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Interpretive Political ScienceSelected Essays, Volume II$
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R. A. W. Rhodes

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198786115

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198786115.001.0001

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On Reform

On Reform

(p.152) 9 On Reform
Interpretive Political Science

R. A. W. Rhodes

Oxford University Press

This chapter, an exercise in applied anthropology, asks two questions. What lessons about reforming the British civil service can be learnt from using observational methods to study British government departments? What are the strengths and weaknesses of such an approach in the reform of public services? The chapter summarizes the main characteristics of public sector reform over the past decade; namely, evidence-based policy-making, managerialism, and choice. It compares the reform proposals with the fieldwork reported in Rhodes (2011a), identifying plausible conjectures for would-be reformers. It then outlines an approach to reform, focusing on dilemmas and finally discusses the prospects and limits of this approach, both in the study of public administration and for public sector reform. It concludes that attempts to impose private sector management beliefs and techniques on the public sector to increase its economy, efficiency, and effectiveness have had at best variable success.

Keywords:   applied anthropology, public service reform, observation, managerialism, traditions, coping, institutional memory, storytelling, bottom-up

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