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Draft for the 1998 IPMN conference in Salem/Oregon

June 1998

Working Title

Origin and theoretical basis of the New

Public Management (NPM)
Gernod Gruening
Arbeitsbereich Public Management
Hochschule fuer Wirtschaft und Politik
Hamburg, Germany

1. Introduction
2. The characteristics of the NPM
3. The development of administrative thought (in the USA)
4. A descriptive model of the administrative-political sciences
5. The theoretical basis of the characteristics of the NPM
6. Is the NPM new? Is it a paradigm change?
7. Other findings

1. Introduction
In the last twenty years a practical reform movement of the public administrations of the
OECD countries (and a lot of other countries in the world) developed. This reform
movement is called NPM. In this paper I will try to answer some questions which are
referred to by the international discussion about the NPM frequently. First: Which
theoretical origins stand behind the NPM? The now common formula is that the NPM
has its origins in public choice theory and the so-called managerialism (Aucoin 1990,
p. 115; Dunsire 1995, p. 21, p. 29; Lueder 1996, p. 93; Naschold et al. 1995, p. 1, p. 8;
Reichard 1996, p. 245f.; Schedler 1995, p. 155). The question is whether this formula
fits and whether it is exhaustive. When this question is answered then we can answer the
second questions whether the NPM is new, too. The third question is wether the NPM
stands for a paradigm change, as a lot of writers say (Aucoin 1995, p. 3; Borins 1994, p.
2; Kamensky 1996, p. 250; OECD 1995, p. 8, p. 25; Osborne/Gaebler 1993, p. 321;
Reinermann 1995, p. 6).
To answer this three questions I will describe (as short as possible) the development of
administrative thought of that country where the most important impulses for public
choice theory and management theory came from: the USA. In my opinion the USA are
best suited as a reference point for theoretical developments because the sheer size of
the american administrative-political sciences, their diversity and richness of approaches
makes it the natural leader of the international discussion.
The historical description serves to put the developments and theoretical concepts into a
context and for the assessment whether other theoretical influences than public choice
and managerialism can be identified. These course of analysis is based on hypotheses
1: Practicioners, scientists and consultants are subject to disciplinary socialization and
training. One can assume that they are influenced by these when they try to reform
administrative organizations and delivery systems.
2. The characteristics of the NPM
The NPM movement began to develop in the late 70s and early eighties. The first
movers where the United Kingdom, that was reformed by prime Minister Margaret

Thatcher and communal governments in the US which suffered heavily from recessive
developments and tax revolts of their citizens (i.e. Proposition 13 and 2 in California
and Massachusetts). Later the national governments of other commonwealth countries,
mainly New Zealand and Australia) joined and after the reform successes in these
countries administrative reforms got on the agendas of almost all OECD countries and a
lot of other countries in the world (OECD 1995).
The common characteristics of the practical reforms where identified by academics
rather late and where then discussed under the label NPM (Dunsire1995, p. 21) - for the
US Osborne and Gaebler (1993) coined the phrase Reinventing. In the following I
will distinguish between characteristics of the NPM which are almost unequivocally
mentioned and those characteristics which are often but not unequivocally mentioned
(see for example: Borins 1994; Borins 1995; Boston/Martin/Pallott/Walsh 1996; Bushor
1994, Gore 1994, Hood 1991, Nashold et al. 1995, Reichard 1992, Stewart/Walsh
Table 1: Unequivocal characteristics of the NPM

Budget Cuts






Customer Concept









Freedom to Manage






Separation of


More Use of

Politics and






Case management)
Separation of
Provision and
Contracting Out

User Charges

Table 2: Other characteristics of the NPM



Policy Analysis





Rationalization or


Improved Regulation

Streamlining of


Administrative Structures

Citizens Participation

3. The development of administrative thought (in the USA)

The conscious study of public administration in the US began in a time when the
practical administration was in a highly disastrous condition. In the late 19th century the
political system of the USA was dominated by parties which gave administrative
positions to their members. Administrative personnel therefore changed after election
successes of the opposition and the public purse was frequently plundered.
Incompetence, inefficiency and corruption where common (Weber 1956, S. 839ff.; Van
Riper 1987, Stone/Stone 1975; Schachter 1989).
In this situation a movement to reform politics and administration developed: the
Progressives. The Progressives pursued the separation of politics and administration;
they pressed for a more interventionist state, tenured, neutral and competent
administrators and a sound financial management. Main reform successes of the
Progressives where the invention of a career civil service (Pendleton Act 1883), the
invention of the line item budget and the rollback of parties and corruption (Eisenach
1994; Lee 1995; Waldo 1948).
Classical Public Administration
Main players in this time came from the New York Bureau for Municipal Research,
which was highly influenced by ideas of Frederick Taylors Scientific Management. One
important answer to the problem of corruption and incompetence was a stress on
efficiency. Techniques and studies imported from scientific management filled this gap
(i.e. studies on scientifical respective efficient street paving and snow removal). The

progressive reformers where the first to use performance indicators to benchmark the
efficiency of public organizations one purpose behind this was to identify corruption
(Schachter 1989). In the 1920s some practicioners and academics built the science of
public administration on the fundaments of the progressive reform successes. On the
presupposition of loyal bureaucrats, honest politicians and the politics-administration
dichotomy the new scientists of public administration built a theory of organization that
was supplemented by a concept of management.
These principles where (Gulick 1937; Urwick 1937; Mooney 1937; Graicunas 1937):

The principle of division of work and specialization.

The principle of homogeneity.

The principle of unity of command.

The scalar principle respective the principle of delegation.

The principle of accountability.

The principle of the span of control.

The staff principle.

Within organizational structures which should follow these principles chief executives
where asked to do POSDCORB, which stands for Planning, Organizing, Staffing,
Directing, Coordinating, Reporting and Budgeting (Gulick 1937, S. 13). Based on these
principles, which were inductively drawn from practical experience, academics where
involved in modernization projects and completed the reforms of the progressives.
Reorganization efforts of that time normally included efforts to streamline, to
consolidate organizations and to standardize administrative procedures (Lee 1995;
Henry 1975; Arnold 1995).
In the 1930s in the time of the New Deal the scope of government activity and the
public administration of the US was dramatically expanded guided by the principles
of public administration. The New Deal followed (and realized) the societal vision of
the progressives. The state became more involved, it regulated more activities, it
became more social democratic, it seemed to be built on scientific objectivity and
promised material freedom (Egger 1975; Waldo 1948; Van Riper 1983).

I call this cluster of organization and management concepts and the closely related ethos
of orderly government, an active state and the belief in objective knowledge that serves
to control the social and physical environment the classical public administration.
Neoclassical Public Administration
After World War II the principles of the classical public administration where reassessed
and highly questioned. One of the most rigorous critics was Herbert Simon, whose work
set the tone and direction for the neoclassic public administration. His dissertation with
the title Administrative Behavior A Study of Decisionmaking in Administrative
Organization contained the buzzwords of an era: behavior, decisions and organization.
Simon said that the principles of administration are not scientific but inconsistent
proverbs which were drawn from common sense (Simon 1976, S. 20). His suggestion
was to found public administration on the rigorous and scientific observation of facts
where real scientific laws of human behavior should be (inductively) derived from.
Factual and value judgements should be separated and science should be divided in pure
science and applied science (Simon 1976; Simon/Smithburg/Thompson 1962). From
this perspective objective scientific knowledge serves for the control of the social
Simons ideas influenced a lot of scholars very much. There where lots of studies about
behavior and decisions in administrative organizations and a new and more presice
vocabulary and research methodology was used. Neoclassical public administration
(and Simon himself) followed the common trends of behaviorism, structural
functionalism and systems theory and took in theoretical underpinnings of welfare
economics and decision theory.
Practically the rather regular reforms of the machinery of government in this times
followed the paths of the progressives and classical theory: Organizations and
jurisdictions where streamlined and consolidated, executive power was strengthened
and unified. However, the main practical event of this period was the invention of the
PPBS (Waldo 1969). The PPBS was based on microecomonic decision techniques and a
strong belief that central planning of the national administration (and economy) could

lead to successful optimization. The PPBS carried the logics of systems analysis,
rational planning and the systems theoretical vocabulary of inputs, throughputs,
outputs, outcomes, programs and alternatives (equifinality) into budgeting (Schick
1966; Greenhouse 1966; Gross 1969; Schick 1969). Unfortunately the implementation
of the PPBS suffered serious shortcomings and the system never worked as intended
in 1972 it was terminated (Schick 1973).
So the neoclassical public administration seemed to have altered the scientific standards
and methodology, but practice continued to rely on the principles of the classics and on
the administrative structures of the progressives (Lynn 1996; Kramer 1987). As a
resumee about the practical influence of the neoclassics one can say, that they adapted
themselves to and carried on the principles and structures of classical public
administration and that they improved the analytical basis for performance
measurement, auditing, rationalization of jurisdictions and organizations, and
budgeting systems. What they especially added was a focus on analysis and a change
(tendency) from a bureaucratic towards a rational and analytic management style.
But there where other indirect consequences of the neoclassics. The (generic) research
about organizations, behavior and leadership found that human beings are complex
(Schein 1965), that other modes of leadership than the classical directive style are
possible and that organizations can be structured not only in mechanistic ways but in
organic ways, too (Burns/Stalker 1971). These findings didnt have practical
consequences (yet) but they where there.
Another consequence of the neoclassical reassessment was that public administration
lost its unity (Waldo 1965). As I said, a lot of scholars followed Herbert Simons lead,
but not all. Some scholars felt not qualified for the new scientific standards and just
remained doing what they did before so classical public administration not just
survived in the progressive structures of practical government but in theory, too. And
there where other scholars, who didnt want to accept the separation of facts and values,
because they thought that this would cut off public administration from its foundations
from political philosophy and the search for the public interest (Waldo 1965;
Subramaniam 1963).

So the situation of the public administration at the end of the 60s was that there was a
classical line of thought, a neoclassical line of thought and group of political oriented
scholars. What is important is that these divided groups did share one common creed:
the progressive vision of an active state and the belief in objective knowledge. But there
where coming up other approaches, which seriously questioned this basic belief of the
public administration scholars.
Public Choice and other developments of the modern institutional economics
The first of this rival approaches was public choice theory. The main event of the
institutionalization of the public choice approach was the founding of the Thomas
Jefferson Center for Studies in Political Economy and Social Philosophy by James
Buchanan and and Warren Nutter at the University of Virginia. The founders wanted to
build a platform for all scholars who where interested in a society based on individual
freedom (Buchanan 1986, S. 8f.). Complementary to this basic aims was their use of
methodological individualism as their basic approach. Social phenomena where to be
explained from the aggregated behavior of individuals.
Table 3: The logic of individualistic explanation (Coleman 1995)



Logic of
the Situation

Logik of


Individual Action
Logic of Action


Characteristic for this approach is the assumption that individuals act according to their
own preferences and try to pursue their own aims according to the situation. This notion
contains a different notion of rationality than Simons, because rationality from this
perspective is not bounded measured against a theoretical optimum, but rational
behavior is when a person acts to pursue its aims according to its knowledge of the
situation. For example an indian who believes that rain-dancing produces rain, acts
rational if he begins to dance in a severe drought (Tullock 1965). Models to explain
social phenomena where therefore deductively developed from a set of assumptions
about human aims and their information about the situation.
Another basic trait of this approach was that in incorporated a natural normative
benchmark for assessing social reality. Since individual preferences and the free choice
of individuals stand in the center of the argumentation the benchmark for political
institutions is wether a free individual would willingly agree to such structures and to
their outcomes (Buchanan/Tullock 1962; Buchanan 1984, p. 8). One could call this a
contractarian vision of the state and its constitution.
On this basis public choice scholars assessed the reality of the modern welfare state that
the progressives and their companions in the public administration company built and
where going on to build. The results where devastating. The theoretical explanation of
representative democracy found that the use of the simple majority rule without
constitutional safeguards can lead (through logrolling) to the exploitation of minorities
by majorities, that such majorities have an incentive to waste ressources the minority
pays for, and that the notion of a public interest or a common good of classical
democratic theory is highly questionable (Downs 1968; Buchanan/Tullock 1962). The
public choice scholars further showed that the tendencies for inefficient use of resources
and the exploitation of certain groups is enhanced by the traditional budgeting situation
between representative committees and the executives of bureaucratic organizations
(Niskanen 1971). And it was shown that bureaucratic organization (defined as
organizations which are partly or wholly not evaluated on markets) has a number of
serious deficiencies. From a public choice perspective this deficiencies reach from a
strong tendency towards the accumulation of tasks and resources, over conservatism to
a lawlike unability to accomplish certain tasks (Downs 1994; Tullock 1965).


According to their explanation of state failure and based on their individual ethical
premises public choice scholars made a lot of reform proposals. Main issues where the
invention of constitutional safeguards against exploitation (political exploitation can
be assumed if the sum of taxes an individual pays is bigger than the worth of public
goods it gets delivered for them) and the invention of a polycentrical administrative
system (in contrast to the monocentric system fo the progressives). A polycentical
administrative system would be one where provision and production are separated,
where competition1 for delivery contracts is common, where private vendors are
competing among public ones and where the size of production units and public
consumption units (jurisdictions) must not necessarily fit (allowing economies of scale
and efficient intergovernmental contracting). Such a system would function best if it
would be highly decentralised and federal. Thus, to a polycentric system would belong
a wider use of transparent financing systems such as user charges, vouchers for public
goods and opportunities of choice for the consumer/citizens (Ostrom 1973; 1977; Savas
The main character trait fo a polycentric system would be that a lot of individuals make
decisions according to their personal knowledge of time and place: there is not any
longer one single and usually distant decision center but many of them (Hayek 1969;
Hayek 1991, p. 192f.). It is easy to see, that every single part of the explanations of
public choice theory, their methodology, their ethical benchmark, and their
recommendations flie directly into the face of all classical and neoclassical public
administration. Ironically, Vincent and Elinor Ostrom presented this as a new approach
to public administration and they found some supporters (Ostrom/Ostrom 1971).
Other approaches of modern institutional economics are the neo-austrian economics,
property rights theory, principal-agent theory, and transaction costs economics. The neoaustrian economists deal mainly with the question of planned and unplanned social
order (Kosmos and Taxis) and they share a lot with the public choice perspective
(Hayek 1969; Hayek 1991). They have an almost stronger preference for individual
freedom and stress especially the necessity of a law that does not discriminate in any
way (and not in tax laws, too) and they are determined against the welfare state, which

An interesting proposal of Niskanen is to pay bureaucrats according to performance, for example by

leaving a part of the sum between the approved budget and the actually consumed resources to them or
their bureaus competition for the resources of the budget he saw as a prerequisite for this because of
perverse incentive effects in the other case.


they assess as a form of tyranny (Von Mises 1983). The property rights theory deals
with the efficient allocation of property rights over resources (Demsetz 1967). The
principal agent theory deals mainly with problems and solutions for monitoring and
incentive systems in an agency relationship (Pratt/Zeckhauser 1983). And transaction
cost economics mainly deal with the question when markets or hierarchies are used as
efficient arrangements for the organization of production (Williamson 1975).
All these approaches became a major challenge for classic and neoclassic thoughts.
The New Public Administration and its successors
But classical and neoclassical public administration where not only challenged by
public choice theory even in the heyday of the neoclassics there where dissenting
voices to the dominant stream of behavioral and positivist research. In matters of
management the later human relations school that followed the basic concepts of
Maslows man as self-actualizer urged for an approach that should put human beings
into the center of management (McGregor 1973). Human beings should get
opportunities to develop their selves and to live a healthy life within organizations.
And within public administration there was a number of scientists who charged the
separation of facts and values to cut off public administration from its vital roots in
political philosophy (Appleby 1947; Harmon/Mayer 1986, p. 22). For these scholars the
search for the public interest continued to be a central question in spite of its demise by
Arrow and Schubert (1957).
In the late 60s when the US where in a time of turbulence and revolutions (Waldo 1968)
Dwight Waldo organized a conference about the future of public administration where
he invited only younger members of the discipline. These young men brought the
revolutionary spirit of their times to the conference and initiated a movement that was
called the new public administration (NPA) and took up a lot of impulses of the later
human relations movement and the political faction of public administration (Marini
Basically the NPA was a critique of classical and neoclassical public administration. The
participants raged against a society that was in their eyes full of discrimination, injustice


and inequality and they saw the public administration - practically and theoretically
support this unbearable status quo. All theorizing from politics-administration
dichotomy over separation of fact and value to accountability in representative
democracy was (in their opinion) serving the status quo of repression and alienation
(White 1971; Harmon 1971). Therefore they urged for a reorientation of the discipline:
Public administration should move away from the pursuit of efficient administration
towards more democratic structures within and without public organizations
participation was the buzzword of the movement and it should especially try
proactively to further social equity. La Porte (1971, p. 31) said: I would argue that our
primary normative premise should be that the purpose of public organization is the
reduction of economic, social, and psychic suffering and the enhancement of life
opportunities for those inside and outside the organization. It is easy to see that the
center of theoretical gravity moves towards a normative theory.
The problem of the NPA was that it had not very much more to offer than this normative
reorientation. When the US discovered in the 70s that they where not nearly as
affluent than it was assumed in the 60s the proposals of the NPA for administrative
and democratic experiments became unrealistic. In the midst of recession and
unemployment productivity seemed to be more important (Campbell 1972, p. 345ff.).
But the argument that normative questions matter for public administration and that
there is another possible vision of a participative and socially equitable public
administration was not forgotten.
And this vision was reinvented through the backdoor. In the early 80s when bureaucratbashing was a common sport among politicians and journalists John Rohr (1978; 1986)
developed a justification for public organization that was based on a highly creative
interpretation of the american constitution accordingly the approach was called
constitutionalism. Constitutionalism was a flag to gather for the defenders of public
administration. And among them where veterans of the NPA movement. John Rohr
and his colleagues of the Blacksburg polytechnicum in Virginia continued their
defensive work and developed the blacksburg perspective that incorporated a lot of
the thoughts of the NPA within it (Wamsley et al. 1990). Another development of the
eighties that carried on the normative thrust of the NPA was communitarianism. Based


on a critique of the individualist and rootless modern society and its inhabitants
communitarians urged for a social reform towards more participative political and
administrative structures (Cooper 1991; Barber 1994). The basic (revived) idea was
that human beings are political beings and that one can only be fully human if one has
the possibility to participate in political life. The structures of public administration
would have to be accomodated to such a social change, the administrators would
become citizens among peers, and they would assume the role of facilitators for
participative action. The third follower of the NPA movement was the discourse theory
of public administration. Based on a critique of the communicative basis of
represenative democracy and its bureaucracy Fox and Miller (1995) proposed that
public administration should assume a moderators role in public policy networks or
energy fields where interested individuals and organizations find solutions for public
problems in a situation that comes as near as possible to ideal speech.
All these three approaches the blacksburg perspective, communitarianism and
discourse theory share a lot of their normative basis and their practical reform
proposals with the NPA and they seem to make up an alternative postmodern
movement within public administration. They all have a preference for proactive and
politically acting bureaucrats, they all pursue values beyond efficiency, they all
heavily criticize representative democracy and progressive administrative structures and
they all propose reforms leading in the direction of participation, community, selfactualization and the development of human potential within and without public
organizations. Interestingly their commonality goes as far back as to their very scientific
roots. They are all heavily influenced by phenomenology, that states that reality is
socially constructed and that therefore the scientist has to try to share the frameworks
through which his subject sees the world for understanding the lifeworld of his subject
and its actions. The other main influence is critical theory that is based on a critique of
the reign of instrumental reason in society and tries to unmask false social
appearances behind which domination is covered. An important further development of
critical theory is the discourse theory of Habermas who tried to show which ideal
communicative situation is necessary for overcoming domination. Important elements
of discursive thoughts can be found in every one of the three followers of the NPA for
example it is frequently referred to by communitarian writers when they try to develop
their participative ideal of democracy.


Policy Analysis
We see that public administration was multiple split and under fire in the early 70s and
later: There can be identified classical and neoclassical branches of the discipline, it was
heavily questioned by modern institutional economics and some scholars followed this
approach, and it was challenged by the NPA in whichs wake even three followers
appeared who brought two very different scientific perspectives into public
administration: critical theory and phenomenology.
In this situation another competitor began to develop. In the early 70s political scientists
who where interested in finding the causes for the failure of a lot of policies which
where invented in the 60s and who wanted to find ways for improvement founded the
discipline of policy studies or policy analysis (Parsons 1995). From the beginning
policy analysis could mean two things: analysis of policies, where practical political
developments, the main actors, the outcomes etc. were described and partially explained
(Anderson 1975), and analysis for policy, where it was tried to find optimal solutions
for political problems (Nagel 1980). Both branches where strongly related to the
neoclassical research program of Herbert Simon. Analysis of policy tended more to the
behavioral aspects and analysis for policy tended more to the aspects of decision
techniques. It is no incident that scientists like Merriam and Lasswell who where closely
related to Herbert Simon where leading figures in the policy studies field. The
compatibility to neoclassical public administration went as deep as to the scientific
roots: policy analysis used the separation of fact and value, logical positivism left its
In practice the approach of analysis for policy became extremely prominent. Intensive
analysis was frequently used to provide information for policy makers. The idea was
that informed legislators can realize more rational policies. But to a rational political
decision not only information about optimal policies are needed, but the
implementation and evaluation of policies have to be incorporated. By enlarging their
field towards these aspects of politics researchers closed the conceptional circle of
information gathering, analysis, decision, implementation, and evaluation. The result
was a conception of rational policy making (Parsons 1995).


Since the approaches where highly compatible there was no need for conflict. But
conflict developed because policy analysis and public administration where competing
for the same audience, students, research funds, and practical consulting projects. In this
situation adherents of polic analysis tended towards the argumentation that public
administration with its institutional focus is outdated and that policy analysis with its
focus on policies is modern and more relevant (Lynn 1996). The effect of all this where
extremely bitter feelings on the side of public administration scholars and the attempt to
include policy analysis themes into the courses of public administration.
But policy analysis got its own problems, too. Its early conceptual core was soon
questioned. The popularity of the discipline and its success in aqcuiring students and
research funds drew researchers with other approaches into its borders. Soon policy
research was undertaken not only in the optimizing format of systems analysis but with
methodogical individualism, too (Parsons 1995). And later there appeared critical
scientists and phenomenologists with even more different approaches of naturalistic
inquiry (Henry 1990) and a consulting approach that was called interpretative forum
(Kelly/Maynard-Moody 1993). So despite of its success the policy studies field suffered
the same fragmentation as the public administration field.
Public Management
Another institutional creation of the 70s is the field of public management. When
schools of policy analysis began to train students for executive positions in the public
sector, they soon realized that more is needed than the skill to create optimal policies,
simply because the opportunity for this is rare. The other part of the work consists of
management and therefore adequate courses had to be included (Bozeman 1991a;
Moore 1995). Since public administration was the competitor the label public
management was used. Other competitors on the market for students where schools for
business administration and schools of generic management which also began to hold
public management courses.
The content of such courses and of the discipline - was highly similar to generic
management thought. Leadership styles, management techniques, and techniques of


analysis where transplanted to public sector questions and more or less successful
proposed for and used in practice. Therefore one of the main and heavily contested
question was (and is) what the public in public management is and what the
consequences for management are (Murray 1975).
The transplants which where discussed in public management circles usually had deep
roots in the findings of generic research in the heydays of the neoclassics. The
conclusions of these research which couldnt bring their weight into the progressive
structures of practical and theoretical public administration where highly influential in
the private sector and they where then transplanted.
Important examples of these transplants can be grouped into two classes. Some tend
more towards rational or mechanistic management styles and instruments and
others tend more towards humanistic or organic management styles and
instruments. From the rational side came Zero Base Budgeting (Lerner/Wanat 1992),
Management by Objectives (Drucker 1962; Sherwood/Page 1976), techniques of
performance measurement and accounting (Henry 1990), public sector marketing
(Kotler 1978), and rational strategic management (Wechsler/Backoff 1986). All this
approaches have a heavy bias for the gathering and analysis of information and try to
find optimal answers for management problems on this basis. From the standpoint of
this approaches it is extremely important to measure and to objectify and if it comes to
leadership to reward according to the results which where found.
During the 70s such thoughts dominated public management almost exclusively. But in
the early 80s the book In search for excellence of Peters and Waterman (1982)
changed the scene. They showed that the best and most successful american companies
where not managed rational-oriented, but that they used organic structures and
humanistic management styles, and a thick culture to lead their employees. The book
provoked an intense public discussion and did a lot to turn the tide towards
humanistic/organic management and soon this movement began to spread in public
management, too. More and more scholars asked wether it might be possible to make
public organizations excellent with accomodated transplants of Peters and Watermans
ideas. Important example for organic and humanistic styles and approaches are
organizational development (Golembiewski 1969), total quality management (Swiss


1992; Milakovich 1991), or culture oriented strategic management, where mission

statements used for leadership purposes (Moore 1995).
Unfortunately for the field there was not yet found a conceptual unity to bind all this
approaches together. Bozeman, a leading figure of the field says: If recent assessments
of public management research and theory are valid, then the field is not yet ready to
take its place alongside more mature and theoretically rich social science disciplines.
(Bozeman 1991b, p. 29) And: One should not expect theoretical mastery in a field that
is relatively immature. There is no paradigm for public management research and
theorizing; rather, ours is a preparadigmatic field conforming closely to Ravetzs model
of an immature and ineffective field of inquiry.` (Bozeman 1991b, p. 33)
It is easy to see, that public management and public administration have close ties
regarding their problems, their research questions, techniques, approaches, and
sometimes researchers. On the other hand the relationship gets always stressed if public
managment scholars appear as competitors or as founders of a new science that is
independent of public administration.
4. A descriptive model of the administrative-political sciences
The result of the inquiry until now is, that the political administrative sciences in the US
are even on a cursory overview a melee of approaches and disciplines. Some disciplines
are reletively unified (i.e. public choice) others are heavily fragmented (i.e. public
management). Certain disciplines are in heavy conflict about basic approaches (i.e.
public choice and public administration) others use compatible approaches and are in
heavy conflict for students, audiences and research funds (public administration and
policy analysis).
But if one leaves disciplines aside and asks for scientific bases one can bring order into
the scene.
If we try to group researchers according to their basic values, we find that some prefer
order, a notion of material freedom (the ability to participate on the welfare of a nation),
and efficiency that is pursued by planning. Other scholars lean heavily towards


individual freedom (freedom from interference), innovation, and efficiency that is

pursued by spontaneous orders. Other scholars prefer values like community, political
freedom (freedom to participate in political processes), and the development of human
potential respective emancipation.
Likewise one can group the scientific approaches of scientists. What we find most are
variations of the scientist as omniscient observer. These are approaches which let the
scientist assume an objectified and distanced position, where he has superior knowledge
about his subject, gathers more knowledge and is able to use this knowledge for social
control, what goes often together with ideas of optimization. Other scientists use
methodological individualism. If one distinguishes like Hayek in true and false
individualism, here is meant the true individualism that leads towards a more modest
approach towards science. The researcher realizes that he does not know substantially
more about the myriad facts of everyday life and especialoy about specialties of time
and place. He especially knows that given limited knowledge can not steer or
control anything perfectly and that his scientific laws are just forecasts of patterns.
This position is closely related to a critical rationalism in contrast to a constructivist or
immodest rationalism of omniscient observers. A third common approach is
critical/interpretive, which is closely related to the dialectic method. Researchers who
use this approach begin with the notion that reality is not out there but socially
constructed and can therefore only be understood by the scientist through learning about
the frameworks of the human beings they deal with. Critical aspects enter if researchers
go a step further to demask dominative relationships in a social situation they seem to
have understood.
If one groups scientists according to their method one can say that one group uses
empirical studies to generate scientific laws inductively usually they speak of a
verification if they have gathered enough data to be sure of their findings. Another
group develops daring hypotheses based on certain premises deductively and tests
these hypotheses empirically if they find their daring outlines empirically wrong they
usually speak about a falsification. The third method of learning the framework of
human beings and their lifeworld is phenomenological.


We can group scientists according to the gravity of their statements. That means to
assess in which direction their main utterances go. Naturally all scientists describe more
or less, and all try to explain, to prescribe and talk about values, but one group has a
heavy bias towards prescriptive statements, another has a strong explanative bias, and
another has a strong normative bias.
If it comes to research fields or technological recommendations the different groups
normally lean towards certain modes of social coordination. One group has a bias
towards hierarchy, the other towards markets, and the other group tends towards the
recommendation of communities or clans.
One can also identify biases towards the assessment of social problems. One group
tends to see change, adaptation, and social complexity as problematic. The other group
assesses social petrification, the coercion of the welfare system, and the protection of
individual freedom as main problems. And the other group sees alienation,
individualisation, and sustainable development among the main questions scientists and
society have to answer.
If one orders these groups and different centers of gravity, one gets the following model
of three scientific worldviews which are in themselves consistent and compatible, but
in most questions incommensurable to the respective others. That means that the
scientists which share one scientific worldview can communicate without greater
problems with each other but tendentially they talk past one another if they
communicate across the borders nevertheless: a circle is an area and that implies
that one can position oneself more or less near the border and it is even possible that
scientists as individuals leave their string on certain levels.
To name the three worldviews I would suggest the terms emancipatoric, rationalistic
and individualistic. Although these terms define the three worldviews on different
levels, they seem to fit because they all incorporate the very charcteristics of the
respective creed. Rationalists especially share their belief that the world can be ordered
and controlled with the help of objective scientific knowledge. Individualists share
their commitment to put the individual in the center of their deliberations
methodologically and normatively. And emancipatorics are held together by their


ardent desire to free individuals from domination, to realize a far reaching social equity,
and to cure society by a daring experiment with basic forms of marketplace democracy.
And the extreme proponents of each of these worldviews for example Nagel and the
(early) Samuelson for the rationalists, Hayek and Buchanan for the individualists, and
Barber and Thayer for the emancipatorics have few more to say to each other than that
their respective approaches and recommendations are irrelevant, unsensible or
Table 4: Dominant patterns of scientific worldviews
Basic Values

Order, material Freedom

Efficiency per Planning

Individual Freedom,
Innovation, Efficiency per
Community, political Freedom,
spontaneous Orders
Development of human Potential




Variations of the
Omniscient Observer




Gravity of



Community, Clan


Change, Adaptation, Petrification,

Coercion of the Welfare System
Alienation, Individualization,
Protection of Individual
sustainable Development Freedom

Now we have an overview and a descriptive model of the political-administrative

sciences of the US and can go on with answering the questions about origin and
theoretical basis of the NPM.
5. The theoretical basis of the characteristics of the NPM


If one accepts hypotheses 1 (above) it makes sense to ask which theoretical bases may
have been influential on the inventors of the reforms which where later labeled as the
NPM or Reinventing Government. First the undisputed characteristics of the NPM.
Budget cuts need no explanation. All types of scholars (except perhaps those of the
emancipatory worldview) would recommend budget cuts in times of money shortages.
Privatization can be recommended from the standpoint of public choice theory, the neoaustrian school, and property rights theory. But proposals to privatize came from
rationally oriented management scholars (especially Drucker 1969), too.
The separation of provision and production can best be derived from the model of a
polycentrical administrative system of the Ostroms, but such recommendations came
from Drucker, too. Contracting out can be seen as a cure from the standpoint of
rational oriented management and from the standpoint of humanistically oriented
management. An great influence came from transaction costs economics. But Public
Choice scholars like Niskanen recommended it, too. If contracting out means to
strengthen community organizations it is even demanded by emancipatorics.
The invention of user charges was mainly proposed by public choice adherents, but
they can be derived from consumerists views and marketing (rational management), too.
The same can be said about vouchers. The customer concept can be traced back
directly to marketing approaches. Certain details of it like one stop shops or case
management can be seen as the outcome of organic management conceptions and even
of the NPA.
The invention of competition to the public sector comes mainly from public choice
theory. If competition is a measure to motivate departments within an organization
(internal competition, revolving funds) it can also be substantiated from the perspective
of organic management models. To let managers freedom to manage and flexibility
is merely a matter of management thought (and disciplinary self-interest).
The separation of politics and administration can even be traced back to the
progressives and classical public administration and to the influence of policy analysis
for politics, and certain branches of public management. Decentralization is again a


concept that can be recommended on the basis of neoclassic thoughts, on the basis of
public choice, transaction costs economics, and on the basis of the NPA and its
Accountability for performance can be traced back to classical thought and their idea
to benchmark public organizations. It reappeared in neoclassical public administration,
in policy analysis, and in the rational public management circles. The same is true for
the respective techniques of performance measurement, and improved accounting.
Nevertheless public choice scholars like Tullock recommended them, too (with some
reservations). The reform ideas for financial management and performance auditing
can also be traced back to this approaches with a particular stress on rational public
management that used transplants from the private sector. Interestingly the whole
branch of output-oriented steering and evaluation shows heavy influences of the PPBS.
The whole language that is now used in this area (inputs, outputs, outcomes, products,
programs, alternatives ...) was invented in the wake of the PPBS. But one can also
identify ideas of principal-agent theory in these cluster of reform concepts.
Strategic Planning and changed management styles can be seen as the result of the
influence of the two branches of public management. Whereas transitions from
bureaucratic to rational management styles and from rational or bureaucratic to
humanistic management styles have to be distinguished. The same is true of improved
personnel management systems and incentives. But these can also be traced back to the
influence of principal agent theory.
However the use of information technology seems to be a characteristic of the NPM that
has no special theoretical but purely pragmatic roots it is used where it is useful.
If it comes to the not unequivocally mentioned characteristics of the NPM the center of
gravity of the theoretical origins seems to move a little bit away from management:
legal budget constraints are surely a creation of constitutional deliberations of public
choice scholars (especially Buchanan). Improved regulation can be traced back to
property rights theory and the theory of regulation of public choice (especially Stigler
and his colleages of the chicago school).


The rationalization of jurisdictions and the streamlining of administrative

structures can again be traced back to classical administrative theory and the
progressives and was taken up by neoclassics, policy analysis and rational public
management scholars. The role of policy analysis for the use of policy analysis and
evaluation in the reforms is self explaining.
And democratization and enhanced citizen participation can mainly be traced back
to the NPA and its three following approaches. Although consumerist views and public
choice may, too, have played a role.
Table 5: Characteristics of the NPM and theoretical approaches
Organic PuMa
Rational PuMa
Pol. Analysis
Transactions Costs
Austrian School
Public Choice
Neoclassical PA
Classical PA
Budget Cuts
Sep. Prov./Prod.
Contracting Out
User Charges & Vouchers
Customer Concept
Fexibility for Management
Sep. of Pol. & Admin.
Acc. for Performance
Performance Measurement X
Impr. Acc. & Financial Mt. X
Performance Auditing
Strategic Planning & Mt.
Management Styles
Personnel Management
Use of IT
Legal Spending Constraints
Improved Regulation
Rationalzt. of Jurisdictions X
Rationalzt. adm. Structures X
Analysis and Evaluation
Democratization & Particip.









I do not claim that this list is complete or exhaustive but it is surely sufficient to show
that the NPM can be traced back to a variety of theoretical origins which all may have
been influential on reformers. And it is sufficient to derive hypotheses 2 from it: The


formula NPM is public choice + managerialism is seriously incomplete. The NPM

can be traced back to influences of public choice theory, management theory, classical
public administration, neoclassical public administration, policy analysis, principal
agent theory, property rights theory, the neo-austrian school, transaction cost economics,
and the NPA and its following approaches. Individuals who were active in practical
reforms may have been influenced by any of these approaches.
6. Is the NPM new? Is it a paradigm change?
On the basis of the findings of section 4 and 5 we can easily answer the open questions
now and derive the hypotheses 3: A lot of the theoretical origins of or influences on the
NPM are not new. Some can even be traced back to the times of the progressives and
are almost a hundred years old.
But this finding has to be qualified in hypotheses 4: Although some individual
characteristics are rather old there where never reforms (for example like that in new
Zealand or Phoenix/Ar.) where these elements where put together in one reform
movement. Therefore the mix of measures which make up the NPM is certainly new.
The same is true for the practical use of some characteristics of the NPM. Although
theoretically old, some ideas where practically tested (large scale) for the first time with
the NPM, for example the reform ideas of public choice scholars.
So there is left the question whether the NPM is a paradigm change.
The term paradigm was invented by Kuhn (1976) in his path breaking work The
Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Kuhn described paradigms as concrete examples
for the solution of scientific problems and specified this thought later by saying that a
paradigm is the disciplinary system of a science and consists of laws and definitions,
metaphysical orientation hypotheses, values and concrete examples (Kuhn 1976, p.
Thus a paradigm is something the scientists of a discipline agree on and that guides their
research. A mature science is characterized by its paradigm and as long as the so called
normal science goes on researchers work within their paradigm to solve the open riddles


of their discipline. According to Kuhn this work of normal science is disturbed from
time to time. This happens when the researchers find facts which dont fit into their
paradigm and which can not be explained by it. Kuhn calls such facts anomalies and
such a situation an intellectual crisis. The crisis leads towards the situation where
researchers begin to search for solutions outside of their paradigm until new laws,
definitions, orientation hypotheses, values and examplary solutions are found which can
explain the anomaly and have the power to convince the other scientists. If this happens
and everybody in a science agrees on the new disciplinary system a new paradigm is
installed and serves as research guide a paradigm change has happened.
From this description of Kuhns paradigm term and the model we found in section 4 we
can derive the following hypotheses 5: The new public management is not a new
paradigm for the political administrative sciences. The scientists of the political
administrative sciences are far away from any agreement about a disciplinary system.
But what about the individual sciences? Hypotheses 6 states: Almost none of the
poilitical administrative sciences has a paradigm. Most of them share no unified and
agreed upon disciplinary system. Public administration is multiple split, public
management is fragmented, and the same is true for policy analysis. All of them are
characterized by the simultaneous existence of rationalistic, individualistic and
emancipatoric approaches within their boundaries. Therefore they are wasting a lot of
time with methodological quarrels and are not doing normal science. The only group of
scientists that could claim the possession of a paradigm, that pursues normal science,
and that progresses with a comparatively high speed are those which belong to the
modern institutional economics.
Even if one goes as far as to state that the NPM is a new concrete example for the
solution of administrative problems one can easily see that it is far from being agreed
on. There are heavy quarrels about the fact wether it is useful or suitable or the right
answer. This has to do with the fact that practical developments like the NPM are not
just questions of facts and explanation but of values, too. And that brings me to one of
the main points I found in my research: In my opinion there is not even hope for a new
paradigm to gain a foothold. As we see in the model of the political administrative
sciences the worldviews of researchers in the political administrative sciences are


closely tied to values. And certain basic values will never cease to move the hearts of
people. There will always be some idealists who have a strong preference for
community, their will always be defenders of individual freedom, and their will always
be technically minded people who want to order the world in terms of technique. So
there is no hope that certain scientific positions become outdated (like in the natural
sciences) and die out. The flames of the three scientific worldviews one can identifiy in
the political administrative sciences will burn forever and there will always be some
ardent supporters of one or the other value therefore there is no hope for unity or a
Hypotheses 7: It is highly improbable that there will ever be a unified paradigm for the
political-administrative sciences. Therefore it is highly questionable whether Kuhns
model that was developed for natural sciences has any use to understand the political
administrative sciences. As long as values and not facts make up a good deal of the
scientific quarrels of the respective disciplines paradigms and paradigm changes are
not a valid description of the scientific development in this area.
Hypotheses 8: A better model to understand the situation of the political administrative
sciences that can be drawn from the natural sciences is the conception of scientific
anarchism of Feyerabend.
As Feyerabend states their are different scientific worldviews or disciplinary systems
existing parallelly and the decision of the individual reseacher to join one of them
depends on individual character traints, beliefs, values and so on and no disciplinary
system can a priori claim a greater worth or even the only way towards turth. Seen
from this perspective the scientist has the possibility to choose and anything goes
(Andersson 1988).
8. Other findings
On the basis of these findings there are some more conclusions possible.
Hypotheses 9: Decisions about administrative structures are political questions and are
closely related to political philosophy.


Hypotheses 10: Seen from this perspective the NPM is a current mix of values that
seems to fit the situation and solves current administrative problems as well as currently
possible but it will not last forever. There will come other problem situations and their
will come new reform waves which will reform the NPM-oriented structures.
What I want to stress in the end is that all this should not be interpreted as a statement
for or against the NPM. It is an analysis of its basics and of the sciences which are
related to it - but nothing more. All these findings are totally irrelevant regarding the
question whether it is good, suitable or the right answer. Thus an argument against the
NPM like: Look, it is made of different parts which are based on incommensurable
theories. Therefore we mustnt invent it. is misguided. What we see is that science and
disciplinary systems are exactly that: science. The world of science and theory is
detached from practice though they influence each other via recommendations and
empirical findings or facts. But scientists search for truth and practicioners search for
solutions. And while different scientific worldviews are usually incommensurable it is
surely possible to mix practical solutions which are preferred from the perspective of
different scientists the NPM is a living confirmation of this. Therefore the assessment
of practical and scientific commensurability or compatibility belong to different levels
of discussion.
Unfortunately, this implies that the findings of this paper are practically completely
irrelevant this paper assessed a practical movement from a scientific perspective and
there are no conclusions which point towards right answers or solutions for practical
problems. What the paper shows is that the assessment of the attractivity of the NPM
will usually highly depend on the values of the assessor and only partly on hypotheses
about causes and effects. Unfortunately, scientists are most of the time not fair enough
to each other and to their practical coworkers and audience to admit that. Therefore
value judgements and political statements about the right way are often masked as
scientific truths.
Perhaps the practical consequences of this paper may lie in making researchers aware to
their methodological and other (very personal) choices and to reflect on them and it
may encourage a discussion about the theoretical origins (or even field studies to test its


hypotheses) that goes a little bit deeper than public choice + managerialism. Perhaps
it may even contribute to the understandig of the NPM. The other practical consequence
that the paper may have is a hopeless cause: Scientists should separate their scientific
statements about politics, their disciplinary self-interest (e.g. covering the public service
from bureaucrat-bashing), and their search for truth explicitly. This cause is hopeless for
two reasons. First, a lot of scientists (from the emancipatoric area) do not agree to the
separation of fact and value and will therefore deliberately go on to mix them. Second,
scientists have to compete for research money and the one who talks the hype often
makes it. Therefore, modest approaches to science have a serious disadvantage in the
competition for money. So things will stay as they are, because as they are they fit into
the self-interest and the worldviews of scientists.
The article described the characteristics of the NPM and gave a cursory overview about
the development of the political-administratiave sciences which can be seen in a relation
with the NPM. Then a descriptive model of the political administrative sciences was
developed that states the existence of three consistent scientific worldviews which are
incommensurable to each other. On this basis it was stated that the theoretical origins of
the NPM can be traced back to a variety of theoretical perspectives with a long history.
Nevertheless, the special mix of the characteritic features of the NPM is new. Another
finding of the article is that the NPM does not lead towards a paradigm change and that
it is highly improbable that there will ever be one.

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