Revisiting the Death of New Public Management

In this “breathless” time where new conceptual frameworks emerge by the minute, it makes sense to step back and reflect on our thinking of… last week. In the “revisiting” series, I want to point to some of the older postings of this blog. Some might still be relevant, others off the mark, others again will have the quaint nostalgic sound of 1950s science fiction. The following is from August 6th, 2006.

Patrick Dunleavy (LSE), Helen Margetts (Oxford Internet Institute), and Simon Bastow/Jane Tinker (LSE) have written a seminal piece in J-PART: New Public Management is Dead — Long Live Digital-Era Governance describing the developments in “leading-edge” countries (UK, US, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Japan).

They argue that the main drivers of New Public Management (NPM), disaggregation, competition, and incentivization have not achieved what they promised and that Digital-era Governance (DEG) is described by three trends (p. 480):

a. Reintegration — the key opportunities for exploiting digital-era technology opportunities lie in putting back together many of the elements that NPM separated out into discrete corporate hierarchies, offloading onto citizens and other civil society actors the burden of integrating public services into usable packages.

b. Needs-based holism — In contrast to the narrow, joined-up-governance changes included in the reintegration them, holistic reforms seek to simplify and change the entire relationship between agencies and their clients. The task of creating larger and more encompassing administrative blocs is linked with “end to end” re-engineering of processes, stripping out unnecessary steps, compliance costs, checks, and forms.

c. Digitization changes, broadly construed — To realize contemporary productivity gains from IT and related organizational changes requires a far more fundamental take-up of the opportunities opened up by a transition to fully digital operations.

I agree fully with their critique of NPM, however, believe that they underestimate the radical transformative potential of technology on public administration, which they dismiss by referring to such arguments as Sysadmin-utopia or IT-industry driven scenarios. Let me argue three trends that will transform governance more dramatically than anything that NPM or DEG have even conceptualized:

  1. Open source and peer production are the first serious challenge to our monetarized market-based system since socialism.
  2. The public sector equivalents of Platforms for interaction (think myspace, secondlife, openbc, etc.) will change citizen’s and governmental interactions as radically than the introduction of general voting.
  3. Ubiquitous free access (municipal wireless) also has the chance to create new worlds, services, businesses.

When these three trends will have worked their way through public administration, not much will be left of governance as we know of it now. Speaking with Peterlicht

How has digital era governance stood up to #gov20? Is the article relevant to what we are discussing now, when we speak about radical transparency? What do you think about my third “utopian” point on municipal wireless?

About Philipp

Philipp Müller works in the IT industry and is academic dean of the SMBS. Author of "". Proud father of three amazing children. The views expressed in this blog are his own.

20. June 2009 by Philipp
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