New Public Management: Current Trends and Future Prospects

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

In conclusion, we would argue that NPM, through the application of 'accounting logic', has provided the opportunity for the implementation of a neo-liberalist approach. This combines elements of task control characteristic of classical management alongside a market approach. Rather than provide some relaxation of the central control of the hierarchy, the thrust has been to reduce the autonomy of the professional. Hence 'accounting logic' provides a technology for implementing a control of professionals akin to the scientific management approach. The legislative activity following the election of the New Labour government has intensified these changes. Whether this intensification of control is good or bad needs to be debated. In this debate we could draw upon what is now known about the implementation of scientific management at the start of the twentieth century. The advisability of the current changes remains substantially un-debated, especially with regard to the potential effects on professional activity. In this respect we must be aware that the imposition of 'accounting logic' is not an imposition of a neutral technical control device, but has constitutive power through the visibilities it creates. Our plea is for some broader evaluation of the changes (Laughlin and Broadbent 1996; Broadbent and Laughlin 1997a). This should include consideration of the imposition of accountabilities that are meaningful to the professionals themselves as well as to those for whom they provide their services, both as individuals and as members of a wider society.


Notes
1
It should also be noted that the difficulty of defining outputs also makes a market difficult to operationalize.
2
We should be also be aware of the diversity of practices that comprise this approach (Olson et al. 1998). However, our argument is based on the acceptance of some general themes that characterize the ethos of the changes if not their actual detail.
3
See also Osborne (1997).
4
Witz (1992: Chapter 2) provides an overview.
5
It should be recognized that the notion of the customer as an independent entity is somewhat problematic as it was the government that provided the legislation that created the customer. Equally in many instances the state also created intermediate agencies in this respect, acting as a quasi-customer, e.g. OfSTED.
6
Which we have argued is closely aligned to 'accounting logic'.
7
Imposed on General Medical Practitioners to regulate their payment from the state for care of their patients. This linked payment to the achievement of various targets, such as the achievement of target levels of vaccinations and cervical screening.
8
This may well be appropriate and it should be recognized that we should not be taken to advocate a position of allowing professionals to do as they please. Clans have different forms of control, but are controlled nevertheless.

References
Braverman, H. (1974) Labor and Monopoly Capital, New York: Monthly Review Press.
Broadbent, J. (1995) 'The Values of Accounting and Education: Some Implications of the Creation of Visibilities and Invisibilities in Schools'. Advances in Public Interest Accounting, Vol. 6, pp. 69-89.

-106-

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