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Rolling back the state and building new governing technologies. Challenges for bureaucrats, managers and professionals responding to retrenchment and

Dorthe Pedersen
Copenhagen Business School
Dorthe Pedersen
Copenhagen Business School
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Abstract

The global financial end economic crisis is calling for new radical public governance strategies. Many bureaucrats and public managers in Western societies are in an extremely challenging situation. Countries such as Greece, Spain, Italy and Ireland have already been forced to radical retrenchment and crisis strategies to avoid state bankruptcy. In the United Kingdom, the coalition government has proposed a radical governance strategy under the heading “Big Society” suggesting a new framework for the division of labor between public bodies and civil society, while cutting away nearly 1/3 of public spending in welfare services and half a million public jobs over four years. In Denmark (DK), the government has announced a disciplined financial stringency and ‘negative growth’ strategy in economic planning, at a point where public spending has grown steadily for the last 2 decades. As most Western countries DK is under a significant pressure to dramatically reform public services, and even reconstitute the fundamental relationship between citizens and the state, public and private. In DK current retrenchment and reform policies is not just coupled to narratives of crisis, a renewed sense of financial responsibility is also setting the scene for developing New Public Governance (NPG) structures, networks and collaborations beyond both hierarchy, professional boundaries and New Public Management measures (NPM). Cross-professional and ‘inter-agency’ collaboration, involvement of society and user driven innovation are pointed out as new solutions in service delivery, which are now formed to lower both spending and demand for public services. In that respect, the formal hierarchy as well as the professional pillars of the welfare state and the business units and incentive structures of the NPM era is pointed out as barriers for a new co-working of professionals and partnership interaction with citizens. Instead of just rolling back the state, new organizational and governing principles is developed to involve both different profession groups and citizens in forming relevant and tailored services based on individual needs and potentials by the citizen, whenever it is the pupil in schools, social clients, elderly people or patients in health care. This paper aims to shed light on how these new governing principles in a context of retrenchment and reform puts the social actors of bureaucracy and public service organizations to the throne as the multi-professional managers and ‘entrepreneurs’ that are supposed to take on new roles and forms of autonomy. Focus is on the challenges and dilemmas that are formed in the spaces opened up in the dynamic of central retrenchment measures and reform efforts and local practices in public administrations and service organizations. To illustrate this, the paper will point to different examples of new governing technologies in public welfare services within social care, health care and public schools. It will be shown how current reforms and governing technologies call for new leadership capacities and interagency collaboration of managers and professionals in the public services. By way of an analytical distinction between freedom as autonomy and freedom as potential it is argued, that the adoption to retrenchment measures and radical change, is based on the possibilities of ‘juicing out’ yet not developed potentials both by professionals and the citizens. Professionals need to develop new forms of professional identity and agency and citizens need to be empowered to take a new form of responsibility for their own needs and development.