Public Administration and Political Change— Introduction

AuthorLuc Rouban
Publication Date01 October 1993
Date01 October 1993
DOI10.1177/019251219301400401
SubjectArticles
315
Public
Administration
and
Political
Change—
Introduction
LUC
ROUBAN
This
issue
of
International
Political
Science
Review
is
devoted
to
the
analysis
of
recent
trends
and
reforms
in
Western
countries’
public
administrations.
For
most
laymen,
and
unfortunately
for
some
political
scientists,
public
administration
studies
gener-
ally
mean
subtle
technical
studies
of
boring
people
doing
boring
things.
Political
life
seems
to
prosper
outside
the
bureaucratic
world,
in
the
streets
and
TV
shows
where
ideological
debates
and
fights
for
electoral
success
become
objects
of
anguish
or
mystical
devotion.
In
other
words,
thanks
to
-Max
Weber,
public
administration
often
appears
as
a
side-effect
of
real
social
and
political
change.
From
such
a
perspective,
bureaucratic
apparatus,
dedicated
to
paperwork
and
embroiled
regula-
tions,
becomes
the
dark
side
of
representative
politics,
the
kitchen
where
social
misfits
work
hard
in
order
to
harass
people,
waste
public
resources,
and
divert
policymaking
from
its
democratic
design.
It
is
this
general
resignation
that
has
fostered
incrementalist
practice
in
administrative
reform
during
the welfare
state’s
golden
years.
By
contrast,
most
political
changes
of
the
1980s
in
the
industrialized
world
were
closely
connected
with
&dquo;public
administration&dquo;
questions.
Ideological
controversies
about
fiscal
pressure
and
individual
choices,
conservative
government
electoral
successes,
the
implosion
of
totalitarian
regimes
in
Eastern
Europe,
and
the
difficult
search
for
new
EC
institutional
mechanisms
in
the
aftermath
of
Maastricht
revealed
that
modern
politics
tend
to
focus
more
on
(civilian
or
military)
administrative
know-how
than
on
historical
decisions
about
war
and
peace.
Of
course,
this
does
not
mean
that
collective
survival
is
no
longer
a
political
preoccupation,
but
that
increasingly
intricate
business
markets
and
the
weight
of
international
economics
have
seriously
hampered
&dquo;breakthrough&dquo;
politics
in
developed
countries.
Paradoxically,
political
radicalism
proved
to
be
effective
only
with
respect
to
those
administrative
dimensions
of
modern
government.
At
the
same
time,
the
very
notion
of
&dquo;administrative
reform&dquo;
was
questioned.
The
1980s
witnessed
a
new
impetus
for
public
administration
reform
clearly
associated
with
a
strong
political
will
to
roll
back
the
frontiers
of
the
state.
But
this
new
set
of
reforms
departs
from
purely
technical
matters.
Public
administration
was
put
at
the
center
of
the
political
agenda
in
most
Western
countries
even
if
the

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