Understanding National Administrative Styles and Their Impact Upon Administrative Reform: A Neo-Institutional Model and Analysis

  • Howlett M
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Abstract

Students of organizational behaviour have always been concerned with understanding the manner in which complex organizations - including systems of public administration - tend to have distinctive organizational cultures and the impact these cultures have upon their activities and outputs, including their prospects for reform. Recently, neoinstitutional accounts of social and political life have provided a new entry point to the analysis of administrative cultures and administrative reform. For neo-institutionalists, the institutional structure of an organization is seen as creating a distinct pattern of constraints and incentives for state and societal actors which define and structure actor's interests and channel their behaviour. The interaction of these behaviour and structure generates a particular administrative logic and process, or "style". However, since institutional structures vary, a neo-institutional perspective suggests that there will be many different kinds of relatively long-lasting administrative style - each pattern being defined by the particular set of formal and informal institutions, rules, norms, traditions, and values of which it is comprised - and many different factors affecting the construction and deconstruction of each pattern. Following this neo-institutional logic, this paper examines several relatively recent efforts to identify and classify administrative styles. On the basis of these assessments, a multi-level, "nested," model of national administrative styles is developed and applied to the question of observances of patterns of convergence and divergence in administrative reforms in many jurisdictions over the past several decades. © 2002 POLICY AND SOCIETY ASSOCIATES (APSS).

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