New Public Management: Current Trends and Future Prospects

By Kate McLaughlin; Stephen P. Osborne et al. | Go to book overview
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Chapter 2

Origins of the New Public Management

An international view from public administration/political science

Michael Barzelay

The New Public Management (NPM) began life as a conceptual device invented for purposes of structuring scholarly discussion of contemporary changes in the organization and management of executive government. The actual term was coined by political scientists working in the field of public administration in the UK and Australia (Hood 1991; Hood and Jackson 1991). These scholars conceived NPM as a point of view about organizational design in the public sector. This point of view was analysed as a serious argument and influential package of recycled doctrines about organization and management. In the decade after entering the literature, NPM acquired a wider range of meanings. For instance, some scholars have asserted that NPM is the application of new institutional economics to public management. Departing from the idea that NPM is a point of view about aspects of public management, many scholars have used this term in referring to a pattern of policy choices. This variation in usage means NPM is more a recognizable term than a fully established concept.

Scholars designing research projects or formulating arguments about NPM face choices about how to describe and analyse recent developments in public management. In deciding how to proceed, scholars are obliged to consider how NPM has been conceptualized since its inception. The reason for following this scholarly norm is to facilitate argumentation and knowledge development. Fulfilling this obligation is troublesome at the moment, since an adequate account of NPM's intellectual history is lacking. To mitigate this problem, the present chapter analyses NPM's early career within public administration/ political science, from which the concept emerged onto the academic scene.

NPM: born as a Siamese twin

The most cited original reference on NPM is Hood (1991); however, an equally important work covering much of the same ground - and more - is Hood and Jackson's (hereafter H&J) Administrative Argument (1991). H&J conceived NPM as both an administrative argument and as an accepted administrative philosophy. These two concepts were fraternal rather than identical twins, as one inherited its personality from the theory of practical argumentation, while the other's genes came from empirically oriented political science (Barzelay 2000a). Pressing


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