Lecture 2014: Christopher Pollitt - IIAS-IISA - International Institute of Administrative Sciences - Institut international des Sciences administratives

P1130891The 2014 Braibant Lecture was given by Christopher Pollitt (UK), Emeritus Professor, KU Leuven, Belgium during the International Congress of IIAS in Ifrane , Morocco.

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It is easy to get the impression that most new ideas in public management come from the ‘Anglosphere’.   These would include the ‘New Public Management’ and ‘governance’, together with a host of specific techniques such as TQM, benchmarking, contracting out, the autonomisation of public agencies, Public-Private-Partnerships and Lean.  Anglophones have also tended to take prominent roles in those international bodies which are most influential in public management reform, particularly the OECD and the World Bank.  Furthermore, the top PA journals – the ones that most young academics aspire to publish in – are U.S. or British in origin, and remain English in language.  Finally, in the background, we have the continuing growth of English as the new ‘world language’.

In this lecture, however, I would like to argue that, for several disparate reasons, this apparent dominance is already fading, and is likely to diminish further over the next decade.  These reasons include the following:

  1. The dominance of Anglophone ideas has always varied by country and region, and continues to do so.  NPM, for example, was for long ignored or resisted by many countries, or was adopted in ways that transformed it.
  1. The results of Anglophone public management reforms are now being questioned.  Not only have they often visibly and palpably failed when applied in the developing world, their track record even in their ‘home countries’ of the UK and the USA has now been seriously questioned.
  1. There are signs that some of the leading academic institutions in the Anglophone world are developing the subject in directions that take it further and further away from practical application.  The gap between academic concerns and practitioner concerns may be widening.
  1. China, Eastern Europe and Latin America are increasingly important voices in the international public administration community, and in many cases they have strong administrative cultures and traditions of their own.  For these and other reasons they are unlikely to just buy Anglophone ideas ‘off the shelf’.  They may not see them as directly relevant to their own problems.  Furthermore, the future fiscal contexts in these regions are very unlikely to be the same as the austerity which will continue to dominate the UK and the USA.

In conclusion I will speculate on some of the implications of this analysis.  It may be that English remains the dominant language of the international public administration community, but the hunger for ideas of English and American origin soon becomes a thing of the past.

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