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Reinventing Government: A New Rhetoric, Old Problems

Leonardo Santana Rabell and Mario Negrón Portillo

This article offers a critical analysis of the book, "Reinventing Government: How the Entrepreneurial Spirit is Transforming the Public Sector" by David Osborne and Ted Gaebler, which has become an unprecedented success in the Public Admnistration field in the United States. The ideas proposed in this book have been rapidly disseminated worldwide and have given rise to a strong movement to reinvent government, that is to say, to transform public bureaucracies into entrepreneurial, productive and efficient governments.

The success of this new administrative rhetoric is due to the fact that citizens are increasingly skeptical as to the capacity of the State for managing society and providing for social needs. Despite Osborne and Gaebler’s valuable contributions towards an understanding of the strategies for change currently being formulated in advanced capitalist countries for facing the new challenges of a post-industrial society, the book contains serious conceptual and methodological limitations.

The conclusion is that the model for reinventing the Government lacks a profound discussion on the constitutional and regulatory aspects of a democratic government. Nor does it reflect on the limitations of an entrepreneurial government in taking political decisions in the public sector, where manifold interests and rationalities are characterised as extremely complex, fragmented and highly politicised. Lastly, the methodology applied in the book raises several questions as to the possibility of extrapolating conceptual generalisations that are both valid and applicable to Latin American reality.

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