Debate: In the Know or Out of the Loop

Intro

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the public sector, albeit again to do so through less intrusive mechanisms. Many of the older instruments—notably the budget—will be utilized, but will be used in ways that permit substantial autonomy for devolved organizations and actors.

To make this dual pattern of development within the public sector effective will require some means of knitting together the two strands of change into a more or less coherent frame for governing. It is clear, for example, that both overly centralized steering of traditional forms of governing and the fragmentation associated with NPM reforms have had major dysfunctions. Further, if each strand of change is simply allowed to develop autonomously then conflict rather than effective governing will likely be the outcome. Therefore, the ‘knitting’ function—bringing together the two strands—becomes crucial in providing some mixture of central steering and decentred service provision.

The appropriate balance of these types of governing activities may differ across political systems, and across policy areas. States with federalist traditions, or with corporatist traditions, may find coping with autonomous service providers and fragmentation easier than those with more integrated histories of service provision. Likewise, social services and labour market policies appear more amenable to the decentred provision than do programmes such as taxation or even many aspects of industrial policy.

The public bureaucracy service will be central to this process of knitting together the different strands of contemporary governance. As the decentred processes of governing emerged the public bureaucracy was in many instances significantly empowered and given greater discretion in making decisions. On the other hand, many of its traditional functions were allocated to market actors or to the civil society, although the responsibility for steering those programmes ‘at a distance’ remained with public servants.

Thus, the boundary-spanning role has become a more significant component of the

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