Modernising the public sector

New public management getting the third degree

As policymakers and scholars evaluate possible ways forward in the reform and renewal of public services by governments caught up in a recessionary environment, our researchers aim to offer something different – a comprehensive analysis of the development of the ‘Scandinavian’ way of modernising public-sector management.

Complaints-department-door. Photo:

Nobody 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, our researchers have recently published a book that offers a more nuanced interpretation, illuminating subtle distinctions in political, social and economic contexts which are significant in identifying receptive contexts for the adoption of modernization policies.

Offering alternative interpretations

Organised into three main themes in the modernisation of the welfare state – management, governance and marketisation – the contents revolve around unique empirical accounts, revealing distinctive Scandinavian characteristics of reform initiatives. The received wisdom may be that Sweden is a hesitant follower of the UK and the USA. Their work offers an alternative interpretation, revealing an edginess in certain Scandinavian settings, particularly in Sweden, which is largely unrecognised.

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