New Public Management: Current Trends and Future Prospects

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

Current trends and future prospects of public management

A guide

Kate McLaughlin and Stephen P. Osborne

The UK has played a pivotal role in the development of the New Public Management (NPM) paradigm - and can arguably claim to have been its 'birthplace'. Indeed, the seminal paper which coined the term the NPM was the product of the UK experience (Hood 1991) - though the work in the US by Osborne and Gaebler (1992) was also important.

However, the impact of the NPM has spread far beyond this narrow focus and it has become one of the dominant paradigms for public management across the world, and in particular in North America, Australasia and the Pacific Rim (Flynn and Strehl 1995; Boston et al. 1996; Kettl 2000; Pollitt and Bouckaert 2000; McCourt and Minogue 2001; Osborne 2002). Both the World Bank and the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) are also now keen advocates of NPM reforms across the world (for example, OECD 1995).

Given the centrality, both of the NPM to the management of public services across the world and of the UK experience to its development, now is a good time to evaluate the nature and impact of the NPM in the UK and internationally. This is particularly so given current reforms across the world, such as the 'modernising government' agenda that the current Labour government is committed to in the UK and the programme of government reform embarked upon by the George Bush administration in the US. These developments raise the question of whether the NPM was a specific trend related to a time-specific period, such as the Conservative administration of 1979-97 in the UK, or whether it is likely to continue and/or be modified as a developing paradigm of public management.

This evaluation is the intention of this book. It is unique in that it brings together papers which review the conceptual development of the NPM paradigm, provide evidence of its empirical reality, place it in international context and give consideration of research approaches to its further analysis.

The first part of this book sets the context for the NPM debate as a whole and explores conceptual issues. Osborne and McLaughlin place the NPM in historical context, both in the UK and internationally. They argue that the NPM should not be seen as an approach linked to the marketization of public services alone. They argue that it is more fundamentally concerned with the shift from

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