Modernizing the Public Sector: Scandinavian Perspectives, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Modernizing the Public Sector

Scandinavian Perspectives, 1st Edition

Edited by Irvine Lapsley, Hans Knutsson


262 pages | 8 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2016-12-02
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As policymakers and scholars evaluate possible ways forward in the reform and renewal of public services by governments caught up in a recessionary environment, this book aims to offer something different – a comprehensive analysis of the development of the ‘Scandinavian’ way of modernizing public-sector management. No book has yet provided an inside view of the development and character of New Public Management (NPM) in Scandinavia. Although there is a general perception that there is a clear-cut ‘Scandinavian’ model of public policy and management, this book offers a more nuanced interpretation, illuminating subtle distinctions in political, social and economic context which are significant in identifying receptive contexts for the adoption of modernization policies.

Organized into three main themes in the modernization of the welfare state – management, governance and marketization – the contents revolve around unique empirical accounts, revealing distinctive Scandinavian characteristics of reform initiatives. The received wisdom may be a hesitant follower of the UK and the USA. But this book offers an alternative interpretation, revealing an edginess in certain Scandinavian settings, particularly in Sweden, which is a largely unrecognized.

Without compromising the welfare state, it may be a bold frontrunner in the development of New Public Management.


It is a common mistake to equate ‘New Public Management’ with the ideas and practices of the Anglo-American world. This book provides a valuable corrective to that view by analysing the development of New Public Management from a Scandinavian perspective. It brings out the Scandinavian historical roots of some important ideas about modern public service management, traces their dynamics and brings out the special social context that shapes their outcomes. Anyone interested in how to make public services work effectively should read this book.

Professor Christopher Hood, Emeritus Fellow, All Souls College, University of Oxford, UK

Table of Contents

1. Making Sense of Public Sector Reforms: Scandinavian Perspectives

Irvine Lapsley

2. New Public Management in a Scandinavian Context

Hans Knutsson, Ola Mattisson, Salme Nasi, Kari Nyland & Peter Skarbak

Part 1: Management

3. Shaping NPM: Social Democratic Values at Work

Tom S. Karlsson

4. Challenging the Myth of NPM in Denmark – An Argument from the Health System

Nikolaj Kure and Margit Malmmose

5. Process-orientation and Management Control in Health Care Organizations

Gert Paulsson

6. The Welfare Sate that Wanted to Keep Track of its Citizens: Personal Identity

Numbers as Administrative Technology

Alexander Paulsson

Part 2: Governance

7. The Unfolding of Agency Autonomy over Time: The Swedish Social Insurance

Agency 2003-2015

Louise Bringselius

8. Audit in a Trusting Climate

Age Johnsen, Kristin Reichborn-Kjennerud, Thomas Carrington, and Kim Klarskov


9. Local Government Cooperation – A Better Way to Respond to Conditions?

Ola Mattisson

10. What About the Boards? Issues of Transparency and Accountability in Board


Anna Thomasson

11. Leadership and Strategy in a Transforming Academic Field.

Christine Blomqvist

Part 3: Marketization

12. Market Solutions

Fredrik Andersson

13. Introducing Quasi-markets in Primary Care: The Swedish Experience

Anna Hager Glenngard & Anders Anell

14. Managing Profits and Professionalism in the Swedish School System

Robert Wenglen

15. Welfare Choices: A Story of Market Forces and Social Progress

Hans Knutsson

Part 4: Ending Note

16. Modernizing the Public Sector: The Scandinavian Way

Hans Knutsson, Ola Mattisson, Ulf Ramberg & Age Johnsen

About the Editors

Irvine Lapsley is director of the Institute of Public Sector Accounting Research at the University of Edinburgh Business School, UK.

Hans Knutsson is a senior lecturer at the School of Economics and Management at Lund University, Sweden.

About the Series

Routledge Critical Studies in Public Management

The study and practice of public management has undergone profound changes across the world. Over the last quarter century, we have seen

  • the increasing criticism of public administration as the over-arching framework for the provision of public services
  • the rise (and critical appraisal) of the ‘New Public Management’ as an emergent paradigm for the provision of public services
  • the transformation of the ‘public sector’ into the cross-sectoral provision of public services
  • the growth of the governance of inter-organizational relationships as an essential element in the provision of public services

In reality these trends have not so much replaced each other as elided or co-existed together – the public policy process has not gone away as a legitimate topic of study, intra-organizational management continues to be essential to the efficient provision of public services, whist the governance of inter-organizational and inter-sectoral relationships is now essential to the effective provision of these services.

This series is dedicated to presenting and critiquing this important body of theory and empirical study. It will publish books that both explore and evaluate the emergent and developing nature of public administration, management and governance (in theory and practice) and examine the relationship with and contribution to the over-arching disciplines of management and organizational sociology. Books in the series will be of interest to academics and researchers in this field, students undertaking advanced studies, and reflective policy makers and practitioners.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Accounting / Governmental
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Nonprofit Organizations & Charities / Finance & Accounting
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Affairs & Administration