Politicization of the Civil Service in Comparative Perspective: The Quest for Control

Politicization of the Civil Service in Comparative Perspective: The Quest for Control

Politicization of the Civil Service in Comparative Perspective: The Quest for Control

Politicization of the Civil Service in Comparative Perspective: The Quest for Control

Synopsis

This book addresses an important issue and debate in public administration: the politicization of civil service systems and personnel. Using a comparative framework the authors address issues such as compensation, appointments made from outside the civil service system, anonymity, partisanship and systems used to handle appointees of prior administrations in the US, Canada, Germany, France, Britain, New Zealand, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Greece.

Excerpt

Concepts, causes, consequences

B. Guy Peters and Jon Pierre

One of the persistent claims made about the public sector over the past several decades has been that the public service has become more politicized. The exact meaning of that term is often not specified, but the general sense is that members of the public service must now pay greater attention to politics than they did in the past. In addition, it appears that politicians in elective offices are investing greater time and energy in ensuring that the members of the public service are compatible with their own partisan and policy preferences. Even in countries such as the United States that have for some time permitted a good deal of latitude for political appointment to administrative positions there is a sense that these political control structures over the bureaucracy continue to "thicken" (Light, 1996). These changes reflect a retreat from the institutionalized merit system that has (or had) been the standard way of organizing employment in the public sector, in the United States (Ingraham, 1995) and elsewhere.

The purpose of this chapter is to discuss alternative conceptions and measurements of politicization, as well as some of its causes and consequences. There appears to be a sense among practitioners as well as academic analysts that some politicization has been occurring, but the evidence supporting that belief is often subjective, anecdotal, and rather diffuse. This chapter therefore will be not so much a firm mapping of the terrain as a set of road signs along the way toward a better understanding of the concept. It will therefore admit several conceptions of politicization, and indeed will welcome various lenses through which we can approach that concept.

Definitions of politicization

Before we begin to try to measure the phenomenon of politicization of the public service we should first attempt to define it. Politicization has appeared in a number of recent discussions of the public service (Meyers, 1985; Rouban, 1998; 1999; Clifford and Wright, 1997; Derlien, 1996), but often has been discussed using rather different interpretations and

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