction
between private and public employment is conceptually derived from
their rule of law principle and the Rechtsstaats tradition of continental
Europe. Though the traditional status models in the local practice have
become increasingly blurred, significant differences between the coun-
tries remain. The French municipalities are still dominated by the tradi-
tion of the strong statut, the British local governments by the model of
free collective bargaining and the German communes and Länder by the
duality of status groups. Contrary to the Länder, German local govern-
ments have, however, nearly attained a ‘single status system’ by largely
renouncing the Beamten status, whereas in France the trend from the
‘single status system’ to a new ‘two status structure’ is moving in the
opposite direction.
The distribution of the local workforce by sectors of activity, too,
reflects continuity over time, which again is molded by historical
Public Service Systems at Subnational and Local Levels 175

imprints. While in the UK the outstanding significance of the education

sector (50% of the personnel) with the teachers as its spine is striking
(Schröter and Röber, 2000), in France the prevailingly ‘technical’ func-
tion (planning, public utilities, construction, infrastructure) of local
government is striking (also about 50%). In Germany, the profile of the
local workforce is determined by the communes’ mandate in local social
policies. This main focus of employment has been broadly stable since
the 1960s.

4.2 Patterns of change

In recent decades a series of incisions and changes have occurred that
heralded sustained modification of the significance of public personnel
at subnational level. They are primarily evidence of the functional shift
between local governments and state on the one hand and public and
private sector on the other. In addition, in Germany the reunification
in 1990 have played a significant role for changes in local and Länder
public employment over the last pwo decades.
In the wake of the ‘neo-liberal revolution’ in the UK the density of
local government employment decreased from 53 employees per 1000
inhabitants in 1991 to 40 today. Consequently, the traditionally strong
local government system in the UK was awkwardly weakened. Local
authorities lost their financial autonomy completely and were forced
to contract out numerous local services to private providers (e.g. refuse
disposal, school restaurants, street cleaning and maintenance). Although
‘compulsory competitive tendering (CCT)’ was abolished by New Labour
and replaced with the ‘Best Value System’ (see below), the pressure
towards outsourcing still persists today (Bender and Elliot, 1999: 295;
Reimer, 1999: 157). One impact of the competitive tendering has been
the reduction of about 600,000 employees since the beginning of the
1990s which is more than 20 percent of the entire local workforce. The
municipalities felt impelled to reduce staff when they were conquered
by private suppliers and the respective staff members were made redun-
dant. Furthermore, even the staff in the successful in-house teams were
reduced in order to keep competitiveness with private firms in terms of
labor costs (Bender and Elliott, 1999: 296). In addition, numerous ‘time
honored’ local tasks have been transferred to single-purpose state agen-
cies and quangos operating at the local level (see Jones, 2008; Skelcher,
Although in Germany marketization and contracting out only played
a minor role, German local governments as well as Länder administra-
tions witnessed even more dramatic cutbacks of their workforce. By
176 Sabine Kuhlmann, Sylvia Veit and Jörg Bogumil

contrast, these were primarily due to the national budgetary crisis, to

necessary adjustments of overstaffed East German authorities as well
as to the more recent privatization activities prompted by EU market
liberalization (especially in public utility sector, cf. Wollmann, 2002).
Thus, local public employment in Germany has shrunk within only one
decade – from 1990/1991 to 2000/2001 – by more than one-fourth (see
Table 9.3), and in East Germany even more, by more than 50 percent. As
a result Germany today has fewer local public employees per 1000 inhab-
itants than France, where the local public service is a clearly expanding
employment sector – not least with regard to the ‘second wave’ of
decentralization (the so-called Acte II de la décentralisation). It is striking
that local public employment in France has been considerably extended
during recent decades (by more than 60% since the 1990s) despite the
financial crisis and regardless of the neo-liberal discourses pursued by
former Conservative governments. However, this tendency of an ever
and significantly increasing local public service seems to be unparalleled
by other European countries (see Kuhlmann and Wollmann, 2014). In
Germany, by contrast, we have witnessed serious employment cutbacks
at all levels of government. Not only the local governments, but also
the Länder administrations were downsized – by about one-fourth over
the past two decades, from 2,572,000 Länder public servants in 1991
to 1,940,700 in 20107 (Statistisches Bundesamt, 2003, 2011). Again,
personnel reduction was much higher in East Germany than in West
Germany. Nonetheless, the number of Länder public employees per 1000
inhabitants today is still slightly higher in East German states (18.89)
than in West German states (18.04).8

Table 9.3 Development of local public employment in country-comparative


Local public Local public Local public Local public

employees employees employees employment change
per 1000 per 1000 per 1000 1990/1991–2012
inhabitants inhabitants inhabitants
BB 1990/1991 2000/2001 2012 1000 %

Germany* 25.2 17.8 17.2 –560 –28.8

France** 20.2 23.3 29.7 +746 +64.0
UK*** 52.5 45.8 40 –482 –15.7

* Without German Länder. Data for 1990/1991 and 2000/2001: Kuhlmann and Röber (2006);
data for 2012: Statistisches Bundesamt (2014) and dbb (2014). ** http://www.fonction-
Direction Générale des collectivités locales and DESL (2004, 2005, 2006). *** Source: Office
National Statistics http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/pse/public-sector-employmen.
Public Service Systems at Subnational and Local Levels 177

These shifts reveal that the convergent neo-liberal trend did not lead
to the same cuts in all European local public service systems. While the
German local and Länder public service has decreased in size and the
traditionally strong German model of local self-administration appears
to be questioned, in the meantime the former Jacobin state of France
has created strong local administrative bodies, at least where personnel
weight is concerned. In the UK the neo-liberal and increasingly central-
istic reform initiatives of the government have an impact on a shrinking
local employment sector threatening the traditionally strong British
local government model.
Regarding the internal structures of local public service systems and
methods of human resource management, some remarkable changes
occurred. In all three countries the New Public Management (NPM)-
inspired approach of performance-oriented public sector moderniza-
tion has produced significant impacts on the local public service, yet in
different ways.
In Germany, the NPM-guided ‘New Steering Model’ (Neues
Steuerungsmodell – NSM; see Bogumil and Kuhlmann, 2004; Kuhlmann,
2004), which spread over the local landscape in the 1990s, was directed
at modernizing the traditional methods of human resource manage-
ment (i.e. inflexible, bureaucratic and completely lacking performance
incentives). New instruments and procedures were required that would
ensure a flexible employment practice as well as adequately support and
challenge the local employees’ capabilities. According to the findings of
a comprehensive research project on NSM evaluation in German local
authorities (see Bogumil and Kuhlmann, 2006; Bogumil et al., 2007;
Kuhlmann, Bogumil and Grohs, 2008),9 innovative elements of human
resource management have indeed increasingly been tested at the local
level. Sixty-two percent of the mayors stated that appraisal interviews
have been implemented, 56 percent report on elements of teamwork,
47 percent of confidential reports and 35 percent of new methods of
selection. Performance-related pay was introduced at local level in
2007,10 starting with 1 percent of monthly pay. It is intended that up
to 8 percent of a public servant’s salary relates to individual perform-
ance. Since acceptance for payment differences in the public service in
Germany still is low, performance-related payments are usually distrib-
uted broadly among local employees (Schmidt, Müller and Trittel, 2011).
Thus, in most cases there is no active implementation of performance-
related pay as a human resource strategy, but a rather slow and incre-
mental implementation (Jörges-Süß and Süß, 2011). At Länder level,
performance-related human resource management was not a core issue
178 Sabine Kuhlmann, Sylvia Veit and Jörg Bogumil

of public sector reform over recent decades. However, there are some
efforts to strengthen human resource management as a result of demo-
graphic change and budget restrictions. Performance-related pay has
been introduced successfully for some groups of public servants such as
university professors, but does not play any greater role for most parts of
Länder administrations, e.g. ministerial civil servants, school teachers or
policemen. Since the reform of federalism modernization efforts in the
Länder public service systems have been diversified.
The debate on performance-related human resource management also
gained ground in France. The system of increments according to the
seniority principle (ancienneté) and the lump sum granting of extra pay
(local allowance, family allowance, and so on) without any relation to
individual performance are in the spotlight of criticism claiming that
the egalitarian salary and pay system (gestion égalitaire) that evolved
over decades must be complemented by performance-related elements.
Meritocratic appraisal procedures (Bodiguel, 2004: 164) are required
which would allow public managers to distinguish between good and bad
performance. Basically, a three-stage payments system is arrogated with a
uniform basic pay (traitement de base) for all employees belonging to the
same salary group. Second, a supplement in relation to the specific func-
tion or position would be granted (complément lié à l’emplois occupé) and
third, a performance-related pay (complément indemnitaire de rendement/
prime de service) would be available. In order to determine the perform-
ance-related pay, appraisal interviews between the employee and his or
her superior were suggested. Yet, it must be recalled that French civil
service law already stipulated appraisal interviews (entretien d’évaluation)
20 years ago, although the debate on the performance-related pay got
momentum later (cf. Lemmet and Creignou, 2002: 73). A compulsory
‘evaluation/grading’ (notification) of the public servants’ professional
skills (valeur professionelle) by their superiors – ranging from grade 1 to
grade 20 – was already fixed in the mid-1980s. Local employers can thus
refer to these already existing instruments of personnel review when
dealing with new performance-related evaluation measures.
Comparing the three countries, there can, however, be little doubt
that in the UK performance management plays the most important
role in reforming local public service. This does not only apply to the
widespread (and often criticized) debate on performance-related pay,
but in particular to the (even more criticized) approaches of meas-
uring and controlling local government performance on the basis of
mainly centrally defined performance indicators that are checked by
central government auditors and inspectors. Over the last one and a
Public Service Systems at Subnational and Local Levels 179

half decades, in the UK a close network of inspectorates and auditing

instances was developed (a central Audit Commission, Inspectorates
and authorized private industrial auditors) (Wollmann, 2004) to admin-
ister central and regional government-instructed performance manage-
ment systems. For local public servants the consequences of the various
and often reformed performance frameworks in England, Wales and
Scotland since the turn of the millennium (for an overview see Martin
et al., 2013) were above all a growing workload and increasing transac-
tion costs. Undoubtedly, performance measurement requires additional
resources of time and workforce for reporting and evaluation activities,
for preparing the inspections, dealing with inspectors and responding to
their reports. As a consequence day-to-day workload increased consider-
ably. Thus, the implementation of performance frameworks in the UK
‘has been a costly process in its direct costs and in time taken from
other tasks’ (Stewart, 2003: 133, 209; cf. also Hood et al., 1999: 101),
and it also turned out to be de-motivating for staff. Today, reformed
performance regimes are still in place in Scotland (Best Value Audits)
and Wales (Wales Programme for Improvement). In England, the 2010
General Election led to ‘an abrupt “punctuation” in policy as the new
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government ordered
an immediate end to work on CAA [Comprehensive Area Assessment]
and the abolition of the Audit Commission’ (Martin et al. 2013: 278).
Instead, a voluntary program of corporate peer challenges conducted
by local authority leaders, chief executives and other senior officers
(Downe and Martin, 2012) was introduced. Owing to the different
performance management regimes and their development during the
last decade, local public service systems in Wales, Scotland and England
have become more diverse.

5 Conclusion

Our findings give support to the assumption that the local public service
constitutes a relatively distinct system of public employment. It does not
only carry a substantial weight of the public workforce but is, above all,
an important pillar and backbone of the entire politico-administrative
system at national and supranational levels. A capable and viable as well
as politically accountable local self-government appears to be a decisive
precondition for the functioning of the entire democratic order. Against
this background current reform initiatives in the OECD world have been
directed towards transferring responsibilities, resources and powers from
upper to lower tiers of government, thereby further strengthening the
180 Sabine Kuhlmann, Sylvia Veit and Jörg Bogumil

local level. These reform strategies are necessary and, moreover, seem to
be promising, taking into account that in many countries local govern-
ments are also the forerunners of public sector modernization. This may
on the one hand be due to the more urgent (also financial) problems
and pressures at reform. On the other hand it seems also to be related
to the attributes and dedications of the local personnel acting in a more
flexible way with reform instruments and behaving in a more prag-
matic and output-oriented manner than is the case at other political
and administrative levels. This behavior, again, results from the imme-
diate proximity to the local arena, to local problems and to the citizens.
Success and failure of public sector reforms thus largely depend on the
degree to which local government is involved and may expect to benefit
or not from these reform measures. The above-mentioned cuts that the
local public services in Germany and the UK suffered in the course of
the NPM reform, EU liberalization and national budgetary crises appear
to be precarious setbacks. They conspicuously contradict the ongoing
trend of devolution and decentralization in Europe (cf. Stoker, 1991:
7; Vetter and Kersting, 2003: 16) which was described here for France.
From a more ‘normative’ point of view we would thus finally plead for
a design and direction of public sector reform appropriate to further
and reinforce local government’s pivotal position within the politico-
administrative system. From the more ‘scientific’ perspective we suggest
that future administrative research should take up the challenge to put a
greater analytical emphasis on the subnational and local levels of public
service systems and thus to fill this ‘missing link’ in comparative public
administration research.

1. We use the term ‘public service system’ instead of ‘civil service system’ in order
to distinguish it from the concept of ‘civil service’ which primarily refers to
central government personnel (see Bekke, Perry and Toonen, 1996: 1).
2. Accordingly, the German model resembles partially the British territorial
system (northern parts of Germany) and partially the French model (southern
and eastern Länder).
3. We leave aside here the ‘political profile’ of local governments because it is not
in the immediate focus of this article.
4. This traces back to the tradition of ‘dual polity,’ according to which local
employees are explicitly not regarded as being ‘civil servants.’
5. With the reform of federalism in 2006, a more clear-cut division of compe-
tences between the Federation and the Länder was aspired to and the Länder
got some new lawmaking competences, but this did not change the basic
institutional architecture of the German federalism.
Public Service Systems at Subnational and Local Levels 181

6. However, the range of diversity is hitherto not very large, owing to (1) consti-
tutional rules (Art. 33, paragraph 5 GG), (2) the restricting jurisprudence of
the Federal Constitutional Court, which is interpreting the general princi-
ples of the civil service law very traditionally, (3) the right of the federal
legislature to define fundamental rights and obligations of all civil servants
(but not remuneration, pension rules, etc.), and (4) voluntary coordination
between the Länder in order to prevent barriers to horizontal and vertical
personnel turnover in the German public service (Wolff, 2011).
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Middle-level Officials and Policy
Edward C. Page

1 Introduction

Although you would not know it from the amount of academic atten-
tion they attract, senior civil servants do not account for the totality
of civil service ‘policy makers’ (for an overview of recent comparative
studies of the civil service see Horton, 2011). The terms ‘senior’ or ‘top’
and ‘policy makers’ are extremely imprecise. We do not have a ready
way of defining which particular civil servants are and are not involved
in making ‘policy’: all employees make decisions of some sort, but not
necessarily of the kind that political scientists would consider policy
decisions, whether because they are humdrum detail or the ‘imple-
mentation’ decisions of ‘street level bureaucrats’ (Lipsky, 1980). To
define anyone as a policy maker as opposed to being involved in policy
development raises further problems of definition. Numbers of those
described as ‘top’ civil servants can range from several dozen to several
hundreds even for the same country depending on how many ranks or
grades one decides to include in the definition (see Halligan, 2012: 116).
Moreover, while scholars make efforts to offer comparable definitions of
‘senior’ in different countries (see the essays in Page and Wright, 1999),
one recent attempt to define it conceded that it was unable to offer one
and settled for a ‘compromise’ (see Kuperus and Rode, 2008). So it is not
possible to say with any confidence how small or large a proportion of
civil servants who are involved in policy making fall into the category of
‘senior.’ Whether all of those who are in the very senior grades are policy
makers, and how many of those below the very top grades fall into this
category are also moot points.
We can point to a range of features of policy making that suggest that
significant portions of the action in shaping policy involve officials who

186 Edward C. Page

are not among the most senior. It is a widespread characteristic of senior

officialdom in many developed nations that top officials are ‘general-
ists.’ Even if their education can be described as ‘specialist,’ as one might
describe the dedicated education provided by Grandes Ecoles in France
or a legal training in Germany, officials who occupy top positions do
not generally reach them because of their knowledge of a particular
policy area. While the US is a partial exception here, where agencies
tend to ‘focus on an applicant’s technical skills, rather than leadership
and management skills’, the job of being a top official tends to be domi-
nated less by working on technical policy issues and more by matters of
corporate organizational leadership and political management. A lot of
the detailed but important policy work is done by grades below, some-
times far below, the very top (for an excellent account of the range of
interactions, including with officials usually involved officials engaged
in putting together a law in France see Bonnaud and Martinais, 2008;
Howlett and Wellstead, 2011; by the team surrounding Renate Mayntz
also showed this especially effectively: see Mayntz et al., 1973). Relatively
junior officials can occupy positions in ‘staff’ or advisory bodies and
this can give them significant roles in key policy issues (Goetz, 1999:
154). Moreover, some systems, notably that of the European Union, are
claimed to have ‘flatter hierarchies’ that give middle-level officials bigger
roles in policy making than differently structured administrative systems
(Stevens and Stevens, 2000: 223).
The central point is that there are many civil servants who might be
expected to be involved in making policy decisions about whom we
know relatively little. The focus of studies of the civil service, whether
they be comparative or studies of a single country, is generally with the
senior ranks and we know far less about those below these ranks. The
main argument of this chapter is that if we try to apply to these middle-
level officials the kinds of theories and assumptions that we appear
happy to apply to senior officials we are likely to arrive at an untenable
and possibly absurd portrait of how policy making works at this level.
By exploring how and why such views are untenable we can not only
cast some light on how large parts of policy making work, we can also
raise questions about whether the same theories and assumptions really
apply even to the top levels in the way we think.

2 How middle-level policy work is understood

The focus on conceptualizing civil service roles in policy making is so

heavily skewed towards the senior ranks that the understanding of less
Middle-level Officials and Policy 187

elevated officials is to a significant degree implicit. Let us call these offi-

cials ‘middle level,’ albeit recognizing that, like the terms ‘senior’ or ‘top,’
they can be defined in different ways. The term is used simply to refer
to officials from grades usually not considered senior or top: grades five,
six or seven rungs down from the very top, though this varies according
to the different grading systems. There are broadly two non-mutually
exclusive ways of understanding their roles. The first is what might be
termed the ‘policy-pay grade’ approach. This suggests that just as there
are differences in pay grade and rank between civil servants, there is a
similar hierarchy of policy decisions, with higher-order policy decisions
being the province of the senior officials and lower orders the responsi-
bility of those in less elevated ranks.
While we will try to define more adequately what this hierarchy might
look like below, the policy-pay grade approach can work either at the
level of the type of decision or at the level of the type of issue. As regards
type of issue, this would envisage that some issues are too important
or politically sensitive for middle-level officials and would lead to the
expectation that officials below the very top grades will not have much
involvement in them (see, e.g. Dowding, 1995: 28 ). Thus, for example,
decisions to increase or cut the size of the armed forces would certainly
be above middle-level officials’ pay grade, yet these officials might have
more influence when it comes to deciding which demographic charac-
teristics should trigger the award of financial support for a community
broadband scheme. As regards the type of decision, politicians and/or
senior officials might be expected to set out the broad contours or frame-
work of a policy and less elevated civil servants could then be relied
upon to fill in the detail. So middle-level officials might well be involved
in putting together a policy reducing the size of armed forces, but only
under the direction or supervision of those in higher pay grades.
The second broad approach to understanding the position of middle-
level officials is a delegation approach. In this perspective, policy is a
sometimes intricate pattern of contracting, sub-contracting and sub-
sub-contracting (see Kassim and Menon, 2003; Weingast, 1984). The
principal, usually but not always a politician, delegates powers to an
agent, here an official. The terms of the delegation (which is conceived
of being much like a contract) specifies what is delegated – that is, what
can be decided by the agent without detailed referral to the principal
for approval – and outlines the rights and obligations of agent and
principal as well as some form of mechanism to enforce the terms of
delegation. Unlike the policy-pay grade approach, higher-order policy
decisions can be delegated. In fact, there are all kinds of benefits, not
188 Edward C. Page

least blame avoidance, that can come from delegating even the most
politically sensitive decisions to others (for a discussion of blame avoid-
ance see Hood, 2010). In the sense that senior officials and politicians
decide what is to be delegated and how, they are still in charge, much
like the ‘policy-pay grade’ approach in this respect. Delegation is about
‘deliberate discretion’: consciously allocating some powers to others for
when it suits the politicians to do so and keeping hold of the issues or
types of decision politicians care most about and do not trust others to
handle (Huber and Shipan, 2002).
The delegation approach places much importance on the contract or
terms under which powers are delegated (see Krause, 2010 for a review
of this approach). In particular, such terms can include clear guidance
on how the decisions are to be taken and upon the procedural rules
that have to be observed when they are taken. Such procedural rules
help ensure compliance with the principal’s wishes where the guidance
is unclear or is being ignored. ‘Deck stacking’ are procedural rules that
mean that some groups – the ones that are more likely to share the views
of the political principals – are given some say in how this discretion
is exercised, ensuring that the decisions of think are likely to support
the intentions of the principal. Norms of consultation with interest
groups are common examples of such rules. If particular groups, say
those representing manufacturing industry, have to be consulted, they
are being offered in principle a chance to help shape the policy and the
deck is stacked in their favor. ‘Fire alarms,’ procedures that trigger the
attention of the principals and force them to review and possibly over-
ride the actions of the agents (McCubbins, Noll and Weingast, 1987).
Instead of the principals having to monitor everything their agents do
(the ‘police patrols’ version of principal supervision), they can concen-
trate on issues that are explicitly brought to their attention as problem-
atic. A rule that requires senior political or official approval for decisions
contested by other agencies or by interest groups would constitute such
a ‘fire alarm.’
Both the delegation and policy-pay grade approaches tend further
to make the assumption that relationships between politicians and/
or senior officials on the one hand and less elevated officials on the
other are latently adversarial. Left to their own devices, junior bureau-
crats ‘when making decisions will attempt to maximize their own values
to the extent possible’ (Meier and Hawes, 2009: 273). Similarly, for the
delegation theorist, the inherent tendency of bureaucrats to shirk – to
produce outcomes that might favor their own interests and preferences
rather than those of their political principal – is constrained by the
Middle-level Officials and Policy 189

terms under which a set of activities is delegated and the procedural

constraints that follow from these terms (see Brehm and Gates, 1997).

3 Do these assumptions hold?

The assumptions we make about officials below the very top ranks who
are involved in policy are based upon a range of conjectures about their
work: how it is organized, what it involves and how they go about it.
These conjectures are more often based on guesswork and surmise than
any observation of what these officials do. The work of policy officials
below the top levels has attracted some more attention in recent years,
and we can explore the assumptions using empirical evidence (even
though it is not rich and voluminous) from recent studies. I will be espe-
cially relying on my own recent studies of the policy work of middle-level
officials in Britain (Page, 2001, 2003, 2009; Page and Jenkins, 2005) and
in France, Germany, Sweden, the US, Britain and the EU (Page, 2012).

3.1 Middle-level civil servants don’t do ‘big’ political issues

While it is hard to prove a negative, the available evidence at first glance
supports the idea that those lower in the pay grade hierarchy are not
decisively involved in making ‘high politics’ decisions. If it were the
case that civil servants below the very top levels of the civil service had
significant influence over decisions that deal with the kind of ‘high poli-
tics’ matters that underpin partisan controversies or appear in election
manifestos, or that these officials frequently went against the express
wishes of politicians, we might expect to find far more examples of such
middle-level bureaucratic power reported in national newspapers. While
the ‘moles’ alleged to have been placed by Prince Charles to support his
work in different Whitehall ministries ‘linked to his interests’ (Sunday
Times, August 18, 2013) were middle-level officials, there is no evidence
that they actually did anything. Most of the cases where the actions
of middle-level officials make national newspapers tend to be blunders
(such as the loss in the UK of unencrypted disks containing all records
of child benefit recipients), and civil servants acting above their pay
grade tend to be senior (such as Brodie Clark who, as head of UK border
control, was accused in 2011 of relaxing without ministerial approval
the procedures for scrutinizing those seeking to enter the UK).
Moreover, the idea that middle-ranking civil servants are more likely
to be closely supervised when doing more sensitive ‘big’ political issues is
supported by the evidence. In looking at 52 decrees (items of secondary
legislation in France, Sweden, Germany, the US, the UK and the EU), my
190 Edward C. Page

earlier study (Page, 2012: 148–150) classified them into three groups:
truly minor (8), moderate significance (29) and truly major (15). Of the
15 truly major decrees, politicians showed a close degree of involvement
in 10; of the 29 intermediate decrees they took a significant interest
in 6; and they tool a significant interest in none of the 8 truly minor
The evidence on involvement in different types of policy making
broadly supports the idea that middle-ranking bureaucrats are less likely
to be left on their own and more likely to be supervised by politicians on
more important issues, so this aspect of the pay grade-policy approach
is also supported. But even here there is a significant qualification.
One-third of major issues, on this measure, were handled without any
significant direct involvement of politicians over and above the consent
that they must give to such measures (discussed further below). Thus in
questions such as the protection of a certain species of salmon under
protected habitats legislation and significant changes to the regulations
governing work permits in the US, the direct involvement of politicians
was slight and much of the policy development took place at levels well
below the top of the relevant agencies. Moreover, even where the politi-
cians were involved, the kind of direction they offered was not sustained
over the whole process and tended to focus on very limited aspects of
the policy being developed. The pay grade-policy approach points to
a tendency, to be sure, but it still leaves significant amounts of largely
unsupervised policy-making activity to ranks below the top of the civil
There are other reasons to question the pay grade-policy argument
insofar as it points to a diminished role for bureaucrats below the top.
One is what might be termed an accumulation effect: lots of relatively
small decisions, possibly attracting little political or senior attention,
can shape policy areas. Jones and Bishop (1990) show how significant
changes are in anti-discrimination policy, in this case in questions of
segregating children with AIDS within the school system. The process
they describe is the interaction between agency regulators responding
to lower court decisions on earlier regulations to produce a policy in this
area without any clear political initiative. As they suggest:

The courts forged a policy because of the inactivity of the major

policy makers, namely the Congress, President, or the Supreme
Court. Without their guidance, judges, with the benefit of bureau-
cratic regulations, examined the rationales offered by school boards
for the isolation of AIDS infected students ... Just as the courts upheld
Middle-level Officials and Policy 191

the rights of racial minorities in the 1960s, and the rights of women
in the 1970s, so also did the courts protect the rights of persons with
AIDS in the late 1980s. (Jones and Bishop, 1990: 284)

Moreover, there are plenty of examples of middle-level bureaucrats

playing a direct role in defining major contours of policies that even
appear in party election manifestos. It is conventional for UK civil serv-
ants, sometimes half a dozen grades below the top, to take responsibility
for drafting legislation through work on ‘bill teams’; in some cases offi-
cials might have even been responsible for the initiative. Drafting work
typically involves fixing major features of the design of a policy (see
also Bonnaud and Martinais, 2008). While, for example, there may have
been a political commitment to ensure that the UK passes legislation
to retrieve assets from criminals in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, key
questions such as how this should be achieved and which particular
assets should be included were left till much later in the bill team work
and were significantly shaped by relatively junior officials (Page, 2003).
So the pay grade-policy assumption that middle-level civil servants
don’t do ‘big’ policy is only correct insofar as it points to a tendency.
Not only are there significant exceptions, but public policy work is part
of the everyday life of many less elevated officials and they often make
a significant difference to the way policy is shaped. This does not, of
course, mean that they feel free to shape major areas of policy without
any regard to the political leadership. Much depends on the constraints
on such bureaucrats in carrying out the policy tasks that appear to be
delegated to them, a question explored below.

3.2 Senior bureaucrats and politicians delegate decision-making

This appears to be a straightforward assumption: if politicians and top
bureaucrats do not make all the decisions themselves and leave much to
lower-level officials, then this would appear to be a clear form of delega-
tion, a sort of contract between the principal, who could be a politician
or senior official, and his or her agents. Yet the allocation of tasks is not
quite as simple as that. How any individual middle-level civil servant
happens to be doing a particular piece of policy work is more likely to
reflect a longer-standing allocation or presumption of responsibilities
arising from the structure of the organization in which a civil servant
works than any conscious or explicit act of delegation. It has to be added
that job definitions even for middle-level officials can be extremely vague.
Individual roles within units and sections are designated in rather vague
192 Edward C. Page

terms such as ‘advisor’ or just the rank. Official designations do not

frequently contain descriptions of the specific types of policy issues they
will entail. It is not unusual, and appears especially common in countries
such as the US or Germany, for the question of which particular admin-
istrative unit should be responsible for developing a particular policy to
generate some inter- and intra-agency debate (Cook and Rinfret, 2014:
7; Page, 2012: 71–72). But such controversies are still not, as far as one
can tell, the norm. It appears more common from the limited evidence
that we have on regulation writing that units perceive it as their role to
develop policies in ‘their’ area without directly being asked by anyone
normally considered to be a ‘top’ official or politician, and for officials to
appear to be self-starting in policy development rather than contracted
or specifically delegated.
As Cook and Rinfret (2014) point out in their comparison of agricul-
tural rulemaking in the US and UK, in the UK the allocation of responsi-
bility for developing a specific regulation was hardly an act of conscious
delegation but convention and understanding:

As one Defra [the UK-wide agriculture ministry] interviewee

commented, the agency did not have to determine which division
to send this rulemaking because it naturally fell to the ‘sustainable
business and environmental reporting team because of their work
implementing similar emission reporting programs’. Additionally,
unlike the EPA [the US Environment Protection Agency] case, the
sustainable business and environmental reporting team already had
a designated ‘team leader, who managed the activities of the group’.
(Cook and Rinfret, 2014: 7)

Even in the US case, where the designation of a team and team leader
to take the rule forward resulted from discussions among senior staff in
the EPA, the internal staff and in particular the HR department allocated
responsibility largely based on judgments on perceived ‘experience.’
That the allocation in this comparative study bears little resemblance
to a conscious act of delegation is further supported by their observation
that ‘the legislatures in both countries were unwilling to spell out how a
reporting program should operate. Therefore, they passed vague legisla-
tion and required the agencies to make this decision’ (Cook and Rinfret,
2014: 9). Of course, the idea that politicians can avoid blame by failing
to specify details of policies or programs that are likely to attract some
unpopularity might be entirely consistent with a delegation concept,
offering ‘deliberate discretion’ (Huber and Shipan, 2002) in areas where
Middle-level Officials and Policy 193

the politicians do not want to (or cannot) specify things themselves.

While this argument might work if such vague allocations of decision-
making power by politicians, and vague identification of responsibility
for using this power among civil servants, were rare or occasional, the
pattern appears to be sufficiently widespread across countries that one
must cast doubt on the idea that politicians ever specify what they are
delegating and to whom in any way that can be plausibly compared to
a contract. While one might object that this conclusion is based on too
literal an interpretation of delegation, even as an approximate metaphor
or heuristic it bears little resemblance to any observed patterns of the
distribution of policy work.
As shown in studies of primary legislation in the UK (Page, 2009),
politicians responsible for major Acts of Parliament often hand over to
middle-level officials the responsibility for working out some of its main
contours including what the scope of the legislation should be, to whom
it should apply and what particular measures should be used to imple-
ment it. The way that work falls to middle-level bureaucrats and the
absence of any specific instructions about how they are to do this work
means that the term ‘delegation’ can only largely be accurate if it is
understood to mean that bureaucrats are left to do things, often without
much explicit direction or instructions, often without even being asked.
Thus the allocation of work to middle-level bureaucrats falls well short
of anything that could reasonably be construed to resemble a contract
(see also Tholen and Mastenbroek, 2013).

3.3 Procedural rules make sure that politicians and senior officials
keep decision making in check
The central notion of the principal-agent and delegation perspectives is
that without some form of supervision, bureaucrats will shirk: they will
follow their own preferences and subvert or act in a manner that will
run counter to the preferences of those of the politician (see Brehm and
Gates, 1997). Direct supervision of bureaucratic work (police patrols),
such as by politicians scrutinizing or setting up some form of parallel
supervisory organization, is costly, so less direct procedural rules (fire
alarms) are more likely to be used, such as the requirement that interests
be consulted; forewarned groups can then seek to secure political support
in defeating unwanted bureaucratic proposals (McCubbins et al., 1987).
The evidence from the study of middle-level officials does not entirely
support this assumption. In the comparative study of decrees, as well as
in the analysis of ‘policy work’ in the UK, there is a remarkable similarity
in the accepted procedure for developing decrees: that politicians need
194 Edward C. Page

to be informed, and their agreement or acquiescence secured, for most

policy issues and certainly for any sensitive issues. In part this require-
ment derives from the constitutional/legal requirement in some juris-
dictions that political executives must be signatories to many if not all
decrees. Indeed, it is unlikely that a civil servant will start work on a
decree if s/he thinks there is a significant chance that the decree will be
opposed or challenged by the politician when the politician gets to learn
about the decree (see Page, 2001, 2003, 2012).
Decrees that are politically sensitive will above all need some form of
political clearance very early on in their development because political
support will be needed to fend off the hostility of the groups that will
oppose them. Thus, for example, officials in the European Union’s DG
Fisheries preparing the decree on fish quotas needed to have some idea
of the line they were to take with regard to the scientific evidence on
remaining fish stocks: should they simply set the quotas at what, on the
face of it, the scientific evidence suggested were the appropriate targets
or should they set the targets at a level which they knew was closer to
what was more likely to be accepted by the member states with whom
their commissioner had to negotiate (Page, 2012)?
The fundamental notion that political support is sought for contro-
versial decrees, and that politicians and political executives should be
informed of anything that will end up on their desk for signature or
approval, are part of a wider and highly pervasive norm of self-disclosure
among middle-level bureaucrats. This might appear, in fact, very close to
a ‘fire alarm’; knowing that they will trip a ‘fire alarm’ at some stage and
the politicians will find out what they are doing, officials will tell them
in advance of any trigger. One difference between this bureaucratic self-
disclosure and a ‘fire alarm’ is that fire alarms are conceptualized as some
form of external early warning system to alert politicians; the norm of
seeking politician support or acquiescence does not rely strongly on any
external agency, whether interest group or external body such as the
Office of Management and Budget or the Conseil d’Etat. Indeed, in the
comparative study of regulations (Page, 2012) whether or not any indi-
vidual regulation was subject to such external body approval made no
apparent difference to whether the norm of informing and (in more
contentious issues) was sought approval from politicians.
Yet the most important difference between ‘fire alarms’ and bureau-
cratic self-disclosure is that one is proposed as a set of rules created by
politicians affecting specific groups of regulations in specific ways, the
other is part of the general condition of operating as a policy official
in a government organization. According to the fire alarms notion,
Middle-level Officials and Policy 195

politicians, when they come to setting out the way in which bureau-
crats should operate when implementing the legislation that politicians
construct, build in particular triggers that ensure that shirking or poten-
tial shirking is brought to their attention. Indeed, the linked notion
of ‘deck stacking’ suggests that the triggers are particularly sensitive to
exposing actions that are opposed to politicians’ original intentions.
Thus fire alarms are controllable and controlled. A general norm is not.
It is not only the controllability and distinctiveness of the conditions
under which politicians are informed of what is being done in their
name in the bowels of the bureaucracy that is unrealistically exagger-
ated by conceiving of self-disclosure as discriminating fire alarms, but
the whole mechanism and what motivates bureaucrats in particular is
misrepresented. The suggestion is that bureaucrats, unless contained by
the constraints of fire alarms written into policies or procedural rules,
would not do the politicians’ bidding or seek to follow the intentions
of politicians. As we will see below, this is to give a highly misleading
picture of how middle-level bureaucrats work.

3.4 Bureaucrats pursue their own individual preferences

It is a common enough assumption across a wide range of perspec-
tives on bureaucracy, not only delegation theories, that bureaucrats at
any level when left unsupervised will follow their own preferences. It
has been the creed of many administrative reformers over the centu-
ries, whether Frederick William I of Prussia (‘They must dance to my
tune or the devil take me’) or Francis Maude of Britain (‘There are cases
when Permanent Secretaries have blocked agreed Government policy
from going ahead ... that is unacceptable’) and is the rationale behind
scholars being interested in the social background and political opin-
ions of bureaucrats (Aberbach, Putnam and Rockman, 1981; Meier and
Hawes 2009; Sheriff, 1976).
There are, at least from the perspective of middle-level bureaucrats,
four problems with this particular view. The first is that in many cases
middle-level bureaucrats deal with policy in which they have no long-
standing personal preferences and no personal interest. The kinds of
issues that middle-level officials often deal with when developing
policy – what particular veterinary medicines should be included on a
list of substances that cannot be administered to a horse that might end
up in the human food chain, what size of city should have to produce
maps displaying levels and sources of noise emissions, whether pleasure
boats on inland lakes should be made to carry radio transmitters – are
not the kind of thing that can be related to the broad socialization- or
196 Edward C. Page

upbringing-related issues captured by indicators of social, educational

or ethnic background (see Page, 2012). Of course, bureaucrats may have
preferences about the way they would like to see such matters resolved,
but it is erroneous to suggest that such preferences are likely to be
personal through being related to self-interest or socio-political ideo-
logical disposition. What they might otherwise be related to is discussed
Second, middle-level bureaucrats, even where they have no direct
supervision from politicians and senior officials, do not often feel they
have significant choices to make. In the comparative decree-making
study (Page, 2012), bureaucratic creativity involved developing rules
that conformed or were consistent with other rules and constraints:
conformity with precedents (including existing domestic legislation and
European law), avoiding potential vetoes (from political leadership as
well as other agencies) and the likely wishes of supervisory bodies (such
as OMB or the Bundesrat). In my recent comparative study (Page, 2012:
165), an assessment of the range of constraints for 52 decrees suggested
that no decree was shaped with fewer than three such constraints. It
is therefore not surprising that middle-level bureaucrats, when inter-
viewed, did not perceive that they had much discretion when coming
to make regulations even where the direct involvement of superiors and
politicians was slight.
Third, often when developing policies, especially those that come
to them as vague intentions, officials make considerable efforts to use
politicians’ wishes, in particular in the European countries, the wishes
of their minister, in developing policy. Tholen and Mastenbroek (2013:
491) point to the role of Dutch legislative drafters as ‘loyal advocates’
who were ‘ultimately guided by the interests of their minister, upholding
the [minister’s] policy preferences even when no “reasonable legal argu-
ment” can be provided.’ This pattern of using perceived ministerial pref-
erences, sometimes gathered through means such as reading his or her
speeches and policy documents to which the minister is known to be
sympathetic, was commonly found among middle-level civil servants in
the UK (Page, 2001; Page and Jenkins, 2005), as well as the EU and other
European countries.
Fourth, many of the preferences that appeared to prevail and guide
the policy work of middle-level bureaucrats were professional in origin
rather than personal. In particular, three types of values were important
in the interviews in the comparative study (Page, 2012: 168ff.). First,
routinization means ensuring that policy changes, wherever they origi-
nate, conform to legal and procedural norms so that they can become
Middle-level Officials and Policy 197

a set of legitimate policy proposals. This is not an automatic process

of translating the policy preferences of politicians into administrative
provisions, but involves making choices about preferred ways of devel-
oping policies so that they are more easily or effectively routinized; this
can mean developing the policy in such a way that it will encounter
less political opposition or the veto of a supervisory body such as the
Conseil d’Etat or the Bundesrat. Second, there is regularization, which
refers to making changes to existing policy, or suggesting new policy,
where there is some defect, problem or lacuna in the existing rules or
regime. Court decisions, for example, are a common prompt for bureau-
crats to initiate regularization. For instance, a French court decision on
the tax liability of osteopaths started a process of revising regulation
surrounding the profession and an English court decision on the rights
of detainees under mental health legislation prompted (through creating
the ‘Bournewood Gap’) the generation of new primary and secondary
legislation on the matter so that the mental health regime complied
with the law as defined by the court. Third is policy adjustment, reacting
to perceived shortcomings, developing problems or future risks in the
part of the public service for which the official is responsible. Thus, for
example, officials in the US Department of Labor reacted to what they
saw as abuses of the Green Card system of immigration permits for work
(which were also reported in the national and local media) and proposed
amendments to it.

4 The nature of middle-level bureaucrat influence

There is little doubt that middle-level officials engaged in policy work

are subordinate officials. It is thus hard to argue that they, when free
of direct political or senior supervision, indulge their own prefer-
ences and shape policies in ways that suit them personally, whether as
personal utility maximizers, zealots for particular causes or individually
disposed to help one social, economic or cultural group over another.
They perceive themselves as subordinate and generally place substan-
tial emphasis in producing policies that their political leadership would
want or at least accept (see also Tholen and Mastenbroek, 2013). They
operate under a range of constraints and norms that mean that much of
their activity is trying to square conceptions of changes, large and small,
to policy, whether these changes are the product of the will of politi-
cians, other officials or external organizations and bodies, with existing
commitments, legal forms and other constraints. While the scope for
unsupervised creativity in their everyday work significant, they often
198 Edward C. Page

behave, like the Forest Rangers of Kaufman’s (1960) study as if they were
being constantly supervised. However, the most significant reasons for
this largely (but not invariably; see Page, 2012: 117–118) conformist
behavior is likely to have little to do with fear of punishment from
stepping out of line because the lines are rarely drawn with anything
approximating clarity.
Instead we must look to the professional norms and expectations
of bureaucratic life. In most countries the job of being a policy civil
servant, especially one below the very top ranks, carries with it a range
of expectations: observation of procedural propriety, compliance with
existing laws and constraints, avoidance of vetoes, clearance of sensitive
work with administrative and/or political superiors, the avoidance of
time-wasting on proposals and ideas that can never see the light of day
because of high-level political antipathy, the anticipation of politicians’
wishes and the search for cues about how to turn often vague statements
of intent into firm and valid rules and programs. To fill such expecta-
tions and thus fulfill one’s task as a civil servant leaves far less room for
the exercise of discretion aimed at gratifying individual self-interest or
personal policy preferences, especially where the subjects being dealt
with are rarely, if at all, directly linked to such interests or preferences.
While the world of middle-ranking civil servants is indeed a world
of creativity, it is a world of creativity bounded by many constraints.
Paradoxically, the larger the number of constraints can mean the greater
the creativity as officials have to show greater resourcefulness in forging
policies that achieve the purposes that they want them to serve. One
of the most important constraints is imposed by consideration of what
the political leadership of the organization that employs them wants
or is prepared to tolerate. It is in this highly bounded sense that we can
understand middle-level bureaucrats as policy makers. Their decisions
and choices can and often do make very big differences to the shape of
policies as much of the details about how a policy is to work in prac-
tice is left to them. Their policy-making role can even extend to policy
initiation for sensitive political issues (see Page, 2012). Yet in these and
the less sensitive cases what they do by way of policy making is always
contingent upon the perception or confirmed receipt of acquiescence or
support from the top.

5 Conclusion

Much of the language we use to describe how policies come into being
and develop tends to view policy as the result of an act of creation:
Middle-level Officials and Policy 199

not only the words ‘policy making’ itself but also words commonly
used such as ‘policy/decision maker,’ ‘key actors,’ ‘venue’ and ‘agenda’
emphasize the idea that policies are made in a defined place at a defined
time by a group of people. The whole language of policy making in this
way is something of a heuristic. Few can doubt that, say, the notion that
policy making can be conceived of as a business meeting has proved
useful through the notion of the agenda and agenda setting. Indeed, to
make sense of the policy process and, more importantly, to render it as
readable and attractive prose, it might be important that we deem it to
conform to the Aristotelian classical unities of action, time and place.
Because we seek to render policy comprehensible through such heuris-
tics we tend to emphasize the role of a manageable number of people
and processes, and this naturally tends to focus on decisions taken at
the top of the politico-administrative hierarchy (Kingdon, 2003: 31).
The policy role of senior officials in all this is conventionally construed
as shaping policy by ‘offering advice’ to politicians; ‘as policy advisers
they are in a very powerful position to influence or even create policy’
(Dowding, 1995: 108).
Policy making and development is far more ramshackle than this
heuristic suggests; indeed it is the purpose of heuristics to simplify such
messy reality. Nevertheless, in creating heuristics we may have piled too
much on to the senior civil servant. In fact, our knowledge of what top
officials do in their everyday jobs is rather limited to few studies (Kaufman,
1981; Rhodes, 2011), and from them it is apparent that dealing with
specifics of policy is not at all common. At what stage the very top offi-
cials become involved in policy development, and we can suspect what
they add to it. We know that much policy development takes place well
out of the gaze of officials at the top and can suspect that the observation
in Britain that the ‘departmental court’ of senior bureaucrats ‘does not
decide policy’ and ‘may not exercise much influence over the substance
of any policy’ (Rhodes, 2009: 444) might point to a wider truth about the
upper reaches of politico-administrative systems in other countries. The
bland formulation of top bureaucrats influencing through ‘giving advice’
to political leadership on policy is shown especially clearly to be inad-
equate when we consider the role of middle-grade officials who develop
policies on which senior officials have not advised anybody.
Perhaps more importantly for the comparative study of bureaucracies,
the focus of studies of the role of senior officials has been on their rela-
tionship with politicians. Whether or not the conclusions as regard the
power or influence of top officials have been impressive, the ambition
of much writing has been to elaborate on this relationship. Almost no
200 Edward C. Page

attention has been devoted to the relationship between the top levels
of the bureaucracy and the middle-levels that do most of the heavy
lifting in putting policies together. We might expect this relationship
to be at least as variable, if not more so, as that between politicians and
top officials. An important function of the cabinet in France is that it
enables a small group around the minister to keep close contact with
those lower down in the bureaucracy who develop policy, and even
take over detailed policy development where it wishes; this contrasts
with the absence of such developed routines for interaction between
the top and lower down in the UK and the routinized procedures of
communication in Germany (Page, 2012). How senior officials manage
lower-level officials and the opportunities they have for intervening
in and shaping the everyday activities of constructing policies appears
likely to have a significant effect on the influence of senior officials on

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Transitions in Civil Service
Systems: Robustness and Flexibility
in Human Resource Management
Per Lægreid and Lois Recascino Wise

1 Introduction

Over the past two decades, the notion of the distinctiveness of the public
sector as a ‘model employer’ has been fragmenting (Lægreid and Wise,
2007). Macro forces and the dissemination of reform ideas appear to
have contributed to a rethinking of the notion of the uniqueness of the
civil service and to the weakening of conditions of employment for civil
servants in many countries. Nowadays, the notion that the public sector
warrants a distinctive internal labor market system is no longer obvious.
Not only have the domain and responsibilities of civil servants changed,
as others in this volume describe, but in many countries the status of
civil servants has also been dramatically altered.
Civil servants have become de-privileged in terms of their condi-
tions of employment, losing their special conditions of recruitment,
advancement, uniformity of compensation and security. Moving away
from trusteeship and representation and moving towards more directly
responsible agency bargains is a strong trend (Pollitt and Bouckaert,
2011). The transfer of private sector management techniques into
the public sector challenges the notions of a career service, lifelong
employment and general employment conditions affecting the quality
of working life. Decentralization of responsibility for hiring, firing
and promotion and drift in prevailing norms about how these proc-
esses are determined contribute to making it increasingly difficult to
describe the operating internal labor market system (ILM) within a given
jurisdiction or organization. The notion of a single or even dual ILM
in government is obsolete. Movement away from collective bargaining

204 Per Lægreid and Lois Recascino Wise

to site or individual wage bargaining and a growing use of contractual

and contingent workers in government along with special systems for
political appointees are also apparent. Not only do these trends under-
mine ‘uniform treatment’ within a government jurisdiction, but they
may also create multiple internal labor market systems within the same
agency and increase administrative complexity.
At the same time, demands for greater inclusiveness in the composi-
tion of the public workforce have expanded the meaning of representa-
tiveness and have had a transformative effect on civil service systems
in many countries. Contextual factors are important for understanding
which diversity element remains dominant in a particular country or
region. Different criteria for representativeness may compete with each
other as well as with other eligibility standards, such as competence or
seniority. Most recently, the use of citizenship as a criterion for employ-
ment in government organizations has been under increasing scrutiny.
While citizenship standards are often relaxed at the local or regional
level of government, central government has typically been considered
the domain of a nation’s citizens. Broad globalization forces and demo-
graphic trends, along with other local factors, may make governments
receptive to the employment of non-citizens in central government.1 The
notion of who has standing to serve in government is in transition.
Our aim in this chapter is to map out some of the macro reforms
that have impacted human resource management (HRM) in civil service
systems in the first decade of the 21st century and lead to the general
conclusion that the uniqueness of public sector employment is eroding.
This is a period that was marked by economic uncertainty and fiscal
stress where many governments shifted from a position of prosperity
to one of austerity. In this context, we examine the extent to which
civil servants bore the burden of austerity through reductions in force,
recruitment freezes, and freezes to pay and other forms of compensa-
tion that chisel away at the role of government as a model employer. We
are interested in rational and market-based reforms designed to make
government more efficient and effective as well as normative reforms
that have expanded the construct of representativeness and promoted
social equity, humanization and individualization of employment
In particular, we focus on three key elements of internal labor market
systems and give cross-national examples of changes related to recruit-
ment, promotion and mobility. Subsequently, we examine the extent
to which fiscal stress in the 21st century is associated with partic-
ular changes affecting the public sector workforce. Finally, we draw
Transitions in Civil Service Systems 205

implications about the consequences of these transformations for the

public bureaucracy.

2 Macro reforms impacting internal labor markets in civil

service systems

The traditional central government based on the Weberian model has

a unitary personnel system with service-wide remuneration and condi-
tions. Status is based on the job or position with limited performance-
based variations. The recruitment system, reward structure, promotion
ladders and mobility pattern are strongly regulated, rule based, and
standardized representing a distinct labor market system (Bekke and van
der Meer, 2000; DiPrete, 1989; Wise 1996). Most systems can be char-
acterized by the extent to which they are ‘open’ or ‘closed’ in terms of
recruitment and advancement. An underlying assumption is that public
sector employment is different from work in other sectors and therefore
requires a special employment system and structure with specific rules
and regulations for recruitment, promotion and mobility. For example,
the policy of a career service and emphasis on seniority, protections
against political demands, requirements for special training for entrance
or advancement in the civil service and rules for redress and grievance
related to hiring and promotion as well as other actions distinguish the
public sector from the private.
Broad global forces have impacted labor market structures in the
public, private and nonprofit sectors. Shifts in the employment rela-
tionship to favor management and promote greater flexibility have been
associated with declines in the overall stability of internal labor market
systems, reducing the reliability of promotion ladders and security of
employment arrangements while increasing the use of alternative work
agreements such as temporary, part-time and contractual employment.
These changes were evident prior to the 1980s in business and industry
(Osterman, 1982) and the public sector was not immune to them, as we
noted in an earlier edition (see also Thompson, 2012).
In fact, a bundle of reforms referred to as New Public Management
(NPM) embraced many of these market-based reforms and promulgated
global changes in public personnel systems from the mid-1980s to the
end of the century. NPM challenged two main doctrines in traditional
public administration (Dunleavy and Hood, 1994). The first is the
doctrine that the managers should be controlled by a detailed set of rules
and procedures to enhance neutrality, impartiality and political loyalty.
In the area of appointments, for example, hiring regulations assured that
206 Per Lægreid and Lois Recascino Wise

managers would have little or no discretion in selecting candidates to

fill a particular job, thus avoiding the threat of favoritism or patronage
and assuring fairness and accountability. The second is the idea that the
public sector is very different from the private sector and requires special
arrangements for personnel procedures and practices, noted above.
In contrast, the NPM approach is ‘to let managers manage’ by giving
them more leeway and discretion and to underline the similarities
between public and private employment rather than the differences.
For example, hiring authority was decentralized to management in
some cases and in others hiring rules were relaxed to permit greater
discretion and responsibility on the part of managers in terms of selec-
tion. This drive to make managers more responsible for selection and
other management duties can also be pursued through mechanisms of
performance management, managerial accountability and individually
based rewards and sanctions (OECD, 2003).
Despite the dominance of rational reforms at the end of the 20th
century, normative influences related to social equity, representativeness
and humanization are reflected in a stream of activities occurring within
the same time period in different civil service systems (Wise, 2002).
Humanization, a distinct normative movement, led to a rethinking
of the practices and technical focus of personnel administration by
placing greater emphasis on the unique qualities and contributions of
individuals. The trend toward greater humanization was in many ways
compatible with the idea of applying private sector methods and tech-
niques to government and a significant driver of reform in civil service
systems (Wise, 2002). The technical focus on personnel administration
had greater resilience in the public sector than the private for a variety of
reasons, and the focus on policing civil service practices remains evident
in many countries, including the United States. Individualization
emphasizes the fit between the individual and the job, and promotes
flexibility by expanding individual responsibility beyond a predefined
set of tasks and empowering individuals to take responsibility for the
work that needs to be done. According to an OECD study (2004a), indi-
vidualization of human relations arrangements is one of the main meas-
ures for enhancing flexibility of civil service systems. Individualization
can be seen in the selection process, the terms of appointment, promo-
tions and mobility opportunities, termination of employment as well as
in compensation systems. Individualization, however, is also compat-
ible with rational efficiency-based reforms, as we discuss ahead.
The idea of a unified and distinct civil service was challenged by efforts
to blur the borders between public and private employment systems, to
Transitions in Civil Service Systems 207

normalize the status of government employees and to lessen the differ-

ences between public sector and private sector employment (Pollitt and
Bouckaert, 2011). HRM was a key field for the application of contempo-
rary public management reforms. A repeated pattern has been to expect
HRM systems to function as change agents tasked to improve perform-
ance. Assumed effective techniques like management by objectives, total
quality management, delegation, devolved management and perform-
ance-related pay were transferred into many government organizations
(Boyne, 2002; OECD, 2005a). But still only 25 percent of the European
top civil servants respondents report that performance-related pay is used
to a large extent in their own organization (Hammerschmid, Oprisor and
Stimac, 2013).2 The pace and means of these reforms have, however,
differed from country to country. It seems that each country adapts the
instrument appropriate for its own institutional structure, economic
and social constraints, and historical contexts including the strength of
organized labor and the nature of labor management agreements.
The general picture is one of robustness and flexibility. While a number
of countries have made drastic moves away from their traditional civil
service systems, a majority tries to reform and adapt its system to provide
greater flexibility. We face parallel processes of NPM-inspired reforms
introducing private sector management tools to increase efficiency and
normative reforms enhancing social equity and equality. Both these
trends advance individualization, but the change processes are heavily
constrained by traditional civil service systems and historical-institu-
tional contexts. For example, the rewards offered for high public office
are still highly divergent owing to path-dependent processes (Brans and
Peters, 2012). Even if different countries move towards the NPM sphere,
the scope and pace of the reform processes are different (Christensen and
Lægreid, 2001). Some countries are forerunners and others are laggards.
They also have different starting points representing different state
traditions like the Anglo-American public interest tradition, the conti-
nental European Rechtstaat tradition and the Scandinavian welfare state
tradition. Thus, human resource management reforms are very different
from country to country, and HRM must balance partly competing
considerations (Kuperus and Rode, 2010a; Selden, 2012; Shim, 2001).
The most extensive reforms are in New Zealand but Australia, the United
Kingdom, Sweden and Switzerland have also transformed the nature of
public service employment and people management. On the other end
of the spectrum are countries where HRM reforms have been much more
limited, leaving traditional systems of public sector personnel manage-
ment relatively unchanged, like France, Spain, Germany and Japan
208 Per Lægreid and Lois Recascino Wise

(Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2011; Shim, 2001). There is a large intermediate

group of countries like the US, Canada, the Netherlands and most of the
Nordic countries. In the Asian-Pacific region, countries sharing common
economic, historic and social patterns appear to share similar features
and major reform practices (Moon and Hwang, 2013).
Parallel processes of robustness and flexibility are also obvious when
it comes to four central qualities for traditional public administration:
anonymity, merit, permanence and neutrality (Stark, 2002). These prin-
ciples vary with administrative level as well as across countries. They
have, for instance, been stronger in Westminster systems than in the US.
What is clear, though, is that NPM-inspired human resource manage-
ment reforms represent challenges to the tenets and principles of
Weberian bureaucracy. The threat to some principles may be greater than
it is to others. Anonymity and permanence are more vulnerable to these
efficiency-based reforms than the concepts of merit and neutrality.
Decisions nowadays are more often associated with the person who
executes them and managerial accountability is strengthened relative to
political responsibility (Lægreid, 2013). Added to this, bureaucrats must
to a greater extent face the personal consequences of their behavior in
office through linking individual actions to merit-based adjustments.
Short-time contracts to supplement tenure and promotion are more
often based on some indicator of individual performance. These reforms
can be seen as challenging the permanence principle by connecting
outcomes, including the results of hiring and firing decisions, to a given
manager’s rewards and penalties.
In the next section we review specific changes related to recruitment,
status, promotion and mobility in different developed nations which
give insight into the pattern of change and provide support for the
case for the erosion of the uniqueness of public sector employment in
tandem with greater flexibility and robustness. Subsequently, we draw
some implications for policy and practice.

3 Changes: civil service systems, status, recruitment,

mobility and promotion

In this section we look at five specific areas of change that civil service
systems have experienced:

● changes in civil service systems;

● changes in the status of civil servants;
● changes in recruitment and appointment practices;
Transitions in Civil Service Systems 209

● changes in internal and external mobility practices;

● changes to promotion systems.

3.1 Changes in civil service systems

The classical distinction between a closed ‘career-based’ civil service
system with centralized recruitment, promotion and training and an
open ‘position-based’ civil service system with a decentralized manage-
ment of appointment, promotion and training is still useful. Countries
like Canada, Finland, Norway, the Netherlands, Switzerland, New
Zealand and the US have position-based civil service systems open for
lateral entry. France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Austria, Korea, Japan and
Mexico are examples of a more closed career-based civil service systems.
The United Kingdom has moved from a strongly career-based system
to a strongly position-based system over the two past decades. Sweden
moved to a broad-banded system where lateral entry is encouraged
and status is based on market factors. Position-based systems are more
popular in non-industrialized South East Asian countries (Moon and
Hwang, 2013). The Baltic- (Lithuania, Latvia) and Slavic-language East
European states (Bulgaria, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia) are more likely to
fall between these two main systems (Kuperus and Rode, 2010a).
Both the traditional career-based system and the position-based system
have been subject to reform pressures: the former because it is not adap-
tive and the latter because it lacks collectivity (OECD, 2005). Career-
based systems are introducing external competition for open positions,
performance management systems and delegating responsibility for
human resource management. Position-based systems are introducing
more competitive processes and transparent procedures. A third agency
or department-based system seems to emerge with a high level of delega-
tion and low level of individualization. This is a hybrid system which
delegates more responsibility to line departments but where civil serv-
ants have tenure and make a career in the civil service (OECD, 2004b).
Examples of this are the Scandinavian countries, which have followed a
path somewhere between the Rechtstaat model and the NPM model.

3.2 Changes in the status of civil servants

Many countries have changed the status of their civil servants. One
pattern is for the traditional tenured public service to be replaced
with a contractual regime, but the system of contracts and its applica-
tion differs from country to country (Gregory and Christensen, 2004;
Lægreid, 2001). One trend is towards contractualization of top civil serv-
ants but the scope and content of contract management varies among
210 Per Lægreid and Lois Recascino Wise

countries (Kuperus and Rode, 2010a; Putseys and Hondeghem, 2004).

Some countries are more reluctant than others to introduce private
sector type employment contracts and performance-related pay, such as
Germany (Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2011).
In many countries, the specific rules guaranteeing lifelong employ-
ment have been abolished and civil servants have been put under general
labor laws. Exceptions to this trend include Austria, France, Germany,
Greece, Spain and Turkey. In other places, civil servants have been put
under short-time contracts with no guarantee of further employment
in the civil service (Selden, 2012). Some countries still protect lifelong
employment but term contracts for positions have been introduced to
increase an individuals’ responsibility for performance. Several federal
agencies in the United States, including Defense and Homeland Security,
have eliminated job security and, in turn, due process for grievances.
Even without permanent positions, civil servants are still most
commonly hired on the basis of merit principles and they continue
to be expected to serve as neutral implementers of political decisions.
Interestingly, different protections against dismissal remain common
(OECD, 2011/2012). In this sense, the current reforms represent a
recombination of traditional principles. Variations are found across
levels of administration. Although the impact of reforms can be substan-
tial within the public sector in general, it is often less significant for the
senior civil service of central government, especially in countries where
there is a strong public authority concept of the state (Halligan, 2012).

3.3 Changes in recruitment and appointment practices

Several important trends affect the recruitment process. Among these
are decentralization of hiring authority to the agency level, less use of
competitive testing, and increased authority for external and lateral
entry into the civil service. It is, however, more a question of trends
rather than replacement. For example, only 31 percent of top civil serv-
ants in central government bodies in European countries report that
decentralization of staffing decisions is used to a great extent in their
own organization (Hammerschmid et al., 2013). Another trend in the
recruitment system is to put more emphasis on recruiting executives
with management and leadership capacities. Former management
experience tends to become more important as a recruitment criterion.
Many OECD countries are moving toward recruiting employees from
the market rather than from an internal career system, with external
recruiting only at early stages. Both internal and external recruitment
strategies are to an increasing degree based on open competition and
Transitions in Civil Service Systems 211

selection based on merit, competence and anticipated performance.

Recruitment has changed from closed to more open competition and
market-based systems in many countries. Most countries report that they
allow external recruitment, although Germany and Greece are examples
of exceptions to this policy. In the Asia-Pacific region, open competi-
tive selection is found in industrialized states such as Japan and Korea
and developing countries such as the Philippines and Thailand, and is
becoming more common among countries in the socialist transistional
tradition such as Cambodia and Vietnam (Moon and Hwang, 2013).
We also see a movement toward more temporary employment and
fixed-term contracts often supplemented with detailed individual
performance or appraisal contracts. Italy is an example of a country that
took steps to reduce contingent employment in 2008 (OECD, 2011/2012).
The recruitment and mobility of civil servants have changed owing to
the challenge to a tenured career. Also, hiring freezes and reductions in
force have led some countries to emphasize promotion from within or
the hiring rights of those who have been displaced. The flexicurity model
first promoted by the Scandinavian welfare states provides an alterna-
tive and perhaps more permanent approach for balancing demands for
restructuring and cutbacks in the public sector with employee job secu-
rity (Kuperus and Rode, 2010a).
It appears that the number of countries reporting special hiring
programs or incentives for members of socially diverse groups has
increased. Many countries now report an emphasis on hiring people
with disabilities and some give specific hiring targets. Hiring preferences
for women continue to be promoted in some countries. Less common
are countries with stated goals for hiring ethnic minorities (examples are
Canada, Denmark, Netherlands). For those countries providing informa-
tion in a relatively recent OECD study (2011/2012), the share of women
in the middle and upper ranks of the civil service in OECD lands ranges
widely from 5 percent to 58 percent. East European countries, where the
public sector has been historically female-dominated, are likely to be
more than 30 percent female at the top (Kuperus and Rode 2010b).
Many countries indicate they have now established systems for top
executives with separate human resource management rules and prac-
tices (OECD, 2011/2012). Exceptions to this trend are found in Denmark,
Greece, Poland and Sweden. Different forms of senior executive service
(SES) systems are found in countries such as Canada, New Zealand, the
US and the UK (Pollitt and Bouckaert 2011). While the senior executive
service in Australia has been reasonably successful, the New Zealand SES
was judged a failure and terminated (Halligan, 2012).
212 Per Lægreid and Lois Recascino Wise

There appears to be more variation among nations in the extent to

which either formal term limits apply or the extent to which members
of senior executive corps are likely to turnover as a consequence of
changes in government. Canada, New Zealand and Norway indicate
that no turnover occurs as a consequence of change of government. In
other cases, such as Spain and the United States, the majority of senior
executives leave when the government changes. As Bekke and van der
Meer (2000) noted some time ago, several countries apply term limits,
typically five years, for senior executives, but this trend does not appear
to have spread widely (examples include Australia, Austria, Belgium,
Ireland and Portugal). Among top civil servants in Europe, half of
those responding agree that politicians regularly influence senior-level
appointment in their own organization.

3.4 Changes in internal and external mobility practices

Mobility programs differ significantly and serve several organizational
purposes (Wise and Lamb, 2006). They may function as recruitment
schemes, vehicles for competency development within an existing
workforce, for knowledge transfer between sectors, and as a tool for
individual professional developmental and self-advancement. Agencies
might use mobility schemes as an alternative to workforce reductions.
Mobility schemes may be structured to promote diversity and advance
equal employment opportunity but they may also marginalize special
groups of workers. A broad definition of eligible partners in mobility
exchanges is more likely to permit ideas to travel across sectoral bounda-
ries and to create common pools of knowledge among levels of govern-
ment. In many cases, individual employees are expected to bear the
burden of identifying and executing secondment opportunities. Wise
and Lamb (2006) argue that more passive approaches partly account
for lower levels of external mobility. Online databases, such as used
in Austria, might facilitate the matching of potential exchange candi-
dates and organizations (Gajduschek and Linder, 2011). Effectiveness of
mobility schemes is often undermined by a lack of boundary-spanning
management. In addition to trans-organizational leadership, the flex-
ibility of administrative practices and issues related to who bears the
burden for different costs appear to be key factors limiting the take-up
rate of mobility schemes (Wise and Lamb, 2006).
Examples of countries with formal internal mobility policies include
the United States, France and Spain. The UK provides an example of how
mobility opportunities can be used as an incentive for recruiting recent
graduates into government (Civil Service Fast Stream: http://faststream.
Transitions in Civil Service Systems 213

civilservice.gov.uk/). The first two years of the program focus on acquiring

different skills in different agency cultures. According to Gajduschek
and Linder (2011), 21 EU member states reported regular exchange
activities between ministries and nine described these exchanges as
exceptional cases. There is no clear trend in reported evidence in terms
of whether internal mobility is increasing or decreasing, or remaining
steady (OECD, 2012) in recent years, but Japan, the Netherlands, the UK,
Austria, Finland and France are examples of countries where respond-
ents reported an increase in internal mobility.
Secondments or external mobility exchanges, in principle, appear to
be a common feature of national civil service systems. Mobility part-
nerships can be formed with many different kinds of organizations. In
addition to other central government departments, regional and local
governments can be eligible partners along with international organiza-
tions, public enterprises and private sector organizations. Some countries
add nonprofit and academic institutions, and even indigenous tribes to
the list of partners (Wise and Lamb, 2006). Interchange Canada is an
example of a long-standing formal program for intersectoral mobility.
International organizations appear to be promoting the notion of a
professional corps of public employees who are not restricted by national
boundaries and move based on their skill set and career goals between
governments. But the level of participation is not as high as might be
expected. While respondents for 16 countries in a recent survey of 30
EU member states reported they had regular exchange activities between
national agencies and international organizations, 13 indicated that
examples of such mobility are rare (Gajduschek and Linder, 2011).
Among member states of the European Union, secondments of national
civil servants to the European Civil Service or other authorities of the EU
are provided for and most countries allow national civil servants to take
temporary assignments in other international organizations.
Globalization of public sector employment can be seen as a response
to an aging public sector workforce as well as to declining salience of
public sector employment (OECD, 2002). This idea is compatible with
new public management reforms emphasizing professional skill sets and
rejecting the argument of the uniqueness of government employment. It
may have the potential to erode national norms and values and perhaps
to standardize methods of service delivery and levels of service quality.
The EU mandate for free movement of workers, however, is a policy that
appears to have had little impact on the agencies of central government
in Europe, with some exceptions. In the United States, foreign nationals
are restricted from serving in the national civil service system but are
214 Per Lægreid and Lois Recascino Wise

often found in federal research laboratories, universities and state and

local government.

3.5 Changes to promotion systems

The priority of internal labor markets and the norm of promotion
from within have eroded where lateral entry is permitted and encour-
aged. Movement between the sectors has become more fluid, based on
changes in labor market segmentation, system flexibility and openness.
But in many countries mobility between sectors is undermined by the
decreasing size of the public workforce and the insecurity of the job
market overall.
Within this context, the importance of seniority as a criterion has
decreased somewhat and promotions are now more likely to be linked
to performance and personal competencies (OECD, 2011/2012). While
most countries list performance appraisal and qualifications as impor-
tant factors in promotion, years of service or seniority continues to be
cited by many countries including Austria, Belgium, France, Germany,
Greece, Poland, Slovak, Spain and Turkey as a major promotion crite-
rion. According to one study, most OECD countries have a performance
management or performance appraisal system in place, with the excep-
tions of Greece, Iceland, Japan, Luxemburg and Spain (OECD, 2004b).
Many countries report that performance appraisal results are a determi-
nant of promotion but few list it as the primary factor. Exceptions to this
pattern include Italy and Sweden (OECD, 2011/2012).
There is still a wide diversity among OECD countries in how the polit-
ical administrative interface is managed when it comes to the status
of senior civil servants. In some countries each change of government
is accompanied by appointment of new executive officers and senior
officials. In others, party membership for civil servants is well known
and important for the appointment process; others may not align them-
selves to political parties. The pattern involves more use of personal
political staff by ministers and an increasing tendency to make new
senior appointments with an incoming government (OECD, 2004b).

4 Effects of fiscal stress on the public workforce

As a consequence of the economic downturn at the start of the 21st

century, the Eurocrisis, and the global recession beginning in 2007/2008
many governments shifted from a posture of economic prosperity to
one of fiscal austerity. The public sector workforce, including national
civil service systems, is an easy target in a period of government cutbacks
Transitions in Civil Service Systems 215

(Levine, 1984). Pay freezes, downsizing and reduced pension rights have
been applied in many countries (Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2011). In this
section we provide an overview of the consequences of the extent to
which conditions of government employment may have been compro-
mised during the first decade of the 21st century. As Lodge and Hood
(2012) observed, there are not only differences among countries in the
extent to which they are affected by fiscal stress (from high vulnerability
in Greece and Ireland to low in Norway), but different aspects of public
sector employment also fare differently in the way they are affected by
austerity. There is no single scenario of the consequences of the finan-
cial crisis for HRM but responses can be placed in two main categories:
workforce reductions and payroll reductions.
We expect that contextual factors, including political institutions,
history, socio-economic conditions, cultural norms and values, and
labor relations influence the extent to which austerity measures are
palatable or unpalatable in a particular country. For example, if main-
taining employment levels is prioritized, some form of payroll cut is
more palatable than measures that reduce numbers of employees. Lodge
and Hood (2012) argue that based on contextual factors, countries vary
in their degree of vulnerability to fiscal stress and this partly explains
differences in their selection of measures to cope with fiscal stress. For
example, a demographic factor such as an aging population may influ-
ence decisions to implement increases in the retirement age or pension
cuts or freezes (e.g. Estonia, Netherlands, Romania, Spain).
According to the most recent survey results from the OECD and the
European Trade Union Confederation for the period from 2008 to 2011
(also reported in Lodge and Hood, 2012), 8 countries had implemented
public sector pay freezes and 12 countries had implemented other pay
cuts such as reductions in benefits, allowances, and pensions affecting
public servants. Ten countries announced hiring freezes and another 12
countries indicated that they planned to reduce the size of the public
workforce. In the case of the United States, as a result of the budget crisis
of 2013, many agencies are implementing wide-scale furloughs as well
as hiring freezes (Government Executive, 2013). OECD data (2011/2012)
comparing employment levels in 2000 and 2008 show that while on
average for the 32 OECD states public sector employment rates remained
constant, it appears that 13 countries3 had already substantially reduced
public sector employment from 2000 levels to 2008, while five4 showed
a marked increase for the same time period. Denmark, for example, is
a country that had already reduced employment levels but proposed
to eliminate an additional 20,000 government jobs. Hiring has been
216 Per Lægreid and Lois Recascino Wise

restricted to specific professional occupations, particularly uniformed

services (Rexed and Spörndly, 2012). Moreover, 27 of the 32 OECD states
reported their intentions to reduce the size of public sector employment
overall in the second decade of the 21st century (OECD, 2011/2012).
In Italy, management reforms have been sidelined by imposed cutback
reforms (Di Mascio, Natalini and Stolfi, 2013).
According to respondents in the 2012 COCOPS survey, 72 percent of
top civil servants had experienced hiring freezes, 52 percent reported
pay freezes and 21 percent had applied pay cuts or staff layouts in their
own organization.5 Seventy percent of the top civil servants reported
that public sector downsizing happened to a large extent in their own
policy area. More respondents support that the attractiveness of the
public sector as an employer has deteriorated rather than improved.
There are, however, big differences in the degree to which the financial
crisis has affected HRM in the different countries, ranging from great
impacts in Mediterranean countries to small impacts in Norway.
In comparison with other drivers of reform, recent responses to fiscal
stress appear to be more likely to constrain the public sector than they
are to cause fundamental shifts in the norms and values framing civil
service systems. But certainly, in places where the size of the public sector
is undergoing substantial and long-term reductions, likely consequences
are shifts in the balance between the scope of government and the role
of alternative providers, which competes with traditional notions of the
role of the public bureaucracy as well as changes in the distribution and
quality of services and goods).

5 An overall perspective

Clearly there is no convergence towards a single model of civil service

systems. Most governments still share the main elements of traditional
systems of public administration. However, some strong common trends
towards modernizing public service are emerging across groups of coun-
tries, such as changes towards reducing the differences between public
and private sector concerning the status of civil servants, recruitment
practices and in promotion and mobility systems. A desire to increase
managerial autonomy and flexibility by deregulating human resource
management, delegating authority and individualizing accountability
and performance is apparent (OECD, 2005a). In the core NPM coun-
tries, a traditional unified national civil service with tenured career
and promotion by seniority and qualifications has been under pressure
(Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2011). A general trend is towards reducing the
Transitions in Civil Service Systems 217

distinctiveness of the rules governing human resource management in

many civil service systems. Regarding the member states of the EU the
following trajectories have been suggested (Demmke and Moilanen,
2010): from centralized to decentralized determination of employment
conditions, from statutory to contractual governance with increased
delegation of responsibility of managers, from career systems to posi-
tion systems, from alignment of pay levels to private sector practice, and
a change to special retirement schemes.
The pace and comprehensiveness of these trends varies significantly
from one country to another and reform activity falls across a wide
spectrum. It is difficult to identify a new European-wide organizational
model of the national civil services (Demmke and Moilanen, 2010). It
is far too early to conclude that tenured merit bureaucracy is unsustain-
able. Its adaptive capacity is high and we face a dual process of robust-
ness and flexibility (Christensen, 2012). Traditional centrally controlled
bureaucracy has proven more enduring in countries where the existence
of a strong and all-embracing concept of the state is an important part
of the national culture.
It is, however, necessary to consider changes affecting the top civil
servants. Some of the general trends are in play for executives but vary
in strength and may be associated with counter trends, like recentrali-
zation by defining mandatory government-wide appointment criteria
(OECD, 2004b). Similarly, the senior civil service is exempted in many
countries from the trend of opening government posts to non-citizens.
What we might see for senior services is two trajectories. One is repre-
sented by senior services that have been modernized but within state
traditions and rather closed and robust against external pressure. Cases
in the second trajectory are more vulnerable to external pressure and
more open to new management and personnel concepts (Halligan,
2012). The first family of countries departs from the Rechtsstaat tradition
of continental Europe and the second from the Anglo-American public
interest systems of United Kingdom and its previous colonies.

6 Implications

Human resource management practices pertaining to recruitment, promo-

tion and mobility are in transition. But there still has been no compre-
hensive evaluation of recent public sector human resource management
reforms across different countries (Shim, 2001) and systematic evidence
for some of the promised benefits of efficiency-based HRM reforms are
very patchy. Certain reform effects are often promised and anticipated
218 Per Lægreid and Lois Recascino Wise

but while their appearance is seldom reliably documented (Christensen,

Lægreid and Wise, 2002) and evidence of success is lacking, the motion
behind the reforms enables them to continue to travel onward. This
is as evident for broad public management transformation (Pollitt and
Bouckaert, 2011) as it is for more specific human resource management
The extent to which the changing status, recruitment, promotion and
mobility of civil servants will induce corrosion in such traditional values
of fairness and impartiality, but also robustness, security and resilience,
is something to watch (Hood, 1991). One proposition is that norms for
fairness, equity, predictability and impartiality, which limit flexibility
and discretion in appointments, will be in tension with demands for
greater efficiency, accountability for performance, flexibility and discre-
tion in hiring and promotion (Lægreid, forthcoming). Where public
managers can choose between appointing career civil servants and
hiring contingent or contractual employees these tensions will be even
greater. But it is important not to forget that the fundamental purpose of
the public service is government, not management. This means that it is
essential to address values that maintain and strengthen confidence and
trust in public sector organizations, such as social cohesion.
A lesson from reviews of human resource management practices is that
there is no easy solution or one ideal type of public employment system.
There is a difficult trade-off between individualization and delegation
of human resource management to improve the adaptability and flex-
ibility of the civil service on the one hand and the sense of collectivity,
shared values and mutual trust relations among civil servants (OECD,
2005a) on the other hand. How to balance fragmentation and integra-
tion, individualization and common identities, and market pressure and
cultural cohesion is a big challenge in human resource management
reforms in the public sector.
Variation on key practices from one country to another is the rule rather
than the exception. States face different contexts, risks and problems
and start with different values and norms. These variations mean that
governments will travel many different paths based on their particular
circumstances and ambitions for the public service, even though strong
demands for efficiency and cost control frame the available options in
many states. The efficiency-driven emphasis has been controversial in the
field of HRM (Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2011) and the notion that current
performance should be the dominant criterion for tenure and promotion
has yet to become universally accepted. This is also due to the fact that
knowledge about the relationship between HRM and performance is still
Transitions in Civil Service Systems 219

inconclusive even if it has increased (Moynihan, 2012). Seniority, loyalty

and qualifications still play an important role in many states. The persist-
ence of values related to the perceived role of government as a model
employer and traditional notions of the uniqueness of the public services
may partly account for the tenacity of these criteria.
The traditional public administration model characterized by its high
value on rule-following behavior and limited freedom and accounta-
bility for appointments and promotion (and, in turn, results) is being
challenged by public administrators around the world who seek more
discretion for hiring and promotion decisions, but who are also more
anxious to obtain greater accountability (Christensen and Lægreid,
2002). A system that extends discretion for appointment authority to
managers without strengthening their accountability, however, under-
mines political control. Thus a challenge facing civil service systems in
the 21st century is balancing the demands for flexibility, efficiency and
accountability with the need for effective governance, representative-
ness and equity in human resource management.

1. Under the Free Movement of Workers directive, member nations of the
European Union are required to open public sector labor markets to citizens of
member states. In other countries, non-citizens have established a significant
toehold in regional and local government.
2. The research leading to these results has received funding from the European
Union’s Seventh Framework Programme under grant agreement No. 266887
(Project COCOPS), Socio-economic Sciences & Humanities. A survey of top
civil servants in ten European countries conducted in 2012 involving 4780
respondents, and a response rate of 26 percent (Hammerschmid et al., 2013).
3. Denmark, Sweden, Hungary, Israel, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Netherlands
Austria, Poland, Germany, Mexico, Japan (in descending order).
4. Estonia, Greece, Luxembourg, Slovak, Turkey.
5. The project leaders are Steven van der Walle, Erasmus University and Gerhard
Hammerschmid, Hertie School of Governance.

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Civil Service Systems and Public
Service Motivation
James L. Perry

1 Introduction

The study of civil service systems has traditionally emphasized issues

of examinations, compensation, fairness and equity as central features.
Questions about the market competitiveness and internal fairness of pay
systems, the validity of selection devices, and the adequacy of career
systems remain important concerns for the management of civil service
systems. These issues are increasingly joined by issues outside the normal
range of questions associated with pecuniary and instrumental rewards
as scholars have given more attention to public service and prosocial
motivations (Perry and Hondeghem, 2008; Perry and Wise, 1990).
This chapter looks at what we know about civil service systems and
how they relate to the growing body of research about public service
motivation. It explores three questions that are central to understanding
the linkages between civil service systems and public service motivation.
First, are some civil service systems better at producing a public-service
motivated workforce? Second, how do civil service systems, particularly
those that are successful, produce the results they achieve? Third, what
are the mixes of incentives that are most effective in stimulating public-
service motivated behaviors?
I begin by defining civil service systems and public service motivation.
The remainder of the chapter is devoted to answering the three ques-
tions posed above.

2 Civil service systems as a motivational nexus

As a foundation for considering the macro-dynamics of how civil service

systems and public service motivation relate to one another, it is useful
to define explicitly what I mean by these two main constructs.

224 James L. Perry

2.1 Civil service systems

I define civil service systems as mediating institutions that mobilize
human resources in the service of the affairs of the state in a given terri-
tory (Bekke, Perry and Toonen, 1996; Morgan and Perry, 1988). The
definition ties civil service systems to their immediate purpose as a coor-
dinated set of rules, laws and conventions to manage human capital
and their nesting within a set of governance institutions. The definition
implies that civil service systems typically play operational, manage-
ment and constitutional roles within the governments – national, state
and local – within which they are situated.

2.2 Public service motivation

Public service motivation (PSM) refers to an integral portion of the
motivational product emergent from civil service systems. ‘Public
service motivation may be understood as an individual’s predis-
position to respond to motives grounded primarily or uniquely in
public institutions and organizations’ (Perry and Wise, 1990: 368).
Although public service motivation began as a construct associated
with reducing need-based deficiencies and focused on an American
context, its meaning has evolved as the construct has been applied
increasingly to institutional contexts internationally. As Perry,
Hondeghem and Wise (2010) note in a review of definitions over
time, ‘The boundaries placed on the scope of PSM suggest that it is a
particular form of altruism or prosocial motivation that is animated
by specific dispositions and values arising from public institutions
and missions’ (p. 682).
As an identifiable dimension of a stock of motivation emergent from
the web of rules, laws and customs emergent from civil service systems,
several important questions arise about the stock of public service

● As other-directed motivation (Perry et al., 2010), to what extent is public

service motivation a substitute for self-interested motivation?
● How do the forms of motivation emergent within civil service
systems interact with one another? Do they tend to reinforce, cancel
or interact in other ways that need to be recognized by administrators
and policy makers?
● Is public service motivation a cause for particular behaviors and also
a result of others, thus needing to be studied as both an independent
and dependent or mediating variable?
Civil Service Systems and Public Service Motivation 225

For the most part, this chapter attends to only some of these questions,
but it is important to bear in mind the larger set of motivational ques-
tions that surround public service motivation as we proceed here.

3 Three questions

Having provided definitions of the focal phenomena, civil service

systems and public service motivation, I now turn to answering the
three questions identified in the introduction. I begin with the first,
threshold question: are some civil service systems better at producing a
public-service motivated workforce?

3.1 Do civil service systems make a difference in reported public

service motivation?
The first question is the most global, focused on civil service systems as
the units of analysis. Several institutional analyses suggest the plausi-
bility of systematic relationships between different civil service configu-
rations (Heady, 1996) and public service motivation (Bekke et al., 1996;
March and Olsen, 2004; Perry and Vandenabeele, 2008).
From a theoretical perspective, the frameworks scholars have used to
explain civil service systems usually start with some variant of an insti-
tutional foundation. Bekke et al. (1996) establish a general argument
for why civil service systems are systematic channels for the constitu-
tional, collective choice and operational institutions in which they are
embedded. Their framework is linked to both the institutional analysis
and development framework developed by Elinor Ostrom and colleagues
(Kiser and Ostrom, 1982) and the new institutionalism associated with
March and Olsen (1989). The framework’s core goal is understanding
‘how civil service systems shape the behavior of members and, in turn,
how civil service systems are shaped by other social institutions and
the perceptions of citizens’ (p. 3). The multi-layered model is an effort
to depict civil service systems realistically – as more than, for instance,
merely personnel systems – but is also sufficiently complex that identi-
fying what is exogenous and what is endogenous is challenging.
March and Olsen (2004) offer a no less challenging framework within
which to conceive civil service systems. Their theoretical perspective,
which is also grounded in an institutional perspective, offers a glimpse
of how civil service systems differ systematically in their distinction
between institutional logics of appropriateness and consequence. Like
Ostrom’s framework, March and Olsen also see human action driven by
rules. They diverge from Ostrom’s framework in that the rules involve
226 James L. Perry

appropriate or exemplary behavior, organized into institutions. Rules

are followed, according to March and Olsen, because they accord with
a logic of appropriateness, that is, they are seen by actors as natural,
rightful, expected and legitimate. Actors embedded in a social collec-
tivity do what they see as appropriate in a specific type of situation
based on obligations encapsulated in a role, an identity, a membership
in a political community or group, and the ethos, practices and expecta-
tions of its institutions.
Perry and Vandenabeele (2008), drawing upon previous frameworks,
especially March and Olsen (2004), provide a plausible explanation for
how macro-institutional differences affect behavioral dynamics associ-
ated with public service motivation. They posit a causal process that
begins with values embedded in public institutions, to individual iden-
tity formation along the lines associated with March and Olsen’s logic
of appropriateness, to actors responding to situations based on their self-
concept, culminating in self-regulating processes resulting in choices
conforming to identities and self-concept.
Several empirical studies (Anderfuhren-Biget, 2012; Houston, 2011;
Ritz and Brewer, 2013; Vandenabeele and Van de Walle, 2008) shed
light on associations between public service motivation and sources of
institutional and international variation. Given that the cross-national
studies to date do not focus explicitly on public service motivation and
constructs such as civil service system configurations (Heady, 1996) or
fields of change (Morgan, 1996), any inferences are likely to be impre-
cise and even speculative. At the same time, a review of some of the
empirical research can be informative.
Perhaps the most systematic cross-national study to date is
Vandenabeele and Van de Walle (2008). They used the 2004
International Social Survey Program citizenship module to compare
respondents in 38 countries on three dimensions associated with
public service motivation: politics and policies, compassion, and self-
sacrifice. Although they found variations by country, their analysis
discovered much of the variance was regional rather than national.
They found that public service motivation was generally high in
American and Southern European countries and low in Eastern and
Central Europe. These variations, to some extent, reflected variations
across dimensions of public service motivation. They also concluded
that cross-national variations were public in character, that is, associ-
ated with public employment, but the association was limited to poli-
tics and policies and not the other two dimensions they investigated.
The findings leave considerable room for speculation about causes
Civil Service Systems and Public Service Motivation 227

and for future research. With respect to future research, Vandenabeele

and Van de Walle (2008) explicitly entertain an institutional explana-
tion: ‘Another issue in further international comparative research is
to assess the possible differential effect of institutional antecedents,
because different institutions may account for different effects across
regions and countries’ (pp. 236–237).
In a study of 11 North American and Western European countries,
Houston (2011) investigated how three independent factors – occu-
pational locus, focus and national context – affected public service
motivation. He found that the locus of an occupation in government
explained differences in importance of ‘public sector employees likely to
value intrinsic work motives more highly than others, while regarding
controlled extrinsic work motives as less important’ (p. 766). Houston
includes as intrinsic motives autonomous or moderately autonomous
extrinsic motives such as an individual’s integration or identifica-
tion of values (he also calls them ‘obligation-based intrinsic motives’
in contrast to ‘enjoyment-based intrinsic motives,’ which correspond
to how we traditionally think about intrinsic motivation), following
self-determination theory (Deci and Ryan, 2004; Ryan, 2005). In addi-
tion, focus on a public service activity, that is, the distinctiveness of the
work to public interests, was as important as, perhaps more important
than, locus of the work in shaping preferences for highly autonomous
extrinsic motives (i.e. obligation-based intrinsic motives).
Aside from locus and focus variations, Houston’s findings are consistent
with the belief that more advanced welfare states crowd out citizens’
concerns for one another. He found that respondents in Anglo-Saxon
welfare states were more likely to view favorably more autonomous
extrinsic motives than respondents in Scandinavian and continental
countries. Houston’s (2011) conclusions about national institutions bear

A final implication of the analysis is that national context matters for

public service motivation. The institutions used to deliver public serv-
ices affect societal attitudes. The argument in the social capital litera-
ture that well-developed welfare states ‘crowd out’ responsibility for
others has empirical merit. Although much less pronounced, there is
some indication that government workers in less-developed welfare
states, which focus more on means-tested programs, have lower levels
of obligation-based intrinsic motivation. Whether indicative of a self-
selection or a socialization effect, institutions matter to the public
service motivation of government workers. (p. 769)
228 James L. Perry

It is fair to conclude that empirical research to date does not permit

strong inferences about the independent influence of civil service
systems, as institutions, on public service motivation. The results of
Houston (2011) and Vandenabeele and Van de Walle’s (2008) multi-
country comparative studies hint that variations in public service moti-
vation may be explainable by units of analysis that are either ‘smaller’
or ‘larger’ than civil service systems as a macro-unit of analysis. Some
of the units of analysis used by Houston, for instance, are both smaller
(e.g. focus) and larger (e.g. nation) than the way we think about civil
service systems as a unit of analysis. The multi-country studies simul-
taneously leave ambiguity. Vandenabeele and Van de Walle’s finding
that variations in public service motivation broke out by region rather
than country still leaves open the prospect that the regional similarities
reflect stability of civil service systems cross-nationally that may have
diffused from a common source.
Thus, with respect to the first question, several generalizations are
appropriate. Public service motivation seems variable with respect to
both macro- and micro-variables that reflect variations in civil service
system configurations (Heady, 1996). The causal relationships, however,
remain unclear, but institutions seem to matter. All these relationships
deserve further study.

3.2 How do civil service systems produce the results they achieve?
The second question is related to how particular results are achieved. As
noted in answering the first question, the distal origin for civil service
systems establishing a foundation for public-service motivated behavior
is institutional. Perry and Vandenabeele (2008) summarized the chain of
causation as a proposition:

Proposition 1: Institutions define rules that govern a range of permis-

sible and prohibited behaviors for individuals and the value they
associate with the behaviors. The public content of institutions will
vary across societies and according to individuals’ exposure to insti-
tutions, whose transmission is governed by several social processes.

The discussion in conjunction with the first question addressed the

macro-elements associated with this proposition. At this juncture I
discuss several of the social processes that help shape how public service
motivation outcomes are generated within civil service systems.
Two theories are particularly helpful for understanding how well-
designed civil service systems evoke high degrees of public-service
Civil Service Systems and Public Service Motivation 229

motivated behavior. The first of the two theories, predisposition-oppor-

tunity theory (Knoke and Wright-Isak, 1982), has its roots in sociology.
Knoke and Wright-Isak contend that the motivation of individuals to
join and contribute to organizations ‘combines elements of voluntary
individual will and collectivism represented by the internalization of
social norms’ (p. 215). The social norms to which Knoke and Wright-
Isak refer have their roots in three types of motives: rational choice,
normative conformity and affective bonding. By internalizing social
norms grounded in these types of motives, individuals develop predis-
positions to respond to particular types of incentive systems offered by
The second theory is self-determination theory. Deci and Ryan (2004)
posit a range of motivations on a continuum from controlled to autono-
mous. Those motivations most germane to public service motivation
are the more autonomous forms of extrinsic motivation, specifically
regulation through identification and integrated regulation. Regulation
through identification involves a moderately high level of extrinsic moti-
vation. It involves consciously valuing a cause or regulation because an
individual has embraced it as personally important. Self-determination
theory envisions an even higher type of extrinsic motivation, integrated
regulation, which is the most autonomous form of extrinsic motiva-
tion. Individuals motivated by integrated regulation fully assimilate the
external direction into their identities so they become integral to their
self- evaluations and beliefs about their personal needs. Integrated regu-
lation therefore is like intrinsic motivation but it is, in fact, extrinsic
because the individual is trying to achieve ends that are extrinsic to
the self, rather than inherent in the task itself. Both regulation through
identification and integrated regulation are squarely among the bases of
public service motivation as identified by Perry and Wise (1990).
Perry’s (2000) process theory of public service motivation builds from
logics largely embedded in predisposition-opportunity and self-deter-
mination theories. The theory begins with four premises: (1) rational,
normative and affective processes motivate humans; (2) people are moti-
vated by their self-concepts; (3) preferences or values should be endog-
enous to any theory of motivation; and (4) preferences are learned in
social processes. Perry (2000) explains the fit among the premises:

The premises suggest that work behavior has many origins, among
them rational choice, but also normative conformity and affective
bonding. In addition, an individual’s self-concept (i.e. his or her iden-
tity and values) is a significant filter through which these motivational
230 James L. Perry

processes operate. The individual’s self-concept, however, does not rise

fully formed in a vacuum. Individuals are social creations who come
by their values and identities in a variety of ways, including exposure
to institutions and mechanisms of social development. (p. 480)

John DiIulio’s (1994) study of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is an

excellent illustration of the behavioral dynamics at work in a public
organization. DiIulio’s study focuses on a key anomaly derived from
modern social and behavioral sciences. Principal-agent and rational
choice models predict that public bureaucrats, aided and abetted by
civil service systems, are likely to shirk and subvert the interests of their
agencies because of their pursuit of self-interests and the inability of
their principals to adequately monitor their behaviors. What DiIulio
found on the ground in the BOP was strongly at odds with predictions
from the dominant behavioral theories of our time. He found that the
behavior of bureaucrats in the Bureau of Prisons could be characterized
by three s-words: strive, support and sacrifice. They ‘worked hard and by
the book’ (strive), ‘put public and organizational goals ahead of private
goals’ (support), and went ‘above and beyond the call of duty’ (sacrifice)
(p. 281). DiIulio’s description of the behavior of bureaucrats is a good
illustration of the theoretical dynamics of predisposition-opportunity,
self-determination and process theories summarized above.
The dynamics by which civil service systems operate to affect member
behaviors are relatively well informed by major theories. What mixes of
incentives are most effective in shaping and stimulating public-service
motivated behaviors? We take up this question next.

3.3 What mixes of incentives are most consequential for shaping

public service motivation?
What are the mixes of incentives that are most effective in shaping and
stimulating public-service motivated behaviors? This question demands
that we answer another: effective for what? We know that different
outcomes, such as membership, role adherence, ethical behavior and job
performance, may all be determined by different antecedents or causes.
Thus, specifying the right mix of incentives demands some care in artic-
ulating independent and dependent variables. The state of research does
not permit us to do that with high accuracy, but my presentation will
seek to keep the outcome issue front and center.
At the risk of oversimplifying, I would like to limit my discussion to a
mix of three types of incentives: total pay, as reflected in salary and bene-
fits; job security; and opportunities to satisfy public service motivations.
Civil Service Systems and Public Service Motivation 231

I consider the latter category to be quite broad, to include norm-based,

affective, integration and social esteem. By total pay, I mean both sala-
ries and benefits, such as healthcare and retirement. Although this
‘short list’ of incentives could be construed as too narrow, they tend to
represent both the lion’s share of what people receive for public employ-
ment and that which is traditionally important in the context of public
One way to advance our understanding of the role of incentives
would be to conduct experimental and empirical research that looks
at various mixes of the three incentives (Perry, 2014). Table 12.1 posits
eight different types of public incentive systems (but the types do not
occur only in the public sector) derived from all combinations of the
three incentives dichotomized as either high or low.
The two extremes in the table, where all three incentives are present
either at low or high levels, are labeled non-incentive and pluralistic full
incentive. The table also identifies three pure incentive types, which
correspond to one of the three incentives being present at a high level.
These incentives types are pure total compensation, pure job security and
pure public service motivation. The final three incentive types use dual
incentive structures with only one of the incentives present to a low
degree. These incentive types are named according to the incentive
absent in the mix of three: job security deprived, total compensation deprived
and public service motivation deprived.
In searching for evidence about effects associated with the eight
ideal-type incentive structures, research on efficiency wages offers some
insights. I turn next to reviewing some of this research.

Table 12.1 A typology of incentive systems associated with three common

public sector incentives

Total Job service
compensation security motivation

Non-incentive Low Low Low

Pure total compensation High Low Low
Pure job security Low High Low
Pure public service motivation Low Low High
Public service motivation deprived High High Low
Job security deprived High Low High
Total compensation deprived Low High High
Pluralistic full incentive High High High

Source: Perry (2014).

232 James L. Perry

4 Research on efficiency wages as one form of multi-

incentive research

Some theory and empirical research addresses aspects of the three incen-
tives. With respect to pay, for example, research on the efficiency wage
is relevant and illuminating. Efficiency wage theory dictates that paying
employees above the market clearing rate or a wage premium guarantees
maximum effort (Davis and Gabris, 2008; Krueger and Summers, 1988;
Taylor and Taylor, 2011). Otherwise, employees will behave in a variety
of ways that will reduce their productivity, including shirk, sabotage or
turnover at high frequency.
Taylor and Taylor (2011) observe that empirical support for efficiency
wage theory in the public sector is limited because most of the research
has been confined to the market sector. Taylor and Taylor refer to Davis
and Gabris’s (2008) study of compensation among local governments in
the Chicago metropolitan area, where municipalities that implemented
above-market wages enjoyed reputations for high-quality performance.
Two recent studies in the public sector in developing countries (Banuri
and Keefer, 2013; Dal Bó, Finan and Rossi, 2013) provide conflicting
evidence about efficiency wages. Dal Bó et al. studied the consequences
of salary differences for public sector recruitment in a randomized exper-
iment in Mexico where applicants were screened in exams for intellec-
tual ability, personality and motivation. They found that higher wages
attract more able applicants with no evidence of adverse selection effects
on motivation, which contrasts with predictions that raising public
sector pay could attract staff with less public-regarding motivations or
who are more inclined to shirk because of difficulties monitoring public
Banuri and Keefer (2013), using Indonesian students seeking work in
the public and private sectors, revisit the issues studied by Dal Bó et al.
(2013) with different results. Their study used dictator games and real
effort tasks to examine wage effects on a measure of motivation that
exactly matches the public sector task. They found that more prosocial
subjects were more likely to exert higher effort in a task that exactly
matches the measure of their prosociality. Second, when motivation is
measured in a way that exactly matches the public sector task, moti-
vated individuals are more likely to join the public sector when public
sector pay is low, but not when it is high. Finally, public sector workers
exhibited greater prosociality than private sector workers.
The contrasting results of Dal Bó et al. (2013) and Banuri and Keefer
(2013) indicate just how contested our knowledge about the interplay of
Civil Service Systems and Public Service Motivation 233

money and motivation really is. The public service motivation research
contests the primacy of wages as a driver of worker effort (Andersen,
2009). It argues that prosocial, other-oriented motives also matter (Perry
and Hondeghem, 2008). Taylor and Taylor’s (2011) 15-country study
offers further insights into the relationships between public service
motivation and efficiency wages. They found positive relationships
between wages and effort, supporting research on the motivating effects
of wages on performance among government workers. At the same time,
their results indicated that public service motivation was strongly linked
to high performance. They also discovered varying relative emphases on
wages and public service motivation as drivers of effort by the public
sector workforce in different countries.

5 Other multi-incentive research in the public sector

Aside from research on incentive wages, only a handful of studies in

the public sector have investigated two or more incentives simultane-
ously. Lee and Choi (2013) conducted a study of South Korean college
students’ sector choices. Among the variables they included in their
binary logit models were public service motivation, high pay, and job
security. From among these three variables, only job security was signifi-
cant in a combined model. They offer explanations for why their find-
ings may be peculiar to South Korea. One of the reasons, fears about job
insecurity (Hur and Perry, 2012), extend back to the 1997–1998 Asian
economic crisis, which lingers in the minds of many South Koreans
even today. Although the results of this study may be peculiar to South
Korea, the research reinforces the fact that multi-incentive research is
useful because it gives a more complete picture of the dynamics that
influence behavior.
We clearly have major knowledge gaps in our understanding of how
the mix of incentives affects public-service motivated behaviors. The
typology presented here offers a means to think about and assess the
research that needs to be done to fill the gaps. The research on efficiency
wages indicates a trade-off between compensation and public service
motivation in some countries, reinforcing the idealized view a public
service ethic (Horton, 2008). We also observe instances, such as Lee
and Choi’s study of South Korean students, in which incentives such as
job security play a predominant role in sector choice. In the long run,
we need to obtain empirical evidence for a complete matrix that cross-
classifies incentives (as represented in Table 12.1) and outcomes (i.e.
membership, role adherence, ethical behavior and job performance).
234 James L. Perry

Filling in this matrix would give managers and policy makers invaluable
information to better align incentives offered in civil service systems
with results.

6 Conclusion

This chapter reviewed and put into context theory and empirical
research about civil service systems and public service motivation. In
doing so, it organized the analysis around three questions: (1) Are some
civil service systems better at producing a public-service motivated
workforce?; (2) How do civil service systems, particularly those that are
successful, produce the results they achieve?; and (3) What are the mixes
of incentives that are most effective in stimulating public-service moti-
vated behaviors? The review established that empirical research linking
civil service systems and public service motivation that would offer clear
answers to the questions is in its early stages, but the foundations for
answers to the questions have been established.
During the next decade, we have an opportunity to make significant
headway to find answers to many of our outstanding questions. The
study of public service motivation has been undertaken by scholars in
dozens of countries around the world. Thus, a community of interest
exists internationally. Research on the mix of incentives, which has
multidisciplinary appeal, seems the most likely to yield dividends to
advance theory and practice about civil service systems around the

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Law and Management:
Comparatively Assessing the Reach
of Judicialization
Robert K. Christensen and Charles R. Wise

1 Introduction

The concept of judicialization circumscribes a multiplicity of meanings.

In this chapter, we focus on one of the ‘newest’ meanings of judicializa-
tion, what Tate and Vallinder (1995b: 516) refer to as ‘Judicialization I’:
judges and judicial institutions as policy makers complementing, substi-
tuting, or competing with politically accountable policy actors.
Managers and judges have a complex relationship in the management
of public affairs in civil service systems. The balance between managerial
and judicial control of administration and policy has ebbed and flowed
during different periods. In recent years, increasing control appears to
be moving to the judicial partners. This chapter assesses the balance in
a comparative perspective, offering a framework to understand the rela-
tive potency of US and European judicial institutions as we progress into
the 21st century.
The context of this inquiry is couched in lively discussions on both
sides of the Atlantic. In the United States, observers (e.g. Christensen,
Goerdel and Nicholson-Crotty, 2011; Horowitz, 1977; Kreis and
Christensen, 2013; Lynn, 2009; Melnick, 1994; Newbold, 2010; Shapiro,
1988, 1995; van Horn, Baumer and Gormley, 2001; Wise and O’Leary,
2003) have long called attention to the role of judiciaries in public
administration and public policy making. In Europe, many of the same
arguments enjoy growing attention (e.g. Blauberger, 2012; Conant,
2002; Guarnieri, Pederzoli and Thomas, 2002; Henckaerts and Van der
Jeught, 1998; Jacob et al., 1996; Koopmans, 2003; Shapiro and Stone,

238 Robert K. Christensen and Charles R. Wise

1994; Stone Sweet, 2000, 2004; Tate and Vallinder, 1995a), as illustrated
by Stone Sweet’s (2000: 3) observation that European ‘constitutional
judges will increasingly behave as sophisticated legislators.’
Fifteen years after Epstein (1999) rallied APSA’s Law and Courts
section around Gibson, Caldeira and Baird’s (1998: 343) declaration
that law and courts constitute ‘the most neglected subfield within
comparative politics,’ we have benefited from a surge in compara-
tive judicial scholarship (e.g. Cheung, 2006; Conant, 2007; Epstein,
Knight and Shvetsova, 2001; Jackson and Tushnet, 2002; Koopmans,
2003; Rothmayr, 2001; Shapiro and Stone Sweet, 2002; Stone Sweet
and Brunell, 2012).
We anticipate and hope that this trend will continue. While the field
is still developing, we offer a framework as a point of commonality
and within which future research on comparative judicialization can
proceed. We also propose several middle-range theories to encourage
and guide empirical work in this rising area of scholarship.
We do not suggest that the comparative judicialization research,
newness notwithstanding, offers little overarching conceptual guid-
ance. On the contrary, we attempt to incorporate and synthesize
existing models here. For example, Epstein and her colleagues (see
Epstein, 1999; Epstein et al., 2001) offer a useful model of judicial
review that allows comparative work according to court system char-
acteristics. Similarly, Stone Sweet (2000) and Koopmans (2003) call our
attention to how fundamental questions of separation of powers serve
as a comparative heuristic. By tying together models such as these with
our own insights, we offer an assembly of factors that can be used to
identify features of law and courts in assessing their comparative judi-
cialization potency.
Our framework contemplates:

● legal tradition (e.g. civil law versus common law);

● structural and constitutional judicial features such as appointment
rules, powers of judicial review, and separation of powers;
● mechanisms for resolving intergovernmental relations; and
● relationships with supra-/international judicial bodies.

Such a framework gives a broader, comparative context to assess the

dynamism of EU and US judicialization than has existed previously. As
an illustration of how this framework might be implemented, we also
offer middle-range theories based on the framework to encourage future
empirical research.
Law and Management 239

2 Legal tradition

We focus on two traditions of positive law: common and civil law. Common
law describes a tradition where judges dominate the rule of conflicts, setting
the precedent-based law governing future, similar conflicts. This is a tradi-
tion where, as Raadschelders (2003: 126) describes, ‘justice precedes law,’
the codified law being a ‘rather late and occasional interloper’ (Horowitz,
1977: 1). Civil law, on the other hand, is law preceded by a justice articu-
lated by scholars and legislators as a guide, and often constraint, for judi-
cial bodies (Murphy, Pritchett and Epstein, 2002).
A theme of the preceding century’s comparative research has been
that the expansiveness of judicial policy depends on the context’s legal
tradition, whether civil or common law. Accordingly, legal tradition is an
important beginning point in our framework. Christie (2000: 224) offers
some insight into legal tradition’s significance:

courts operating in different legal cultures can reach different conclu-

sions on the same issue, not necessarily because they take a different
view of the merits of the issue involved, but because they have a
different view of the judicial function and/or utilize different judicial

Murphy et al. (2002: 5–6) describe the features of civil law in relation
to judicialization as a ‘system, closed, self-contained ... a neatly ordered
body of principles hierarchically arranged. Any judicial tampering with
this system, even a charitable effort to ease harsh effects of the [Civil]
Code’s commands, is bound, over the long run, to do more harm than
good.’ Common law, however, relies upon the creativity of a judiciary,
and is, by definition, that ‘part of the law that is within the province of
the courts themselves to establish’ (Eisenberg, 1988: 1).
Although the strong correlation between the common law tradition
and strong judicialization was a general assumption of 20th-century
comparative research, some observers have suggested that civil law
judges have gained increasing policy power (e.g. Murphy et al., 2002),
while common law judges in the United States have, in some instances
such as school desegregation cases, curbed their policy involvement.
Accordingly, we offer the following middle-range theory to test this
assumption’s validity in the 21st century:

MRT1. Judiciaries steeped in a civil law tradition have less impact

upon public policy than their common law counterparts.
240 Robert K. Christensen and Charles R. Wise

Provine’s survey of judicialization in France lends support to this

proposition. She observed that in France ‘[civil law] legal tradi-
tion ... discourages political discourse based on rights ... mak[ing] a sharp
distinction between law and politics and assign[ing] judges no role in
the development of law’ (Provine, 1996: 179–180). The absence of the
equity doctrine and stare decisis, principles very prevalent in common
law countries, explains this distinction. French judges do not, in a
case of first instance, create ways to prevent unjust results (equity);
nor do they cite their, and other, prior judicial opinions as guiding, if
not binding, law (stare decisis) (Provine, 1996). This is not to say that
French judiciaries are entirely without power; Rohr (1995) and Stone
(1994) chronicle France’s Constitutional Council’s increasing competi-
tion with majoritarian policy makers. Counter trends notwithstanding,
for the present we assess civil law judiciaries to be more constricted in
judicialization than common law judiciaries. In the British common
law case, for example, Sterett (1994) demonstrates that even without
a written constitution upon which they might invalidate majoritarian
action, British judiciaries are powerful policy actors across a host of
substantive policy areas. The United States, perhaps to a greater extent
than any other common law nation, demonstrates vast judicial influ-
ence, with Marbury v. Madison and Brown v. Board of Education as the
classic cases, and Bush v. Gore and Department of Health and Human
Resources v. State of Florida (Affordable Health Care Act) as the contem-
porary cases of judicialization.
With respect to impact on policy making and the administrative state,
scholars have underscored the impact of common law courts. Speaking
to policy making, Kagan (2001) has argued that policy making is increas-
ingly articulated on the adversarial stages of common law courts, giving
the judiciary increasing power in defining policy. Kagan (1997) was less
conclusive about whether ‘adversarial legalism’ affects Europe as much
as it has the United States. He suggests that historically in Europe there
was less. He argues that it seems likely that at any point between 1800
and 1960, a comparativist would have found that American judges
played a significantly more prominent role than their counterparts in
Western Europe (Kagan, 2004). However, in recent times the difference
seems to have narrowed. Kelemen observes that a shift toward US adver-
sarial legal style is occurring in the European Union, and that its spread
is inextricably linked to the process of European intergration which
encourages the spread of adversarial legalism as a mode of governance
(Kelemen, 2006: 102).
Law and Management 241

Speaking to the structure and operation of the administrative

state, O’Leary (1993), O’Leary and Wise (1991), Rosenbloom (1983)
and Rosenbloom and O’Leary (1997) have long contended that the
common law judiciary has played a major role in retrofitting the civil
service within constitutional schemes. Rosenbloom concludes that the
impact has been profound. Where administrators once enjoyed immu-
nity, the courts have played a major role in creating an administrative
environment ‘governed by constitutional law’ (Rosenbloom, 2000:
45). Several examples illustrate this observation. In an area of institu-
tional reform litigation stemming from the common law case Brown v.
Board of Education (1954), O’Leary and Wise (1991) emphasized that
the judiciary is often the most powerful partner in the partnership
of managers, judges and legislators. The theme of a judiciary shaping
and directing civil service is emphasized again by Hamilton (1999) in
the area of civil service patronage. Hamilton calls to the attention of
public administration scholars and practitioners the influence of the
relatively recent evolution of common law in prohibiting considera-
tion of political association in the decision to hire, promote, terminate
or grant contracts.
Hamilton’s study illustrates the broader impact of the judiciary on
personnel relative to civil rights; Hamilton’s own example largely focuses
on civil servants’ First Amendment right of political association. Beyond
freedom of association, courts have been particularly influential in regu-
lating a host of personnel decisions using the broad civil rights provi-
sions of the Constitution and the civil rights statutes. Today, common
law interpretations of civil service issues are frequently founded on the
rights of free speech; religion; privacy; procedural and substantive due
process; and equal protection (DiNome, Yaklin and Rosenbloom, 1999;
Roberts, 2009; Wise et al., 1999). For example, Wise et al. (1999) illus-
trate that workplace searches of public employees will be governed by
judicial interpretation of the Fourth Amendment privacy standards.
The standards are far from formulaic, but are ‘decided on a case-by-case
basis’ (1999: 195).
Another aspect of legal tradition, explored in more detail below, is
its effect on judicial structure. For example, legal tradition influenced
the nature of jurisdiction, whether unitary or specialized. The common
law tradition is more indicative of judicial jurisdiction that encompasses
‘not only civil and criminal matters but also public law litigation and
usually judicial review of legislation’ (Guarnieri et al., 2002: 81), as in
the United States.
242 Robert K. Christensen and Charles R. Wise

While the assumption is that common law traditions foster relatively

higher levels of judicialization, our theory deserves further attention
and testing as ‘the distinction between civil and common law [becomes]
less apparent today than during the initial stages of their development’
(Christensen, 2001–2002: 400). Indeed, for some time, scholars (Hurst,
1977) have suggested that the 20th century witnessed a shift towards
civil law, fueled by the increase of the welfare state, and the dominance
of the legislative and executive functions relative to that increase. At the
same time, the emergence of supra-/international judicial bodies, such
as the International Criminal Court and the European Court of Justice,
increasingly blend civil/common law approaches in order to be relevant
to multiple jurisdictions.
These observations suggest a shifting tension between civil and
common law traditions, with increasing movement towards hybridiza-
tion of the two. At this point our best conclusion is reflected in von
Mehren’s words (2000: 16): ‘as the values (of civil and common law) are
incommensurate, no permanent balance is likely to be struck; accord-
ingly, an element of instability exists on both sides of the equation that
can cause each system to move closer to – or retreat from – the other
system’s position.’
The increasing, if not cyclical, convergence of civil and common
law traditions notwithstanding, our reading of the research is that the
central tendencies of civil law judiciaries tend less towards judicializa-
tion than do common law judiciaries.

3 Structural rules and powers

In many ways a reflection of a sovereign’s legal tradition, we examine

here the implications of judicial structural rules and powers on the
comparative policy impact of US and EU courts.

3.1 Judicial appointment

We consider first the aspect of judicial appointment. In the United States,
judicial appointment to the federal bench is primarily the prerogative of
the executive branch, and such appointments are, as a rule, life tenures.
In France, however, guarantees of life tenure are absent (Provine, 1996:
183). European countries have generally preferred judicial predictability
over independence. Illustratively, Kagan (2001: 111–112) observes that
‘in the Netherlands (and in other hierarchically organized European
legal systems) judges are recruited, socialized, and supervised in a
manner explicitly designed to maximize adjudicative predictability ... to
Law and Management 243

homogenize the judiciary to make its decisions legally competent,

uniform, and predictable.’
Furthermore, the selection of American judges, unlike in some
European countries, is observed to be as much as function of political
prowess as a successful legal career (Jackson, 1974; Kagan, 2001: 112;
Provine, 1996: 200). For example, Kritzer (1996: 175–176) notes that
‘many judges on the US federal bench have had extensive experience
in both legislative and administrative roles.’ In some European coun-
tries like Sweden, for example, judges’ training involves periods of time
working in administration agencies. We believe that judicial appoint-
ments based on political or administrative experience increases the like-
lihood of judicialization. A contrasting illustration drawn from Great
Britain supports this proposition. ‘In England, a judge who is a former
barrister with no direct experience in political administration might be
very reluctant to make a decision that result[s] in having to deal with the
day-to-day operation of a prison or a school district or a mental hospital’
(Kritzer, 1996: 176).
We conclude this section with the following middle-range theories:

MRT2A: Life-tenure judicial appointments encourage independence

and insulation that foster judicialization.
MRT2B: Appointment of judges based on political/administrative
experience encourages judicialization.

3.1.1 Standing and judicial review

We suggest in this section that judicialization, reflecting constitutional
separation of powers, is a function of the rules of standing and the
structures of judicial review. To organize this section and to encourage
continuity in the field, we draw upon Espstein et al.’s (2001) articulation
of these comparative aspects. These authors identified four ‘key char-
acteristics’ of court systems: judicial standing, type of judicial review,
timing of judicial review, and institutional structures of judicial review.
We suggest that each of these aspects has implications for the compara-
tive impact of US and European courts

3.1.2 Standing and type of judicial review

Judicial standing concerns the powers/rights of a litigant to bring
a suit before a court. In the United States these powers are, in many
respects, more limited than in European countries. As specified in the
US Constitution, disputes can be brought to a court’s attention only by
244 Robert K. Christensen and Charles R. Wise

a party with an individual stake and ‘sufficient interest’ (Canon and

Johnson, 1999: 39) in the dispute. The type of review necessary for
standing in this context is known as concrete review.
In European countries, however, a broader host of actors, including
governmental actors, may bring suits based on concrete review or abstract
review. An observation about Germany illustrates both the concept and
theory behind abstract review. In Germany, the nation:

has theorized its form of abstract review at the behest of officials

with automatic standing by casting the Constitutional Court as part
of the state machinery charged with the welfare-producing duty of
providing a constitutional legal order through the vindication of
‘objective’, not ‘subjective’ or individual, rights. (Reitz, 2002: 458)

This means that many European courts can and are encouraged to enter-
tain claims that may be brought by parties lacking individual interest in
a dispute, as long as those parties are petitioning in the defense of rights
recognized by society. In addition the EU Commission, the EU Council,
and the European Parliament have encouraged the empowerment
of private individuals to enforce EU laws through the courts, and the
European Court of Justice has developed a doctrine of state liability that
establishes conditions under which member states can be held liable for
damages suffered by individuals as a result of the member state’s failure
to implement community law (Kelemen, 2006: 109–110).
The implications of standing rules on judicialization are drawn by
Reitz (2002: 453):

a system of concrete review undoubtedly restricts judicial review,

as compared with a system combining both abstract and concrete
review – at least the class of parties with standing is restricted and
there are certain issues which are unlikely to be raised in a system
confined to concrete review.

While there is naturally some debate about the similarity between

concrete and abstract review systems (see Reitz, 2002), we draw our
middle-range theory from the underlying rationale separating these two

MRT3: Standing rules of concrete review are more likely to circum-

scribe judicialization than systems with hybrid (concrete/abstract
review) standing rules.
Law and Management 245

3.1.3 Timing
Like standing rules, the US courts are also more bound than European
courts on when a dispute can be heard. The powers of US courts only
reach those disputes that have occurred or otherwise have an element
of ripeness. When judicial action cannot provide relief either because a
state act had not yet occurred or because the occurrence became moot,
US litigants are denied recourse. This requirement is commonly referred
to as ex post/a posteriori relief.
In contrast, the powers of European courts generally reach ex post/a
posteriori and a priori/ex ante, to cover those state acts that have not
fully materialized (Epstein et al., 2001). Also, when national courts are
hearing cases involving EU law, they are empowered to send ‘references’
to the European Court of Justice that inquire about the meaning of EU
provisions. The European Court of Justice replies with a preliminary
ruling which the national court subsequently applies and can use to
overturn incompatible national law (Conant, 2007: 48). Because these
courts are able to adjudicate across more temporal stages of a policy
issue, we offer the middle-range theory:

MRT4: Judicialization is more likely when timing rules are not

restricted to acts ex post/a posteriori.

3.1.4 Institutional structures of judicial review: jurisdiction

In this section, we address some of the confusion that readers may be
having as to which courts we are analyzing. While the US Supreme Court
is most comparable to many European countries’ constitutional courts,
our target of inquiry is broader than the ‘highest’ court in each land. The
breadth of our inquiry hinges upon the concept of judicial review, or
the power of a court to review the constitutionality of a state act. While
Epstein et al. (2001: 121) refer to these powers as the institutional struc-
tures of judicial review, or ‘who has power to engage judicial review,’ we
refer to these structures as jurisdiction.
While we recognize a range in the European experience, the typical
European country’s judiciary system circumscribes the jurisdiction of
constitutional review to a single constitutional court, often operating
within a non-hierarchical judicial system, where jurisdiction is special-
ized. As an extreme example, the French judicial system is disaggregated,
lacking a central administrative component. The Constitutional Council,
the body with the concentrated powers of constitutional review, is not
even technically part of the French judicial arrangement (Provine, 1996;
Rohr, 1995).
246 Robert K. Christensen and Charles R. Wise

However, in the US context, the powers of judicial review are nearly

ubiquitous throughout the lower courts and higher courts, but within
a highly hierarchical dual (state and federal) court system, ultimately
bound by the decisions of the US Supreme Court. Notwithstanding,
van Horn et al. (2001) point out that the hierarchical US system can
be misleading because, in reality, ‘most lower court decisions [state and
federal] are never reviewed by higher courts.’ As an illustration of the
power of ‘lower’ courts in the United States, many state courts have gone
beyond federal judicial and legislative mandates to declare unequal and
unconstitutional their state’s education funding schemes (Kramer, 2002;
Wise and Christensen, 2005).
This leads us to a middle-range theory concerning jurisdiction and
court system structure.

MRT5: Non-hierarchical judicial systems, where jurisdiction is special-

ized and the power of constitutional review concentrated, gravitate
less towards judicialization than do judicial systems where the power
of constitutional review is open to a broad range of jurisdictions
within a centralized, if not hierarchical, court system.

As Guarnieri et al. (2002: 79) observe, the less specialized ‘the scope
of judicial decisions is the more politically significant a judge’s role is
likely to be.’ Nevertheless, Guarnieri et al. recognize some debate in the
literature relative to this point. Our theory offers a good starting point
in testing this inquiry in the future.

4 Intergovernmental relations

We explore here the impact of intergovernmental relations on judiciali-

zation. This exposition drives at the very heart of the role of judiciaries
in the policy process. In a comparative analysis of three countries, Wise
and Brown (1999) explore how intergovernmental disputes are resolved
through political and/or judicial means. They conclude that various
countries utilize judicial mechanisms in different degrees. Japan, for
example, more often uses political avenues of dispute resolution than
judicial. However, the United States relies heavily upon judicial means
to resolve intergovernmental conflict.
These findings stem, in part, from considerations already raised in
the framework presented in this chapter – legal tradition and reach of
powers of judicial review. Germany, for example, has empowered its
Constitutional Court to ‘determine controversies between organs or
Law and Management 247

government with respect to their relative rights and powers, such as the
boundaries between Bund and Länder governments’ (Wise and Brown,
1999: 534). Even ordinary courts in the United States wield this power.
Japan, however, prefers to ‘dispose of a case on nonconstitutional
grounds, and wherever possible, statuses should be construed so as to
avoid a constitutional issue’ (Wise and Brown, 1999: 538–539). Like
Japan, Provine (1996: 179) notes, courts in France are not on equal
footing with other government institutions; ‘institutional limitations
on judicial policy making have undoubtedly discouraged activists from
enlisting courts in their efforts.’ These limitations come in the form of
placing the judiciary subject to the authority of the Minister of Justice,
who is an executive appointee (Provine, 1996: 183).
Based on these considerations we propose the following middle-range
theory relative to intergovernmental relations:

MRT6: Judiciaries bearing more responsibility to resolve intergovern-

mental conflicts and individual and societal problems wield greater
powers of judicialization than do courts situated within countries
where such disputes are primarily channeled through political (exec-
utive or legislative) avenues.

5 Relationship to supranational judiciaries

In this final section, we explore perhaps one of the newest aspects of

judicialization: the implications of supranational judiciaries for sover-
eign, judicial policy potency. While the United States has clearly resisted
such international courts as the International Criminal Court (ICC), a
vast number of countries have not (Christensen, 2001–2002).
In Europe, the policy influence of the European Court of Justice (ECJ)
has been carefully detailed. The European Court of Justice in concert
with the European Commission, private litigants and national judges
has fostered European legal integration and transformed the European
community (Stone Sweet, 2004; Weiler, 1991). Today the ECJ has no
rival as the most effective supranational judicial body in the history of
the world, comparing favorably with the most powerful constitutional
courts anywhere (Stone Sweet, 2004: 2).
The ECJ’s doctrines of supremacy and direct effect provide a means
of monitoring and enforcing EU law and empower both the ECJ and
national courts as important actors in legislative and constitutional
innovation. The doctrine of direct effect enables private individuals to
plead rights found in EU law in national court cases, and the doctrine of
248 Robert K. Christensen and Charles R. Wise

supremacy requires national judges to resolve litigation not only with

reference to EU law, but also by giving priority to it (Stone Sweet, 2004:
15). Kilroy’s study of ECJ case law on the relationship between ECJ deci-
sions and member state preferences found that the ECJ declared a viola-
tion of EU law in 55 percent of cases, upheld national law in 36 percent
of cases and took an intermediate position in the remainder of the judg-
ments (Kilroy, 1999, cited in Conant, 2007).
The overall volume of litigation at the European level has more than
tripled since the 1980s. Individuals and firms have increasingly brought
cases in environmental regulation, securities regulation, antidiscrimi-
nation regulation and consumer protection. This proliferation of rights
at the EU level has created the bases for increased use of EU law by
individuals as grounds for suits. As such, while individuals do not sue
for Europe and are suing for themselves, they effectively serve as the
eyes, ears and long arm of the EU. Thus, the process of European inte-
gration has encouraged a shift toward adversarial legalism (Kelemen,
2006) and hence judicialization. Thus, the ECJ has been a powerful
catalyst of market and political integration. It has been aided in this
function because its pro-integrative rulings are effectively insulated
from member state override (Alter, 2008; Cichowski, 2007; Pollack,
2003; Stone Sweet, 2004). For any important and confrontational ruling
of the court, member state governments are likely to be divided and so
they are unable to gather the votes required to overturn the court’s
Deference to supra- and international judicial bodies intuitively
suggests handing over powers of judicialization to a difference body. For
example, the judiciaries within the United States remain comparatively
unbound by international judicial law and, according to common law,
remain primarily loyal to precedents set within their own jurisdictions.
In short, the hierarchy of US courts does not yet feature international
courts the way European systems do.
Scholars such as Weiler (1994) have offered a thesis of judicial empow-
erment to explain why national courts would defer cases to the juris-
diction of the ECJ. These scholars suggest that deference to supra-/
international courts is an instrument by which ‘lower member courts
could employ judicial review over other political institutions; a prac-
tice normally reserved for higher appellate courts’ (Ruggiero, 2002: 52,
referencing Weiler, 1994). Alter (2008) demonstrates that the increased
use of references from lower courts led higher courts to begin to send
their own references in order to influence the ECJ because they believed
nothing could stop the increasing flow of lower court references and
Law and Management 249

higher courts shied away from overt defiance. These observations lead
us to our final middle-range theory:

MRT7: National court deference to supra-/international judicial

bodies leads to increased powers of judicialization.

Some scholarship is already available that tests these theories, and

suggests a need to nuance them. By analyzing lower, intermediate and
higher court referrals to the ECJ, Stone Sweet and Brunell (1998) offer
some evidence that the inquiry needs much more detail. They found
that activities of intermediate courts (appellate) should be accounted
for, as appellate references to the ECJ have outnumbered lower court
references to the ECJ. Furthermore, Stone Sweet and Brunell suggest that
the inquiry needs to account for a substantive area of law. They note
that in different areas of case law, the ECJ often encourages the position
of a national court in a particular area of law to gain their support.
As Greer (2006) points out, EU member states have attempted to care-
fully isolate health services and policy from the EU since its inception.
Nonetheless, the EU is emerging as one of the formative influences in
health policy. The activities of the EU institutions in areas outside of
health policy have changed the legal environment under which health
systems contract for employees, purchase goods, finance services and
organize themselves. The result is systematic interventions in health
policy by the EU, engineered by the ECJ and justified by internal market
rules and decisions.
The influence of supra-/international courts relative to national judi-
cialization is still evolving and appears, for now, to depend on partic-
ular circumstances. However, the middle-range theories we offer in this
section go some distance in clarifying the next steps around which
future research can coalesce.

6 Conclusion

We do not offer here a grand theory of comparative judicialization.

Rather, to encourage a common and concentrated language in this area,
we offer a newly growing field a framework within which to conduct
comparative analyses of the role of the judiciary in policy and civil
service. The framework we offer accounts for the potential impor-
tance of varying legal traditions; structural and constitutional judicial
features; mechanisms for resolving intergovernmental relations; and
the role of international judicial bodies. We note that the relationship
250 Robert K. Christensen and Charles R. Wise

between the judiciary and civil service system is complex and dynamic.
Notwithstanding, evidence suggests that judicial influence of policy and
public service configuration is increasing. We contend that the ability to
comparatively assess this relationship is key to understanding contem-
porary civil service systems.
While we have sought a parsimonious framework that builds upon past
models, we invite discussion of this framework – even thoughtful addi-
tions and subtractions relative to its components. We agree with Stone
(1994: 447) that ‘judicialization is an empirically verifiable phenom-
enon,’ and we have attempted to illustrate how our model might be
implemented by offering middle-range theories amenable to empirical,
comparative work.

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The Constitutional Responsibility
of the Civil Service
John A. Rohr

This chapter examines the constitutional foundation of the American

civil service and suggests that the Constitution of the United States
serves as apt instrument for alerting American civil servants to the
important roles they play in the governance of their country. It is a
comparative study only in the sense that I show at the outset just why
the Constitution of the United States is a more likely candidate for
this pedagogical task than the constitutions of Canada, France and the
United Kingdom.
Canada, for example, has a strong constitutional tradition grounded
in a robust adherence to the principle of ‘responsible government’ that
antedates the present Confederation. It was most impressively rein-
forced by Pierre Eliot Trudeau’s ‘repatriation’ of Canada’s constitution in
the Constitutional Act of 1982. And yet this very constitution itself has
become a sign of contradiction because Quebec has never accepted its
legitimacy. The seriousness of the problem was brought home forcefully
in the remarkable 1999 decision by the Supreme Court of Canada that
under certain carefully specified conditions Quebec could legally secede
from the Confederation.1 To ground standards of civil service action in
so frail a constitution is to lean upon a bruised reed.
France is not likely to provide a constitutional foundation for its civil
service because of the sheer number of constitutions it has produced:
from 13 to 17 depending on what one means by a constitution. I recall
watching the evening news one night in 1990 when I was living in Paris.
On the screen, Robert Badinter, the Garde de Sceaux at that time (some-
thing akin to an American attorney general) was wryly explaining that
the French excelled in writing constitutions because they had so much
practice in doing so. Badinter’s light touch provided welcome relief from

256 John A. Rohr

the marked tendency of France’s critics to overstate the seriousness of

short-lived constitutions. Yes, France has had many constitutions – too
many no doubt – but this has not deterred leading constitutional scholars
like François Luchaire and Gérard Conac from entitling their magisterial
text book quite simply La Constitution de la République Française, thereby
heightening the continuity of the great principles that undergird the
constitutions of France’s five republics.2
A far more serious problem for grounding the French civil service in
the constitution is the deep-seated, long-standing French antipathy
toward oaths in support of republican regimes. For many French polit-
ical scientists, oaths smack of monarchy – or worse, of the Vichy regime
of the Maréchal Pétain. As the late Marie-France Toinet put it, ‘the very
thought of such an oath makes Frenchmen shiver.’3 This sentiment,
of course, puts French political scientists at odds with their American
counterparts who seldom, if ever, find fault with the legally mandated
duty imposed upon all federal civil servants to take a prospective oath to
uphold the Constitution of the United States.
The United Kingdom is a constitutionally driven country, but certain
aspects of the British Constitution raise problems for our project.
Although we are often told that the British Constitution is unwritten,
this is not entirely true. To be precise, we should say that the Constitution
is written but uncodified.4 This makes it difficult for foreign visitors and
journalists (and perhaps even homegrown Englishmen as well) to know
just who must do what and to whom in order to have a genuine consti-
tutional issue. Indeed, so loose is the meaning of constitution that at
times one gets the impression that a constitutional issue is one which
the present speaker considers important. American civil servants are
far less likely to have any such problem because they know that an
American constitutional issue must somehow be linked – however tenu-
ously, and sometimes very tenuously – to a specific article or section of
the Constitution of the United States. At least in principle, if not always
in fact, an American constitutional issue must somehow or other fall
within the four corners of the constitutional text.
Before turning to the American civil service, a word about the meaning
of responsibility is in order. I use the word in both its individual and
collective senses. That is, I am interested in both the conventional ques-
tion of how the individual civil servant might demonstrate responsible
behavior and in the vaguer and less manageable sense of how the civil
service as an institution might exercise responsibility. For example, I am
interested in how the individual American civil servant thinks about
the oath he has taken to uphold the constitution and also in how he
The Constitutional Responsibility of the Civil Service 257

engages his peers in dialog about the oath they share in common.
Further, I would like to know to what extent the civil servant and his
peers encourage their training officers to integrate some constitutional
principles into the training curriculum. Clearly, there is no bright line
dividing individual from institutional questions. Most questions have a
little bit of each.
Underlying my argument is the presumption that civil servants in
all four countries, and probably in many other countries as well, play
enormously significant roles in the governance of their countries. For
purposes of this chapter, my high-toned view of the civil service is
simply a presumption. I have defended the grounds of this presumption
American civil servants have contributed significantly to the devel-
opment of constitutional doctrine because of the problematic char-
acter of their legal status. I say problematic because of their dual role as
employees and citizens. Like civil servants everywhere, they experience
the inner tension that comes from this dual role. As employees, they are
the organizational inferiors of their political masters and should stand
ready to do their bidding. As citizens, however, civil servants are the
masters of the elected officials and, like all citizens, have a duty to see
to it that the elected officials serve the public faithfully. To harmonize
these two roles is no easy matter. Consequently, questions of disciplining
civil servants often follow the well-worn path to the courthouse, that
traditional repository, as de Tocqueville noted, of most of the difficulties
arising in the American political culture.
The conflict of roles often becomes acute when the employee’s freedom
of speech clashes with management’s insistence on silence. Let us
examine three Supreme Court decisions addressing this perennial issue.
I turn to decisions of the Supreme Court not only because they state
the law of the land authoritatively as of a certain time but also because
the justices give reasons for their opinions which are often subjected
to criticism by dissenting justices who disagree with the outcome of a
case. Thus, there is a dialectic element to Supreme Court opinions which
can serve as a model for civil servants who, ideally, would engage one
another in constitutional argument over events in their agencies. Courts
provide certain guidance for constitutional argument among alert civil
service citizens.
Our story of freedom of speech goes back to 1892 when a policeman
in New Bedford, Massachusetts, lost his job for talking about politics in
violation of a civil service reform regulation forbidding such conversa-
tions during working hours. The officer maintained that the regulation
258 John A. Rohr

violated the guarantee of freedom of speech in the Massachusetts

Constitution. His argument was rejected by the Supreme Court of
Massachusetts in an opinion by Justice Holmes who would later sit on the
Supreme Court of the United States. Holmes’ opinion was remembered
for the pithy phrase that ‘The petitioner may have a constitutional right
to talk politics, but he has no constitutional right to be a policeman.’6
As Holmes’ reputation as a jurist grew, the clever maxim grew with him
until it came to dominate public personnel law suits throughout the
first half of the 20th century. Eventually, it became known as the ‘right–
privilege dichotomy’ thereby emphasizing the purely gratuitous nature
of public service employment. During the McCarthy era the principle
was frequently used to fire civil servants on the flimsiest evidence or no
evidence at all. If public employment is a privilege and not a right, the
employing authority had unfettered discretion to remove whomever it
chose to remove. This situation became intolerable and gradually the
courts began to move away from the right–privilege dichotomy toward
standards that would give some protection to harassed civil servants.
This tendency came to full bloom in the 1968 decision Pickering v. Board
of Education.7
Marvin Pickering was a school teacher in Will County, Illinois,
who wrote a letter to a local newspaper criticizing the way the Board
of Education spent taxpayers’ money. The school board fired him for
conduct ‘detrimental to the efficient operation and administration
of the schools of the district.’ Pickering sued on the grounds that he
was being punished simply for exercising his constitutionally guaran-
teed freedom of speech and the press. Under the privilege doctrine,
Pickering would have been told he had a constitutional right to write
to a newspaper but he had no constitutional right to be a teacher. By
1968, however, the courts had moved far enough away from the privi-
lege doctrine to decide the case by setting up a ‘balancing test’ between
‘the interests of the teacher, as a citizen, in commenting upon matters
of public concern and the interests of the State, as an employer, in
promoting the efficiency of the public services it performs through its
employees.’ Justice Thurgood Marshall, writing for the court, found the
balance favored Marvin Pickering. Marshall’s opinion gave particular
attention to Pickering’s status as a teacher. Looking beyond Pickering’s
individual rights under the first amendment, Marshall noted that
teachers ‘are as a class, the members of the community most likely to
have informed and definite opinions as to how funds allotted to the
operation of the schools should be spent.’ Thus, Pickering prevailed not
only because of his individual rights but also because of a distinctive
The Constitutional Responsibility of the Civil Service 259

contribution he could make to the public interest because of his role as

a teacher.
A few years later, the Supreme Court of the United State was called
upon once again to examine the constitutional rights of a civil servant
in Connick v. Myers.8 Sheila Myers was an assistant district attorney in
New Orleans who was transferred involuntarily from one section of the
criminal court to another. She protested the move and maintained it
was intended to punish her for outspoken criticism of her boss, District
Attorney Harry Connick. Myers incurred Connick’s wrath by circu-
lating a questionnaire in the office testing morale among the District
Attorney’s staff. He fired her for insubordination. She challenged this
action by arguing that the real reason for her dismissal was to punish her
for circulating the petition.
Basing her argument squarely on Pickering, Myers prevailed in the
federal district court and in the court of appeals. Somewhat surpris-
ingly, however, the Supreme Court of the United States reversed the
lower courts and found for District Attorney Connick. Justice White,
writing for a narrow five–four majority, held that Pickering did not apply
to this case because the speech in question, Myers’ questionnaire, had
insufficient public interest to trigger first amendment protection. White
reasoned that the first amendment protections civil servants enjoy are
not intended to provide them with a ‘grant of immunity from employee
grievances not afforded by the First Amendment to those who do not
work for the state.’ Justice White seemed to be concerned with providing
an even playing field for both private and public employees in matters
that are not of serious public concern. Thus the advantageous position
civil servants enjoyed in Pickering was somewhat scaled back in Myers by
the provision that first amendment protections apply to civil servants
only when matters of public concern are involved.
Sheila Myers was no whistle-blower, but had she gone public with
her concerns she might well have won sufficient media attention to
make it impossible for Justice White to say there was no public issue
involved. The irony of the Myers decision was that Sheila Myers would
have strengthened her case considerably had she gone public with it
to the newspapers and television shows. Rather than embarrass her
agency with public revelations, she took the more responsible route of
keeping her complaints in-house and this, it turns out, was her fatal
error. The irony is compounded by the unsavory lesson for management
in public organizations. The perverse teaching of Myers is that manage-
ment would be well advised to fire disgruntled employees at the very
first sign of their unhappiness before they have a chance to contact the
260 John A. Rohr

media. This, of course, would violate every canon and standard of good
management, common sense and decency. It underscores, however, the
depth of the clash of cultures between the realms of public management
and constitutional law. As such this case puts managers on alert to the
fact that good management and good constitutional law do not always
Further troubling lessons emerge from Rankin v. McPherson, a case
involving Ardith McPherson, a black, 19-year-old probationary employee
in the constable’s office of Harris County, Texas. On March 30, 1981,
McPherson heard the shocking news that President Ronald Reagan had
been shot outside the Hilton Hotel in Washington, DC. She turned to
her boyfriend and fellow employee and said, ‘If they go for him again,
I hope they get him.’ Unbeknownst to McPherson, another employee
was within earshot, heard the unfortunate remark and reported it to
Constable Rankin who immediately fired McPherson. Shortly thereafter,
McPherson sued for reinstatement in a federal district court in Texas. She
argued that even though she was a probationary employee, she could
not be terminated for exercising her constitutional right to free speech,
but that this is precisely what Constable Rankin had done. The district
court rejected her plea but the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
reversed, thereby prompting Rankin’s appeal to the Supreme Court
where McPherson prevailed. Following the Myers precedent, Justice
Thurgood Marshall found McPherson’s speech was of public concern
and therefore protected by the first amendment. The relevance of the
first amendment was not enough for McPherson to prevail. She needed
a favorable outcome from the Pickering balancing test wherein Justice
Marshall weighed McPherson’s free speech interest against Rankin’s
managerial interest in firing her for her intemperate remarks. He found
the balance to be struck in McPherson’s favor.
In a vigorous dissent, Justice Scalia maintained the court’s majority
misunderstood the true nature of the case before them. For Scalia, the issue
‘is not, as the Court suggests, whether Rankin’s interest in discharging
[McPherson] outweighs her rights under the first Amendment.’ Scalia
maintains that the court’s majority errs in confining Rankin’s interest in
this case to discharging McPherson. His correct interest is ‘in preventing
the expression of such statements in his agency’ as those McPherson
had uttered. Scalia concedes that termination may well be too severe a
punishment, but decisions of this nature are to be made by the Texas Civil
Service commission, not by the Supreme Court of the United States. By
placing inordinate emphasis on McPherson’s termination, the majority
had created a situation in which McPherson could be reinstated and
The Constitutional Responsibility of the Civil Service 261

then repeat her ill-advised comment on the first day she is back on the
job. Scalia’s argument brings home the main problem with balancing
tests. Considerable attention must be given to what goes on the scale.
The court should have balanced a broad range of possible administrative
actions for Rankin not just his interest in firing McPherson.
The examination of these three cases, Pickering, Myers and McPherson,
gives a hint of what I mean when I write about responsibility grounded
in the Constitution. Having taken an oath to uphold the Constitution,
civil servants would do well to study cases like the three just mentioned.
Regardless of whether a particular civil servant agrees or disagrees with
the outcome of a particular case, he or she will have learned several
principles that might be useful in one’s career. For example, one
learns the danger of relying on clever aphorisms, like Justice Holmes’
comment on the policeman having no right to his job. Pickering teaches
the advantages of balancing tests, but Scalia’s dissent in McPherson
points out the limitations of such tests and the importance of putting
the right object on the scale. Myers emphasizes the link between consti-
tutionally protected speech, and matters of serious public interest. The
opinions of the Supreme Court play an important pedagogical role in
instructing civil servants what their own rights and those of others
mean in practice.
The purpose of the constitutional study I suggest is not to form great
constitutional scholars; that we can leave to the law schools and the
political science departments. My goal is to provide the civil servant
with practical insights into constitutional practice. Such insights can
be gained even when most civil servants would disagree with a partic-
ular opinion. To illustrate my point, I have selected three decisions I
found rather questionable at least as far as my own sense of justice is
concerned. Let me tell the story of each of the cases and then let us
reflect upon them. The three cases address very different issues – child
abuse, Miranda rights and federal pension benefits – but all three points
in the same direction, namely, that even judicial decisions that seem
unduly harsh or unfair provide useful lessons for civil servants whose
sense of responsibility is grounded in the constitution.
Let us begin with the child abuse decision in DeShaney v. Winnebago
County Department of Social Services.10 This case focused on the tragic
story of Joshua DeShaney, an abused child whose father had beaten
him ‘so severely that he suffered permanent brain damage and was
rendered profoundly retarded.’ The boy’s mother sued the Department
of Social Services (DSS) of Winnebago County, Wisconsin, claiming that
the department’s failure to take affirmative action on Joshua’s behalf
262 John A. Rohr

deprived him of the liberty guaranteed by the due process clause of the
fourteenth amendment.
Joshua arrived in Winnebago County in 1980 as a one-year-old infant
in the care of his father, Randy, who had won custody of the boy when
the parents divorced while residing in Wyoming. Randy married again
and this marriage also ended in divorce. During the divorce proceed-
ings, Randy’s second wife told the police about her husband’s abusive
treatment of the boy, information that was duly passed on to the DSS.
The agency interviewed Randy who denied the charges. When Joshua
was admitted to a local hospital ‘with multiple bruises and abrasions,’
the DSS was again alerted to the possibility of abuse. Joshua was placed
temporarily in the custody of a hospital and then under a child protec-
tion team that included several employees of DSS. Eventually, Joshua
was returned to his father and shortly thereafter signs of abuse were
observed when the child was brought to an emergency room. For the
next six months Joshua’s caseworker noticed some hints of further abuse
but still no action was taken. After yet another trip to the emergency
room, the caseworker was denied entrance to Randy’s home but nothing
was done until the child – now four years old – arrived again at the
hospital after being beaten so severely that he fell into a life-threatening
coma. Finally, Randy was tried and convicted of child abuse and Joshua
was placed in an institution for the profoundly retarded where ‘he is
expected to spend the rest of his life.’
In view of this sorry record by the DSS, Joshua’s mother sued the DSS
in federal court for having denied her son his constitutionally guaran-
teed liberty under the fourteenth amendment. The Supreme Court of the
United States rejected the mother’s argument on the grounds that the
fourteenth amendment protects only against state action that deprives a
person of life, liberty or property without due process of law ( ‘nor shall
any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due
process of law’). Chief Justice Rehnquist noted that this decision did not
preclude Joshua’s mother from bringing her suit in a Wisconsin court. As
far as the federal courts were concerned, her suit could not go forward.
Despite its shocking failure to act, it was not the state of Wisconsin that
brought about Joshua’s condition. It was his father.
Our second example of a seemingly harsh judgment comes from the
field of law enforcement, specifically, the constitutional obligation of
arresting police officers to advise detainees of their right to remain silent
and to speak to a lawyer. In 1979, Brian Burbine was arrested for burglary
in Cranston, Rhode Island.11 The Cranston police suspected Burbine of
being the man wanted for a murder committed in nearby Providence,
The Constitutional Responsibility of the Civil Service 263

Rhode Island. They so advised their Providence colleagues and soon

three Providence officers were on their way to Cranston to question
Burbine. Meanwhile, Burbine’s sister, knowing nothing of her brother’s
possible connection to a murder, telephoned the Public Defender’s office
in Cranston to seek counsel for her brother’s trouble with the Cranston
police for burglary. Allegra Munson, the public defender assigned to
Burbine’s burglary charge, called the Cranston police to advise them that
she was of counsel to Burbine. She was told her client was in custody but
that there would be no questioning that evening. No mention was made
of the possible link to the Providence murder.
Despite the assurances given to Ms. Munson, police officers from both
jurisdictions interrogated Burbine. They were careful to advise him of
his Miranda rights without telling him he already had a lawyer. During
the interrogation, he signed a statement waiving his rights to have a
lawyer present and as the night wore on he eventually confessed to
having committed the Providence murder. He was tried and convicted
but appealed the conviction on the grounds that his confession was
inadmissible because the misinformation given to his lawyer deprived
him of his Miranda rights.
The Supreme Court rejected Burbine’s argument and the conviction
was upheld. In her opinion of the court, Justice O’Connor found no
merit in Burbine’s complaint that the police had misled his lawyer. The
Miranda rights were the defendant’s alone and could not be asserted
by the accused’s lawyer. The purpose of the Miranda warning was to
safeguard against coercion, or, in Justice O’Connor’s words, ‘to dissi-
pate the compulsion inherent in custodial interrogation.’ There was no
evidence indicating any coercion had been used by the police in getting
Burbine to confess. Deception? Yes, but not coercion, and Miranda
rights deal with coercion. At this point in her opinion, Justice O’Connor
drew a distinction between the professional ethics of the police and the
demands of constitutional law. O’Connor was clearly displeased with
the loose ethics of the police in this case but her displeasure did not rise
to the level of a constitutional infraction.
Our third and final example of a seemingly harsh judgment concerns
a careless bureaucratic error in determining the benefits due to a retired
federal employee.12 Charles Richmond had worked for many years as a
welder at the Navy Public Works Center in San Diego. He took a disa-
bility annuity from the navy in 1981 pursuant to a finding by the Office
of Personnel Management (OPM) that his impaired vision prevented
him from doing his job. The terms of the annuity imposed limitations
on how much money he could earn without jeopardizing the annuity
264 John A. Rohr

itself. From 1982 till 1985, Richmond drove a school bus on a part-time
basis which brought him US$12,494 annually, a sum well within the
approved guidelines. The next year he was offered additional employ-
ment with increased compensation. Before accepting the new posi-
tion, he consulted an employee relations specialist at the Navy Public
Works Center who assured him the increased income would present
no problem. Furthermore, he gave Richmond OPM documents from
the Federal Personnel Manual to support his opinion. Unfortunately, the
documents and the specialist’s opinions were out of date. After taking
the new position, Richmond was told he had exceeded the amount he
could earn and had nearly US$4000 withheld from his annuity income.
Richmond brought suit against OPM to recover the money he had lost
as a result of the erroneous advice he had received from the employee
specialist. His suit worked its way through the lower courts until it even-
tually reached the Supreme Court of the United States where Richmond’s
claim was defeated.
Richmond had based his case on the doctrine of ‘equitable estoppel.’
This means that ‘if A’s statement or conduct reasonably induces B’s detri-
mental reliance, A will not be permitted to act inconsistently with its
statement or conduct.’ In Richmond’s argument, he is B and the federal
government is A. To his detriment, he relied upon erroneous informa-
tion given by A, and therefore A should be ‘estopped’ from taking action
against him for doing so.
Writing for the court, Justice Kennedy relied primarily on Article 1,
Section 9, of the constitution which provides: ‘No money shall be drawn
from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by law.’
The award Richmond seeks ‘would be in direct contravention of the
federal statute upon which his ultimate claim to the funds must rest.’
In effect, the well-intentioned Richmond is asking for money from the
Treasury of the United States which has never been appropriated. There
can be no place for the estoppel doctrine here, ‘for the courts cannot
estop the Constitution.’ Therefore the claim must be denied.
I hope you have a sense of why I consider these three decisions some-
what harsh and unfair. To be sure, something can be said for each of
them. To Joshua’s mother we can say that at the end of the day, the
fourteenth amendment does say ‘no State shall deprive’ (emphasis
added). We can remind Brian Burbine that the Miranda warnings were
intended to benefit the accused and not his lawyer. And we can ask
Charles Richmond if he really wants us to pay him with non-appro-
priated funds. These answers might have some merit in a technical or
even literal sense, but they still fall short of being exemplars of justice.
The Constitutional Responsibility of the Civil Service 265

It might be best to characterize these decisions as constitutionally

plausible but harsh and unfair. I have selected such decisions for this
chapter to highlight the opportunity they offer to conscientious civil
servants to use their administrative discretion to bring about fairness in
future cases with similar circumstances. My point is ethical rather than
strictly legal. Supreme Court decisions upholding seemingly harsh and
unfair treatment of persons permit agencies to continue to act in the
same way in the future without requiring them to do so. Administrators
have the discretion to take a gentle line even when the law permits a
harsher one, if the circumstances warrant such gentleness. Just when
and where an administrator should be severe or gentle is a matter of
prudence which is, of course, a crucial element in the responsible exer-
cise of administrative discretion. We have already touched upon the
Supreme Court’s pedagogical role for civil servants and elected officials.
This is true not only when we see the court at its best but under less
favorable conditions as well. When it comes to moral aspiration, the
Supreme Court, like the constitution it interprets, provides a floor not
a ceiling.
Our examination of Supreme Court decisions was intended to provide
concrete examples of constitutional interpretation that civil servants
might use when faced with problems on how to implement their oath
to uphold the constitution. We looked at cases where the Supreme
Court performed admirably as well as where its performance was found
wanting. In both types of situations, the court’s reasoning is instructive.
The final case we shall examine concerns the long-standing practice of
political patronage, where our approach is a bit different. Rather than
offer guidance to civil servants on how they might fulfill their oath, I
look upon the civil service itself as an institution that demands serious
constitutional reflection and thereby contributes to the development of
constitutional doctrine. The case in question is Rutan et al. v. Republican
Party of Illinois (1990).13 On two occasions prior to Rutan the Supreme
Court had declared dismissal of public service personnel on patronage
grounds unconstitutional. The point at issue in Rutan was whether
that doctrine should be extended to personnel actions less serious than
dismissal, for example, denial of promotions, transfers, and recalls from
temporary layoffs. Does the constitution forbid such decisions to be
taken on grounds of partisan loyalty? The Supreme Court said yes and
thereby triggered a spirited dissent from Justice Scalia which, in turn,
prompted a no less spirited response from Justice Stevens. Taken together,
they provided a full dress review of the crucial role of historical prac-
tice in constitutional interpretation. History was at the center of Scalia’s
266 John A. Rohr

dissent. How can it be, he asks, that political patronage, a practice as old
as the Republic itself, could be unconstitutional? Justice Stevens answers
that patronage is unconstitutional because it rests on the discredited
right–privilege dichotomy which, as we saw above, opened the door to
the dismissal on purely partisan grounds of persons fully qualified and
competent to hold their public office. The only possible justification for
such a practice is to consider the public office as a privilege which could
be withdrawn at the pleasure of the office holder’s superior. Thus the
centerpiece of Stevens’ argument is a string of personnel decisions from
the McCarthy era of the early 1950s to the late 1960s and culminating in
Pickering v. Board of Education which put an end to the privilege doctrine
which had dominated public personnel law throughout the first half
of the 20th century. It is quite clear that in Justice Stevens’ jurispru-
dence an authoritative judicial decision trumps constitutional practice
no matter how long or how venerable.
In reply, Justice Scalia offers a brief compendium of the ‘original
intent’ doctrine which has claimed so much attention in recent years.
To Stevens’ charge that Scalia is trying to resurrect the right–privilege
dichotomy, which ‘has met with unequivocal repudiation’ by the
Supreme Court, Scalia responds:

That will not do. If the right-privilege distinction was once used to
explain the practice [of patronage], and if that distinction is to be
repudiated, then one must simply devise some other theory to explain
it. The order of precedence is that a constitutional theory must be
wrong if it contradicts a clear constitutional tradition, not that a clear
constitutional tradition must be wrong if it does not conform to the
current constitutional theory. On Justice Stevens’ view of the matter,
this Court examines a historical practice, endows it with an intellec-
tual foundation, and later, by simply undermining that foundation,
relegates the constitutional tradition to the dustbin of history. That is
not how constitutional adjudication works.

Anticipating the obvious objection that racial segregation in public

schools could not have been overruled by the courts under his theory,
Scalia replies that he refers only to well-established traditions that had
been uncontroversial for decades. Racial segregation was always contro-
versial and never met with the nearly universal acceptance that patronage
enjoyed throughout most of the history of the United States. Clearly in
Scalia’s jurisprudence, judge-made constitutional theories are no match
for robust widely accepted traditions. This enlightening debate between
The Constitutional Responsibility of the Civil Service 267

Stevens and Scalia finds the civil service at the heart of one of the great
constitutional controversies of our time.


Throughout this chapter I have tried to develop the theme of the consti-
tutional importance of American civil servants. As for responsibility, I
suggest but one innovation which would be extremely controversial
but, if accepted, would help high-ranking civil servants come to a deeper
understanding of their roles as constitutional actors. Quite simply, I
propose that members of the Senior Executive Service promise openly
and publicly that they will not vote in any local, state or federal election
as long as they hold their official positions.
My proposal will surely meet serious criticism and rightly so. Some
will argue that it will deprive the electorate of thousands of its most
informed participants. Others will say it renders nugatory the impressive
argument that career officials are model citizens for the rest of us.
My primary reason for offering this proposal is pedagogical: to invite
the high-ranking civil servant to reflect on the high status he enjoys
in the constitutional order he has sworn to uphold. It would also give
assurances to his political master of his non-partisanship – or, to be more
precise, of his bipartisanship – supported by the statutory language on
responsibility in the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978. Presidents and
presidential appointees should be free to pursue their political agenda,
secure in the knowledge that their high-ranking civil servants are trust-
worthy while at the same time they know these same politically loyal
civil servants will have the same loyalty to the next cohort of presi-
dential appointees and their successors. This loyalty would include safe-
guarding the secrets of previous administrations as is the traditional
constitutional practice in the United Kingdom.
I do not propose a secular version of the Vicar of Bray. The twofold
loyalty I support is not grounded in the vicar’s cynicism but in the
conscientious ideal of the highest form of public service: the preserva-
tion of a constitutional republic.
This country shall never want for zealous partisans who enter poli-
tics for such worthy ends as stopping terrorism, effecting meaningful
healthcare policies, reforming the military services, maintaining
adequate force levels for all services, and so on. Americans also need a
small cadre of civil servants who might have entered upon their careers
many years ago for any number of reasons but now see themselves as
single-mindedly dedicated to that cause above causes: the preservation
268 John A. Rohr

of the constitutional order of the Republic. They realize that the great
constitutional officers of the Republic cannot complete their appointed
rounds without adequate administrative support.
The proposal I put forward would be strictly voluntary. Any effort to
enshrine it in law or regulation would clearly violate the first amend-
ment. The political subordination to the president and to the heads of
his executive departments will not make mere ‘yes men’ of these high-
ranking civil servants I envision. Administration officials will soon learn
that these non-voting civil servants are as loyal as any member of the
administration but they are loyal in a markedly different way and for
markedly different reasons. The civil servant supports the president of
the day enthusiastically but always in a measured way so as to reserve for
the constitution itself ‘that last ounce of commitment.’14
In a word, I am suggesting a plan that might possibly start senior
American civil servants on a path that could earn them the prestige
enjoyed by their senior counterparts in Canada, France and the United
Kingdom. At the outset of this chapter I tried to show why the constitu-
tional traditions of these three countries were less useful for pedagogic
purposes than the Constitution of the United States. This is not a serious
problem for high-ranking civil servants in these countries because they
have earned prestige by other means. Perhaps American civil servants
could link the ‘non-voting bipartisanship’ I advocate to serious consti-
tutional study and reflection in order to enhance their self-awareness as
men and women who bear serious burdens of governance and deserve
the respect of their countrymen for whom they bear these burdens

Several of the themes touched upon in this chapter are developed more fully
in my Civil Servants and Their Constitutions (Lawrence, KS: University Press of
Kansas, 2002). Conversely some themes touched upon in that book are extended
and more fully developed in this chapter. I wish to thank the University Press of
Kansas for granting permission to make use of my 2002 book in this chapter.
1. Reference re: Secession of Quebec, [1998] 2 R.C.S., 218.
2. François Luchaire and Gérard Conac, La Constitution de la république française
(Paris: Economica, 1987).
3. Marie-France Toinet (1988) ‘La morale bureaucratique: Perspectives trans-
atlantiques et Franco-américaines,’ Revue internationale de science politique, 9
(July), 196.
4. Philip Norton (1982) The Constitution in Flux (Oxford: Blackwell), p. 5.
5. John A. Rohr (1989) Ethics for Bureaucrats: An Essay on Law and Values, 2nd
edn (New York: Marcel Dekker) and John A. Rohr (1986) To Run a Constitution:
The Constitutional Responsibility of the Civil Service 269

Legitimacy and the Administrative State (Lawrence, KS: University Press of

6. McAuliffe v. New Bedford 155 Mass. 216 at 220 (1892).
7. 391 U.S. 563 (1968).
8. 103 S.Ct. 1684 (1983).
9. 107 S.Ct. 2891 (1987).
10. 109 S.Ct. 998 (1989).
11. 106 S.Ct. 1135 (1986).
12. 110 S. Ct. 2465 (1990).
13. 110 S.Ct. 2729 (1990).
14. Richard Norton-Taylor (1985) The Ponting Affair (London: Cecil Woolf), 115.
Civil Service Systems and
Responsibility, Accountability
and Performance: A Multi-
Dimensional Approach
Gerrit S.A. Dijkstra

1 Introduction

Performance is considered to stand at the very heart of modern public

management efforts aiming at the improvement of public sector
productivity and quality. Notwithstanding the often presumed moder-
nity, performance improvement is really a venerable topic, the roots
stretching back in time to the beginnings of modern government and
the study of public administration starting with the influential work of
Frederick Taylor (1911, 2009) and Morris Cooke (1918: see also Pollitt
and Bouckaert, 2011: 106 and Schachter, 1989). In its most essential
meaning, performance relates to actions taken as a response to a partic-
ular demand more or less resulting in the accomplishment of a particular
task or tasks. This response contains both a collective (or more precisely
formulated: organizational) and an individual component.
Often linked to performance are appraisal of results and efforts. This
appraisal (and the mechanisms through which this is accomplished)
is often what performance discussions concentrate on, and the closely
related concepts of accountability and responsibility are crucial compo-
nents in this evaluative process. Given the diverse set of values involved
in assessing the results of public sector activity, appraisal has become a
compound and complex activity in which various routes can be taken
or mechanisms utilized (as will be explained below).
In this chapter I analyze the role that the civil service plays in this
process. Traditionally the role of the civil service has been considered

Civil Service Systems and Responsibility 271

from a constitutional-legal perspective and so evaluated as somewhat

peripheral. After all, (democratic) responsibility and accountability were
primarily constructed in the context of ministerial-parliamentary rela-
tion at national level. Thus, few of these inquiries included the aspect of
civil service accountability or responsibility and problems were perceived
as easily solved through the mechanism of hierarchy. The realization
that the civil service actually has (discretionary) powers changed this
perspective completely.
In this contribution I will argue that the issue of civil service respon-
sibility has a multi-dimensional nature that is best captured by four
approaches. Before these are discussed I will first examine the key
concepts of performance, accountability and responsibility, which
provide a start for my discussion. Subsequently the four different
approaches shall be discussed (Sections 3 to 5). The first is the moral
ethical approach as defended by Friedrich, Rohr (1978), Mosher (1968),
Denhardt and Catlaw (2011) and Harmon (1995). A second is the often
called classical and constitutional-legal approach of internal political
(hierarchical), or vertical responsibility as first expounded by Finer. The
next alternative to be examined is the so-called horizontal approach
that emphasizes external political and societal forms. In this particular
section I will also pay attention to the legal approach encompassing the
issue of how to deal with civil service discretion. Then I consider the
programmatic approach through measurable performance standards as
embodied in New Public Management theories. Finally, in the conclu-
sion I will examine the consequences of the multi-dimensional nature
of the responsibility issue involving civil service systems.
The theoretical model at the core of this contribution is that of Kiser
and Ostrom (1982) who distinguish between three worlds of action
which mutually influence each other:

● Level 3 (constitutional level): values, institutional grounding;

● Level 2 (collective choice level): management systems (performance
● Level 1 (operational level): behavior of individual civil servants.

A core thesis of this model is that changes at at one level are likely to
lead to changes at the other levels.
The model can be complemented with Hood’s (1991: 11) three sets of
core values in public management: sigma-type values, theta-type values
and lambda-type values. Sigma-values include efficiency, effectiveness
and focus on ‘keeping it lean and purposeful.’ The emphasis of control
272 Gerrit S.A. Dijkstra

and responsibility is on output. The core of the theta-values is to ‘keep it

honest and fair.’ In the continental European tradition, one could speak
of democratic values (see Denhardt, 1984: 65–66) and values derived
from the rule of law (Rechtsstaat). The emphasis of control and respon-
sibility is on the process. Lambda-values emphasize sustainability, to
‘keep it robust and resilient.’ The emphasis of control and responsibility
lies on input as well as process. These three types of values can be used
at any of the three levels of Kiser and Ostrom.

2 The concepts of performance, accountability and

responsibility: four approaches

As with many popular concepts, performance, accountability and

responsibility developed over time into rather complex and vague terms.
Each scholar and practitioner seems to have adapted these concepts to
their own particular needs and purposes. At the same time, though, the
different conceptualizations point to various dimensions of the issue. In
the introduction I mentioned that public performance is considered to
be at the very heart of modern public management efforts but that it is
really a topic with a long history. Administrative history studies and offi-
cial contemporary reports make it abundantly clear that performance has
been a main concern since the inception of modern government some
200 years ago. Using quasi-perceptive taxonomic schemes we might
suppose that in the (classic public administration) past the emphasis
was mainly put on procedural aspects while more recently the output-
oriented dimensions (new public management) have become dominant.
From the early days onwards performance has carried multiple connota-
tions in which elements such as results, effects, outputs and outcomes
on the one hand and process dimensions such as legitimacy and legality
on the other play a role. The appraisal of public performance invokes
a question of answerability over past deeds and actions. In this process
of answerability a distinction needs to be made between material and
procedural aspects even though they are often intertwined. Aspects such
as questions, answers, interchanges and consequences all point to partic-
ular procedural aspects, and not so much substance. At the same time
the issue has an individual or personal and a collective dimension.
When discussing the consequences and effects of performance the
twin concepts of accountability and responsibility often appear. There is
a long-standing discussion concerning the meaning and demarcation of
both terms. Although sometimes lamented, in many cases they are used
interchangeably. Accountability is originally derived from ‘to account
Civil Service Systems and Responsibility 273

for’ (Mulgan 2000). Bovens (2005) traced it back to the financial dimen-
sion in Anglo-Norman times. Accountability is the obligation to answer
for an action, that is, the principle that individuals, organizations and
the community are responsible for their actions and may be required
to explain them to others in a certain forum. In this sense accounta-
bility works externally. In the responsibility dimension both an internal
(personal) moral and an external political institutional dimension can
be distinguished. Both terms are considered here as containing the same
meaning, favoring the term ‘accountability’ in the external setting and
‘responsibility’ for the overall concept.
The issue of civil service responsibility has been argued to be multi-
dimensional in nature. That multi-dimensional character has to do
with the conceptualization of the concept of responsibility (or account-
ability). A first clue regarding differences can be derived from the
Friedrich–Finer debate of the 1930s and 1940s. A (vertical) political insti-
tutional approach (Finer) was positioned against a moral and (inner)
professional approach (Friedrich). These positions still dominate discus-
sions. However, two additional points of view have developed in past
decades: a horizontal approach that tries to bridge the Friedrich–Finer
rift and a programmatic approach based on performance measurement
and the standardization of professional work though protocols. These
views give the multi-dimensional perspective on civil service systems
and their responsibility, accountability and performance its shape.
Each of these approaches (de-)emphasizes certain administrative values
with the necessary consequences. Before I discuss the issue of a(n)
(im)possible balance at the end of the chapter I will first examine the
four approaches.

3 Re- and deconstructing the moral, professional and

political institutional approaches to issues responsibility

Already during the 1930s and 1940s the traditional and predominantly
(legal constitutional) hierarchical construction of the responsibility
relationship between civil servants and politicians was questioned by
the American political scientist and German émigré Carl Friedrich. In
Friedrich’s opinion the traditional way of civil service responsibility was
more or less outdated. Friedrich started his analysis from the idea that
the number of civil servants had increased over the decades and assumed
that with it their discretionary powers must have grown. In addition, the
hierarchical mode of control could also lead to unacceptable outcomes,
as, for instance, could be witnessed in Nazi Germany when the moral
274 Gerrit S.A. Dijkstra

and individual dimension of the responsibility relationship was over-

looked. Civil servants should be held responsible in new ways. A polit-
ical ethical dimension of responsibility based on individual conscience
and an inner reflection on professional standards should be the way
out of the problem. This argument inspired the famous Friedrich–Finer
debate, which still dominates approaches to civil service responsibility:
the moral professional and the political institutional approaches.
Finer fiercely opposed Friedrich’s arguments and stated that in a demo-
cratic society responsibility should always be reviewed and ensured by
democratic institutions. Finer had serious doubts about Friedrich’s posi-
tion and emphasized the more traditional (political-legal) forms of
responsibility. Inner professional standards and moral convictions do
not suffice in this context. In short, Finer prefers the more traditional
vertical forms of responsibility through the political and executive chain
of authority (i.e. ministers and the legislature).
Although extensive discretionary powers persist the same is not true
for the trust in professional norms as being derived from science. To a
certain extent the faith in the power of peer review has also diminished
since the first part of the last century. Nevertheless, even at present,
some authors still believe in the dominant virtues of so-called political
moral forms of responsibility. The immense confidence in the beneficial
role of science that was dominant in the first half of the 20th century
(and visible in the moral professional approach) seems to have been
replaced (see the horizontal approaches below) by an overriding trust
in modern techniques of communication which can provide the possi-
bility to keep in touch with ‘society’ in an effective and efficient way.
Interactive policy emerges, in which ‘politics’ is sometimes thought of
as a nuisance. Although the solutions might currently seem to differ,
the debate is in essence comparable to the discussions between Friedrich
and Finer: the confrontation between moral and institutional forms of
responsibility involving civil servants. The debate that originated in the
time of Friedrich and Finer has at its heart the still relevant question
concerning the precise meaning of the concepts of ‘being held respon-
sible’ and ‘responsibility,’ Responsibility, according to the political insti-
tutional version, consists of three elements (see also Finer, 1978):

● the provision of information;

● the answerability of civil servants or directors regarding their own
functioning and that of their subordinates;
● the possible use of sanctioning if action is considered not correct.
Civil Service Systems and Responsibility 275

It should be noted that responsibility according to this definition is only

complete when all three elements are present. If the third element is left
out, both other dimensions will turn meaningless. Of course, this does
not imply that the provision of information by civil servants cannot be
useful (for example, where it involves decisions which affect individual
citizens), but this will not be a complete and mature form of responsi-
bility. Because of the third dimension of formal sanctioning there can
be no absolute substitute for the political institutional expression of
responsibility. Examining the various regional studies published in the
context of the civil service project, it can be concluded that the political
institutional forms of responsibility remain dominant in the majority
of countries. Nevertheless, complaints are expressed concerning the
quality of public accountability involving the civil service. Two alterna-
tives are examined in the next two sections.

4 The horizontal approach to accountability and

responsibility and the legal approach to civil service

In addition to the internal and political institutional approaches to

civil service responsibility we can add an external perspective, called
horizontal accountability or responsibility. Bovens (2005) pointed
to a number of developments that led to growing public and polit-
ical interest in horizontal (and diagonal) forms of accountability.
According to him (Bovens, 2005) the Weberian or Diceyan monolithic
system, as he calls it, of political and organizational accountability
relations has given way to a more diversified set of accountability
relationships. In this respect Bovens mentions, for instance, the
growing importance of administrative accountability (ombudsmen,
inspectors, etc.), the weakening of direct political controls through
agentification, the horizontalization of accountability through the
rise of quangos, and the demand for more direct accountability as a
response to diminishing trust in government. Administrative account-
ability is considered diagonal accountability. Horizontalization mani-
fests itself through the establishment of citizen’s charters, customer
panels, internet publications of inspections, benchmarks and visita-
tion reports. In the latter we find an external form of professional
accountability. At first sight we find a combination of internal and
external political institutional responsibility on a horizontal level and
the moral professional dimension.
276 Gerrit S.A. Dijkstra

Some authors consider horizontal accountability approaches as a

viable alternative to vertical forms (Behn, 2001; Denhardt, 2011), but
grave objections have been raised against this. Replacing (for the greater
part) vertical accountability with horizontal accountability could impair
the existing democratic structure. Direct accountability of civil servants
towards society is unworkable in a modern democratic state (Hood,
1991; Suleiman, 2003). It must be emphasized again that responsibility
requires the possibility to sanction behavior. This can really only be
realized by intervention on the political level. When improvements are
considered necessary, these often come from forms of vertical action.
Thus, horizontal forms of responsibility can be a useful addition to the
traditional forms of responsibility. To be sure: the former can never and
may never be an alternative to the latter. The emphasis should be on the
internal (vertical) responsibility by civil servants to their superiors and
ultimately the minister.
Still we have the issue of administrative discretion and democrati-
cally legitimized government. There are some doubts about the exist-
ence of this large degree of discretion enjoyed by civil servants. One of
the recent developments emphasized by public administration and law
scholars in the last few decades is the phenomenon of juridification.
Ever more decisions of government (as in:for the most part decisions
are made by civil servants) are checked by the judiciary. In the coun-
tries that signed the European Convention on Human Rights (almost
all European countries, including Turkey, Russia and the countries in
Central and Eastern Europe) the interpretation that the European Court
for Human Rights gives to article 6 of this treaty is in force. In the rela-
tion between citizen and government there should always be access to
an independent judge or arbiter. The so-called Benthem decision has
shown us that that the European Court of Human Rights clings to very
high standards in this matter. The European Court of Human Rights
decides that the Council of State (administrative litigation division) is
not an independent judge because it only gives an advice. This advice
(followed in the great majority of cases, as happened on the present
occasion) is, however, not binding. The Crown is empowered to deter-
mine the dispute. The Crown is not a judicial body as required by article
6 of the treaty.
But juridification does not only play a part in decisions which are
taken before a judge: civil servants also anticipate the judicial verdict. In
many essays juridification is considered a negative development. This is
not completely justified, although problems can inevitably occur. The
judicial check and the anticipation by civil servants that precedes it lead
Civil Service Systems and Responsibility 277

to a situation in which there are controls in force on the actions of civil

servants and they (or their colleagues) have to defend their decisions
in court. This leads to a situation in which they can no longer take ad
hoc decisions but have to develop a consistent policy. This policy can,
in turn, be brought before the courts, but it can also be discussed in
the legislatures. Since the time of Friedrich and Finer the importance of
judicial verdict has grown substantially. The discretion of civil servants
has been strongly restricted and the amount of supervision has grown.
The emphasis in judicial checks is on the value of legality. The checks
on effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability should be the focus of
the legislature and the executive. In Western countries these branches
are assisted by advisory bodies, courts of audit and scientific institutes.
Scientific evaluations are the order of the day. Media, activist groups and
interest groups provide representative bodies with a continuous flow of
information. Sometimes the problem seems to be that of information
overflow rather than a lack of information.

5 Managing and ensuring the internal organizational

responsibility: the rise of New Public Management and
performance accountability

Alongside the political vertical institutional, moral professional and the

horizontal approaches there is a fourth: a programmatic approach based
on accountability through performance measurement and manage-
ment. Seemingly simple questions and solutions often turn out to be
quite complicated, particularly when social science has done its work.
At first glance and from a traditional legal and public administration
point of view the topic at the heart of this chapter seems to be quite
straightforward. Civil servants should perform according to given and/
or prescribed standards. Positive incentives such as performance-related
bonuses should be awarded and personnel decisions such as career
moves should be taken based on the level and quality of their proven
performance records. In the case of deficient levels of performance,
corrective measures can be taken either in the realm of remuneration
or sanctions.
We will not reiterate here the arguments concerning the problematic
nature of assumptions laying at the foundation of the argument made
above. Criticism of classic public management theories (e.g. scientific
management, prewar science of administration) have not prevented a
new form of scientific management emerging: New Public Management
(NPM). It has often been argued that NPM is less of a coherent
278 Gerrit S.A. Dijkstra

management theory than a loosely coupled management philosophy.

In addition many authors pointed to the evolutionary character of
NPM, arguing that public management always remains new through
constantly changing to adapt to a changing environment. While Hood
(1991) did not originally take a normative position in the, often heated,
debate on NPM, no one did as much to provide a coherent framework as
he did in his article ‘New Public Management for all Seasons?’ Later, in his
contribution to Bekke, Perry and Toonen’s 1996 volume (Hood, 1996),
Hood further elaborated how these doctrines have been implemented
into, mainly, Western (developed) nations (largely the membership of
the OECD). In his examination of NPM, Hood (1991: 271) differentiates
between seven so-called doctrinary components, of which the second
is ‘explicit standards and measures of performance.’ As Pollitt and
Bouckaert (2004) have illustrated with cases in their modern classic (that
is, considering the rapidly increasing number of editions), performance
management is considered a vital dimension of NPM reforms .
Performance measurement seems to offer a solution to a dilemma
outlined by Peter Self, later a vehement critic of NPM. Self argues (1972:

the tensions between the requirements of responsibility or ‘account-

ability’ and those of effective executive action can reasonably be
described as the classic dilemma of public administration. Performance
measurement can thus play an important role in legitimizing govern-
ment behavior as well as improving effectiveness and efficiency.

Using the Hood (1991) vernacular, sigma- and theta-values could be

served by utilizing a performance management system. Still, on second
thought, a few important questions emerge: Which explicit criteria
would have to be applicable to civil service actions? How should these
criteria be operationalized, further developed and measured? Finally, the
question becomes urgent: What are the advantages and disadvantages
of this specific way of assessment in terms of relevant administrative
Elaborating Hood’s division of administrative values, it can be argued
that the actual behavior of civil servants (i.e. the operational level of
Kiser and Ostrom, 1982) should be in accordance with sigma-, theta- and
lambda-values. As is often the case with an examination of the appro-
priateness of various values (sets), it is wise to leave the general level of
discussion and make them more specific and fit for operationalization.
This becomes all the more important when developing performance
Civil Service Systems and Responsibility 279

measures. In addition, how to deal with conflicting values should also

be explicated. Aberbach and Rockman (2001)argued: ‘While the rein-
vention initiative emphasizes management techniques, the funda-
mental question is political: what do we want the public sector to do?
Management techniques become relevant only when that question is
answered.’ Regarding the three types of values, theta (values based on
rule of law: Rechtsstaat, justice and democracy1) and lambda (sustain-
ability) are the most difficult to translate into operational terms. As a
consequence most performance measures have been emphasizing the
Fundamental problems can also emerge with respect to the sigma-
values. The output of a government organization, and with it the output
of an individual civil servant, is often only measurable to a certain extent
(x laws, y policy documents, and z individual decisions). The real effects
(i.e. outcomes) of that output on society (effectiveness) are far more diffi-
cult to assess. Thus at first sight efficiency seems easiest to determine:
de Vries (2010) argues that the central theme in NPM has been effi-
ciency more than effectiveness, but even this is problematic. Efficiency
concerns the issue of the input–output relationship (often quantified
in terms of money) given a certain degree of effectiveness. Therefore,
performance measures will have a tendency to focus on that which can
be easily calculated. This will include data which mostly deals with the
size of the output (the number of decisions within a given period of
time). De Bruijn (2002) rightly points out that performance measure-
ment can have the effect that the indicators become more important
than the values (reality) they represent and can cause a so-called perverse
Finally, it is important to determine the consequences of perform-
ance measurement. When performance is assessed without attention for
the consequences, the activity is of little value. This issue of attaching
consequences to performance management depends strongly on the
nature of the civil service system. For instance, when appointment
and promotion are based on expertise and performances the system
might work as expected, but when a civil service system is focused on
representativeness, or when political appointments are common, this is
less likely. In the United States, for example, organizations are respon-
sible for their results, but there are no measures that allow individual
managers to hold subordinates responsible for this (Ingraham and
Moynihan, 2003: 187). Ingraham and Moynihan apparently regret this,
but it should be realized that, given the characteristics of the US civil
service system (i.e. the role of political appointees), the conditions for
280 Gerrit S.A. Dijkstra

implementing individual performance measures (with the possibility to

sanction at the individual level) are not exactly optimal . They consider
this as is one of the reasons why proposals for performance contracts
have met with very limited success in the United States (Ingraham and
Moynihan 2003: 175).
The limitations of individual performance measures (the collective
choice level) are strongly connected to the general characteristics of the
American system at the constitutional level. Halligan (2003: 3) argues
that the United Kingdom and the United States are two extremes
when it comes to characteristics of the civil service. In the United
Kingdom the civil service is strongly professional, while the United
States has a mix of political and professional appointments. It may be
expected that in a system with political appointments performance
measures will not be implemented, or will fail, and that in a profes-
sional civil service performance measures can be more easily imple-
mented. Information in the table on page 207 of Halligan’s book seems
to confirm this assumption. The output orientation is, according to
Halligan (2003: 207), ‘high’ in the United Kingdom (professional civil
servants) and ‘low’ in the United States (political and professional
appointments). Pollitt and Bouckaert (2011: 108) argue that perform-
ance indicators (PI) play a more important role in NPM countries
(‘public interest’ administrative systems like Australia, New Zealand,
the UK and the USA) than countries with a Rechtsstaat system (like
France and Germany). Pollitt and Bouckaert (2011: 109) add to this
conclusion that the use of performance indicators can also be found
in countries with a neo-Weberian state-style modernization (like the
Netherlands and Sweden).
From this analysis I conclude that performance measurement
generally concentrates on easily measurable and quantifiable effects
as qualitative aspects are often more difficult to assess. This leads to
a situation in which performance measures either fail or facilitate a
shift in desired values. It is the task of politics to make clear choices,
but that often does not happen. Implementing performance meas-
ures can lead to different consequences. In the terms of Kiser and
Ostrom, the following can be stated: If NPM fits the constitutional
level, implementation will be successful. If there no fit, it will not be
successful and either disappear automatically over time or perform
only a symbolic function. Another possibility is that it is implemented,
but that it will slowly facilitate changes at the constitutional level.
While the constitutional level in the model of Kiser and Ostrom does
not restrict the two other levels, it can change because of changes in
Civil Service Systems and Responsibility 281

(mostly) the middle, collective, level. Considering this, the emphasis

at the constitutional level will be more on (certain) sigma-values. The
theta (justice) and lambda-values will be hard pressed, something that
might be considered regrettable.
Responsibility in the political institutional approach requires sanc-
tioning. Sanctioning of the behavior of civil servants should be exer-
cised by a superior or (in the case of a senior civil servant) by the
minister. At first sight, performance measures could play an impor-
tant role in this process, despite the disadvantages discussed earlier.
Evaluation of the functioning of civil servants should be based on
all three types of values named by Hood. The indicators that are part
of performance measures may have a role in this reviewing, but they
should not be dominant. The functioning of the civil servant should
also be reviewed on criteria which are not or hardly quantifiable. Also,
where performance measures are used, one should be cautious that
they do not apply, for example, only to the size of production. For
example, it is possible to find out how many decisions by an executive
civil servant lead to appeals before the judge and which results these
appeals have. When theta-, lambda- and some of the sigma-values
cannot be operationalized, it means that performance measures may
only play a restricted part in the assessment of the (internal) respon-
sibility of civil servants.

6 By way of conclusion: how to deal with the multi-

dimensional approach to performance, responsibility,
accountability and the civil service?

This contribution focused on the different ways civil servants are held
and made responsible. In the introduction I distinguished four possible
routes: the moral ethical route as argued by Friedrich and others, the
internal political (hierarchical) or vertical approach, the external polit-
ical societal or horizontal approach and the programmatic approach
through measurable performance standards.
The different country studies in the civil service project show that
in a few decades NPM has become an almost worldwide trend and this
is still the case in the present economic and financial crisis. De Vries
(2010): ‘New public management is in trouble, but it is not really dead.
There are some new avenues of thought. However, none of these new
approaches is strong enough to be the paradigmatic alternative.’ One
could even argue that New Public Management is still dominant in most
Western countries because of the economic crisis. Governments have
282 Gerrit S.A. Dijkstra

to cut their budgets (especially in the Eurozone). Performance manage-

ment is regarded by most (Western) governments as an important
instrument for more public sector efficiency (see also Levy, 2010). One
of the elements of NPM is the emphasis on performance measures. An
organization like the OECD, especially, promotes a more businesslike
approach not unlike NPM. In this chapter, working from a theoretical
framework that combines Kiser and Ostrom’s levels of analysis (1982)
and Hood’s value types (1991), some points have been raised concerning
this approach.
An important point of criticism is that performance measures cannot
be implemented at all or cannot be rightly implemented when the
institutional context is not taken into account. In the terms of Kiser
and Ostrom, performance measures are part of the collective choice
level (and should have an impact on decisions taken at the operational
level), so the constitutional level should be taken into account. When
there is no fit between both levels, performance measures either will
not be implemented at all, or they will inevitably fail after some time.
Adjustments at the constitutional level, be it intentional or not, need
to be pursued as well. Changes in the collective choice level must be
embedded in the constitutional level. If not, they will probably fail
in the end. Dwivedi and Halligan (2003: 170), for example, point out
that the traditional values of the Westminster system are permanence,
objectivity and neutrality. The values important in NPM, however, are
flexibility, business orientation, results orientation, customer service
and personal responsibility. Successful implementation of NPM will put
pressure on the traditional values. In many essays on NPM, it is seen
only as a management technique, with no attention paid to the consti-
tutional context.
A second point is that performance measures mostly emphasize
output in terms of quantitative indicators. Important values like justice
(Hood: theta-values) and sustainability (Hood: lambda-values) are more
difficult to measure. By judging civil servants only on sigma-values (and
then only specific parts of these), these values will be compromised.
When civil servants are not held responsible according to these values,
the tendency may arise to pay little attention to those values that are
difficult to quantify. Again, this can lead to changes at the constitu-
tional level. Democratic values and values deriving from the rule of law
(Rechtsstaat) will be hard pressed. The same applies to the sustainability
of the actions of government.
Civil Service Systems and Responsibility 283

In connection with the discussion about internal and external respon-

sibility, the question whether civil servants should be held responsible
directly to ‘society’ (horizontal or external responsibility) has been
addressed (e.g. Yates, 1981). When a civil servant has external respon-
sibility, the whole system changes (see the model of Kiser and Ostrom).
Responsibility to parliament means that the civil servant can be
discharged by parliament and the latter will then resemble or assume
the current role of a minister. The problem then arises in which way the
relationship between minister and civil servants should be shaped. Direct
responsibility to society seems difficult to realize. A more principal objec-
tion is that external responsibility of the civil service is either incomplete
(most often the last element of responsibility is missing: the possibility to
inflict sanctions) or complete, but in the latter case, the civil service is no
longer an intermediate institution and civil servants will become de facto
politicians. I argued earlier that the problem of random and irrespon-
sible actions of civil servants should not be overestimated. Because of the
juridification, the discretion of civil servants is ever more restricted and
there are extensive checks on civil servant behavior. In many essays jurid-
ification is seen as strictly negative, but that is not justified. Moreover,
modern means of communication (like the internet) and the increased
influence of the media lead to an increase of transparency of government
in recent decades. In representative bodies attention is no longer solely
given to the contents of policy; in many countries extensive attention
is also given to the execution of that policy. In his well-known article,
Friedrich (1978) implicitly assumes that representative bodies only focus
on policy issues. If this has ever been the case in the past, in the present
this no longer applies to a lot of countries.
When the internal responsibility of civil servants has to be improved,
all three types of values Hood distinguishes should be taken into
account. This means that when reviewing civil servants’ performance,
not only should quantifiable output data be taken into account, but also
less quantifiable aspects in relation to quality in the wider sense, such as
rule of law qualities.

1. There might even be some need to divide sigma-values into sigma 1 (legality)
and sigma 2 (democracy). But then again, where would the limit be, as within
sigma 2 values a distinction could be made between formal democratic values
(sigma 2a) and responsiveness (sigma 2b). This distinction is relevant for
demarcating vertical and horizontal forms of responsibility.
284 Gerrit S.A. Dijkstra

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Governance and Civil Service
Systems: From Easy Answers to
Hard Questions
B. Guy Peters and Jon Pierre

1 Introduction

Public administration research and teaching over the past several decades
have been focused heavily on theorizing and explaining institutional
change in civil service systems. It could perhaps be argued that organi-
zational change always has been an important feature of the discipline,
with literatures such as organizational development focusing on endog-
enous sources of change in public organizations. The changes brought
about by austerity, New Public Management and the development of
governance approaches to public administration, however, pose major
new exogenous challenges to the Western civil service systems. This
focus on change, both within the civil service and also in its relation-
ship with actors in its environment, has entailed problems of several
different kinds.
One type of problem stems from the relative lack of focus on change
in many public administration theories. Much of the organizational
theory on public organizations, for instance, was mainly concerned
with organizational structure as such and had little reason to concep-
tualize major changes in public organizations. Similarly, early schools
of human resource management departed to a large extent from the
assumption that public and private careers tracks were not in any mean-
ingful contact with each other, hence there was little need to look at
public employment strategies in a competitive perspective. And, most
obviously, managing public organizations was believed to be a wholly
different enterprise compared to private organizations; while change and
adaptive strategies were believed to be critical to corporate organizations,

Governance and Civil Service Systems 287

very little was said along those lines with regard to the public sector (see
Allison, 1972).
Thus, the conventional models of civil service systems that had grown
up over decades in the industrialized democracies tended to provide
relatively easy answers to the difficult questions of how to administer
public policies. That capacity to provide answers was certainly true of
Weberian/Wilsonian hierarchical systems that focused on the career,
neutrally competent civil servant as the best means, in both normative
and empirical terms, of translating policies into action (Derlien, 1999;
Kettl, 2002). More recent approaches to management in the public sector
also provided clear and relatively unambiguous answers to questions of
what to do when working in the public sector. These answers now are
often considered inadequate, or just wrong, but in their own way they
were capable of organizing administrative life and producing effective
The major exception to the above generalizations has been the litera-
ture on development administration and the management of change
in transitional countries. Unfortunately, this emphasis on change has
not permeated the remainder of the discipline. Further, most scholars
working in the more developed administrative systems have assumed
that their models would be easily applicable to the remainder of the
world. That assumption has been especially true in many donor organi-
zations that have attempted to spread New Public Management to other
parts of the world, often with disastrous results (see Schick, 1998).

2 Challenges to government and the civil service

The analysis presented in the original Bekke, Perry and Toonen (1996)
volume on comparative civil service systems proposed that the disjunc-
ture between constitutional provisions and functional demands for
administration was the principal source of change pressures in civil
service systems (pp. 323–324). They also argued that disparities existing
between the socio-economic and political environment of administra-
tion and the civil service were important sources of tension and change
(pp. 324–325).1 In short, the