This chapter, an exercise in applied anthropology, asks two questions. What lessons about reforming the British civil service can be learnt from using observational methods to study British government departments? What are the strengths and weaknesses of such an approach in the reform of public services? The chapter summarizes the main characteristics of public sector reform over the past decade; namely, evidence-based policy-making, managerialism, and choice. It compares the reform proposals with the fieldwork reported in Rhodes (2011a), identifying plausible conjectures for would-be reformers. It then outlines an approach to reform, focusing on dilemmas and finally discusses the prospects and limits of this approach, both in the study of public administration and for public sector reform. It concludes that attempts to impose private sector management beliefs and techniques on the public sector to increase its economy, efficiency, and effectiveness have had at best variable success.
Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.
If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.