The Essential Public Manager

The Essential Public Manager

The Essential Public Manager

The Essential Public Manager


This is a new kind of book on public management. Using conversations, cases and original sources, it engages, in a challenging and amusing way, with the key themes and problems of the field. After writing many conventional books and articles Christopher Pollitt has turned to this novel approach in order to offer students, teachers and practitioners alike a refreshing introduction to both the 'classic' and the most fashionable issues in public management.

The book provides a vigorous overview of such crucial topics as the differences and similarities between public and private sector management, the nature of the 'New Public Management', the development of networks and partnerships, the impacts of politics and citizen participation on public administration, changes in the ethics and value climate for public servants, and the fundamental question of what kind of advice academics can (and cannot) offer to practising managers. It is international in its scope and draws upon examples and sources from Europe, North America and Australasia.

Although the style is lively and informal, the text is built upon a very wide range of academic writing and research. For those who wish to go deeper at any point, each chapter offers a summary of the litaerature and guidance on further sources.

The Essential Public Manager offers readers a stimulating journey through the challenges facing those who run the basic systems and services in our societies. It constitutes a valuable new source for students, teachers and practising managers alike.


This book is a hybrid. I have taken the risk of trying to combine two apparently conflicting ingredients: a serious subject matter and a conversational style. Hybrids can be very fruitful (or at least useful - the mule comes to mind) or, on the other hand, they may turn out to be barren.

The serious subject - public management and public administration - is weighty because it affects us all. Good public management is an essential part of any civilized modern society. Attempts, in various countries, by various politicians (UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and us President Ronald Reagan among them) to 'roll back the state' did not, in fact, transform the 'big picture' that much. Public spending remains a substantial percentage of the gross national product in every Western European and North American country (indeed, after 20 years of cuts and 'wars on waste' in a number of states this fraction is higher than it was at the beginning). Governments continue to carry responsibility for a vast range of services, which touch their citizens at almost every point in their lives. Public administration continues to affect the purity of our water and foodstuffs, the adequacy of our health care, the quality of our education, the financial stability of our old age, the extent of gender and ethnic discrimination, the readiness of our armed forces and the effectiveness of our systems of justice and law enforcement. It also strongly influences the sustainability of our natural environment, the attractiveness of particular localities for economic development, the cleanliness of our streets and the safety of our various means of transport. When terrorist attacks demolished the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, President George W. Bush, in his attempt to rally a shocked nation, stood in the ruins with his arm around the shoulders of a firefighter - a memorable image - and declared the staff of the emergency services to be true American heroes. (However, within a few months of their heroism, the New York City fire and police services found themselves facing heavy staff and expenditure cuts as the new Mayor wrestled with a cash crisis (Usborne 2002).)

In most European states the public sector still accounts for a considerable percentage of the total workforce, and a large percentage of the job destinations of the most highly educated. in some the public sector remains the main location . . .

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