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Political advisers and Policy Making in the Swedish Core Executive

Anna Ullstrom
Stockholm University
Anna Ullstrom
Stockholm University
Open Panel

Abstract

This paper examines the role of political advisers in steering and policy making, and, in the light of this, the paper considers their importance for the governing capacity of the Swedish Core Executive. It has long been recognized that the scope of the ministers’ responsibilities far overweighs the capacity of an individual. Political advisers therefore help overloaded ministers steer and direct government and cope with the unrelenting demands of their job. They occupy an ambiguous place within the political system. They play a vital political role, but their presence also challenges the traditional relationship between ministers and public servants. Since the political advisers are not included in the line organization of the Core Executive they are not a part of the parliamentary control chain as a whole, i.e. they are not accountable to the Parliament. It is therefore, from a democratic perspective, justified to analyze this particular groups’ involvement in policy making. The paper is based on empirical material gathered through a combination of various methods, that provides data with depth and context rarely found in studies of core executives: a survey, participatory observation, focus groups and a series of interviews. The paper argues that ethnographic method is a useful tool for anyone who seeks to highlight and explain the relationships within organizations. The empirical focus is the ministerial staffing system under the last social-democratic government of Sweden (2002-2006).