Academic journal article ASBM Journal of Management

Power Relations and Conditions for Legitimacy in Governmental Planning: Lessons from the Rise and Fall of the Governmental Long-Term Programme in Norway

Academic journal article ASBM Journal of Management

Power Relations and Conditions for Legitimacy in Governmental Planning: Lessons from the Rise and Fall of the Governmental Long-Term Programme in Norway

Article excerpt


This article analyses how changes over time in the power relations between politicians, bureaucrats, and professionals who represent different disciplines of the social sciences have shaped the governmental long-term planning in Norway. Historically, the idea of economic central planning in Norway developed during the economic depression in the 1930's, as in so many other western countries. But the ambitions for a planned development of the society were to become especially great in Norway compared to other western countries, because the idea of a governmental planned economy was developed in a unique combination of: a) a political socialistic ideology with special emphasis on criticism of capitalism as a system, and b) the development of a uniquely Norwegian mode of scientific thinking around planned economy at the University of Oslo - which led to a unique Norwegian scientifically based political concept for central governmental long-term planning.

The ideological basis for the idea of a governmental planned economy was promoted by the Labour Party. Inspired by the experience of the five-year plans in the Soviet Union and by the mode of thought of the economists at the University of Oslo the Labour Party maintained that only systematic planned measures of governing and a government that plays an active role in the life of the society could take the business and industry in Norway out of the crisis. The professional economical and technical arguments for a governmental planned economy were formulated by the Nobel laureate Ragnar Frisch, professor in economy at the University of Oslo, and his "Oslo School" of economists. The economists' thinking and the macroeconomic models they constructed gave the politicians the theoretical arguments and tools they needed to implement their ambitions for a planned development of Norway. The result turned out to be a distinctively Norwegian form of long-term planning that throughout successive socialist and non-socialist governments lasted right up to 2005, when the government at that time let go of the idea of a long-term programme as a conceptual tool for comprehensive governmental planning and control.

How the balance of power relations between politics, administration, and expert regime shape the planning process

The development of the regime for long-term planning that followed in Norway may be described as a dilemma related to balance three different principles of governmental control, respectively politics, administration, and expert regime, as illustrated in figure 1. In short, the planning process can be described over time as shifting of crossing lines of power and conflict between political steering, administrative steering, and professional steering.

The axis between the poles "political steering" and "administrative steering" expresses the classic democratic dilemma of the administration's power relative to the political level, where ideally, elected politicians formulate the goals for the development of the society and the administration, loyally and political-ideologically neutral, finds the best means to realise these goals (cfr. Wilson 1887/1978, Goodnow 1900/2003). The first empirical studies of the relationship between politicians and bureaucrats rejected this classic dichotomy between politics and administration, by showing that politics and administration are not two separate activities but that the work of the bureaucrats may have decisive influence both on the formulation and the implementation of public policy. It has since been the tradition to consider the relationship between politics and administration in a "power-and-conflict" perspective, where the basic assumption has been that the more power politicians have, the less power has the administration, and vice versa. In a state centred perspective on the development of society it is often postulated that bureaucrats in the state apparatus have a central and autonomous role in shaping public policy (Evans, Rueschmeyer and Skocpol 1985). …

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