Managerialism : something old, something borrowed, little new economic prescription versus effective organizational change in public agencies


Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

73 Citations (Scopus)


Of many managerialist panaceas, the most prevalent one today is the assertion that private sector practices will solve the public sector's "self-evident" inadequate performance. This managerialist view assumes hegemonic proportions in Anglo-Saxon public sectors and largely goes unchallenged, notwithstanding serious reservations about the superiority of private managerial prerogatives one would draw from organization theory or, even, mainstream liberal economics, which is largely silent about the role of management and control in economic behaviour. It is a particular brand of economics that underscores the linking of public agency efficiency to managerial ability and performance. In neo-institutional economics, "rent-seeking" behaviour is attributed to civil servants, rather than corporate entrepreneurs, and from that ideological perspective of bureaucratic pathology flows a whole series of untested propositions culminating in the commercializing, corporatizing and privatizing rationales, now uncritically accepted by most bureaucrats themselves to be axiomatically true. The economistic underpinning of managerialism and its "New Functionalism" in organizational design hardly addresses the significant structural, cultural and behavioural changes necessary to bring about the rhetorical benefits said to flow from the application of managerialist solutions. Managerialism expects public managers to improve efficiency, reduce burdensome costs and enhance organizational performance in a competitive stake-holding situation. Managerialism largely ignores the administrative-political environment which rewards risk-averse behaviour which, in turn, militates against the very behavioural and organizational reforms managerialists putatively seek for the public sector.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-187
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal of Public Sector Management
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1998


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