In this concluding chapter, we consider the likely long-term sustainability of the NPM paradigm within the UK public services. Is it a paradigm whose time is now over or is it likely to continue as a dominant mode of organization? Many of the change programmes within UK public services in the 1980s and 1990s fell under the NPM umbrella (Hood 1991) as they included a simultaneous growth of managerialization and marketization. Early NPM-led restructuring within the UK took place under the radical right governments of the 1979-97 period. However, there was a change of political control from the Conservatives to 'New Labour' in 1997. At the time of writing (November 2001), we are at the start of the second term of the New Labour government, so now is an appropriate moment to take stock.
What impact did the 1997 change of political control have on the fate of the NPM movement? Some have already reached early conclusions about public sector management under the New Labour government. It is suggested that there may be less to New Labour than meets the eye. There are elements both of continuity and redirection, but many previous agendas (such as bringing in more private finance) have been carried forward and even accelerated. Within the health care field, Ham (1999) argues that a pragmatic new regime is attempting to use a wide variety of policy instruments but that the conflict between local devolution and central control is an unresolved tension. He speculates that a major crisis may well lead to a strong pull back to the centre. Hunter (1999:27-28) argues that: 'what appeals to the government about the NPM, and why it is likely to survive, albeit with only marginal adjustments, is the conviction that it represents a style of management that is much closer to the government's emphasis on, and desire to encourage, social entrepreneurship than would be suggested by a return to old style paternalism which was the hallmark of public administration through the 1960s and 1970s.'
However, management research should not simply take problems from the worlds of policy and politics, but should also make them within the realm of theory. Its distinctive contribution over and above the nearby worlds of policy analysts, management gurus or 'think tanks' is to emplace short-term presenting problems within a broader theoretical literature. This is not a trivial task, as