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Comparative Public Management


Admission requirements

Only students of the MSc Public Administration can take this course.

Description/Course objectives

In the opening chapter for the book that is prescribed for this course, Christopher Hood defines public management as “…the study and practice of design and operation of arrangements for the provision of public services and executive government.” (p.8). This definition is taken as the starting point for this course, because (a) it is as good as any other and (b), more importantly, it leaves room to expand the theme of public management beyond the implementation element of government action. In this course I seek to pull together the literature in public management into a broader framework that places the implementation side of government work (i.e., the operational level of analysis) into the larger context of the arenas in which decisions are made (i.e., the collective level of analysis), and into the deeper level of values in which these decisions are embedded and legitimized (i.e., the constitutional level of analysis). This larger environment includes the (inter)national political-administrative system and the social, economic and cultural environment in which policy and management manifest themselves / become realized. It is very important not to regard public management only as a toolbox from which the public manager (or better: the civil servant) selects her/his instruments. While the study of public administration broadened its scope since the 1970s beyond the mere technocratic focus, it is with the advent of public management that this technocratic element has come back. Obviously, there is a technocratic or instrumental element to public administration, but public action can only be legitimized in a value-laden context.


The (provisional) timetable can be found on the schedule page

Week 1: The Study of Comparative Public Management
Lecture 1: Development of and motives for comparative public administration/management (literature: Ferlie et al., section one)
Lecture 2: Methods and problems of comparative public management (no literature)

Week 2: National and Organizational Cultures
Lecture 3: Societal culture and values as context for public management (literature: Ferlie et al., section 3)
Lecture 4: Organizational cultures: Is public management the same for all public organizations? (literature: Ferlie et al., chs. 27, 28, and 29)

Week 3: Theoretical and Disciplinary Perspectives upon Public Management
Lecture 5: Networks, accountability, postmodernism, and governance (literature: Ferlie et al., chs. 8, 10, 11, and 12)
Lecture 6: The classic dilemma of government: law, ethics, and economy (literature: Ferlie et al., chs. 6, 7, and 9)

Week 4: Themes in Comparative Public Management
Lecture 7: Human resource management (literature: Ferlie et al., chs. 22 and 23)
Lecture 8: Financial management and evaluation (literature: Ferlie et al., chs. 24, 25 and 26)

Mode of instruction

This course is taught in an intensive format. Each lecture will have a significant discussion component, where the subject of discussion can be prompted by students and/or instructor.

Assessment method

Given the format of this course, the student will have to write a reflection paper of about 1500-2000 words about the literature prescribed. Thus, in weeks 1, 2, and 3 the student will submit a reflection upon the prescribed literature for that week prior to the beginning of class. Do not briefly summarize each of the chapters, but reflect upon their content. What did you find compelling? What do you disagree with? The student can focus on a few specific issues. The instructor will return each of the first three papers the next week with comments. For the final week the student will have to write a paper of 1500-2000 words about the usefulness of knowledge of public management for career civil servants.

Reading list

Literature: Ewan Ferlie, Lawrence E. Lynn, Christopher Pollitt (eds.). The Oxford Handbook of Public Management. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-922644-3 (pbk; available at Amazon)



Contact information

Dhr Prof dr. J.C.N. Raadschelders