Social Service Reform in the Postcommunist State: Decentralization in Poland


The fall of Communist regimes in Eastern Europe raised the complex question of how social services were to be distributed and administered in countries with legacies of highly centralized state. In Poland, a series of reforms attempted to modify and decentralize social service programs. Yet with Poland's second round of decentralization, long-held and clearly specified reform goals were undermined from the very outset.

In this insightful, detailed, and carefully argued study, Janelle A. Kerlin demonstrates how and why reforms, intended to improve services and increase citizen participation in social service programming, largely failed to meet expected goals. The politics of reform development-including political deals, exclusionary tactics, and hidden maneuvering by Polish policymakers-prevented any significant upgrade of services or real change in decision-making structures. Conflicting ideologies and pressures on policy actors stemming from historical, institutional, political, and international sources often resulted in compromises that led to unfavorable public service outcomes.

In this book, Kerlin uses focused interviews with leading reform actors and a nationwide representative survey of two hundred public social service institutions to develop a model that connects the politics of the decentralization process with social service outcomes.

Not only students of the former Soviet bloc, but also those interested in the links between politics and policy outcomes more broadly will find in this volume an informative and instructive case study that has far-reaching implications.

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • College Station, TX
Publication year:
  • 2005


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.