“We have to listen to the experts.” During the coronavirus pandemic, this phrase has been repeated by politicians across the world. Only a few years ago, we were told that “people have had enough of experts”. Now experts are back in demand. At press conferences, prime ministers are flanked by public health experts. And governments have set up a dizzying number of expert groups and task forces to examine policy measures to stop the spread of the virus, to formulate strategies to exit the crisis, and even to investigate the government response to the crisis. Continue reading →
In the current political climate, academic knowledge and topical expertise do not appear to be the most sought-after qualities in political leaders. Increasingly, life in the world’s capitals is portrayed as a battle for power between politicians and civil servants. Incoming politicians are often charismatic, prone to sweeping statements on complex issues, and portray themselves as representatives of the people who will “drain the swamp” and “get things done”. Among the swamp creatures, more often than not, they place civil servants: the dull nerds, obsessed with their rules and budgets, far removed from the people they are supposed to be serving. In this picture, there is a clear rift between the dynamic, if ignorant, politician, and the change-averse, but smart, civil servant. Against this background, it seems more important than ever to discuss: what is the relationship between knowledge and action in politics? Or, to put it differently, does it matter whether politicians know what they are doing? Continue reading →
Existing research suggests that administrative traditions reflect state-society relations, democratic style and level of centralisation. Four key traditions are reflected within the countries studied, which include the:
Napoleonic tradition – characterised by a strong centralised state and antagonism between the state and society (e.g. France)
organicist tradition – characterised by a federated state and co-operative state–society relations (e.g. Germany)
Anglo-Saxon tradition – characterised by a mixed form of state and pluralist state–society relations (e.g. the UK) and,
Scandinavian tradition, which combines the organicist and Anglo-Saxon traditions (e.g. Norway).
In addition, we thought it was important to consider developments in public sector management and reform in different countries and the potential for EU influence in developing citizen participation.