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Usted está aquí: Inicio Acerca del CLAD Publicaciones Revista del CLAD Reforma y Democracia Artículos por número publicado 024, Octubre 2002 From Change to Change: Patterns of Continuing Administrative Reform

From Change to Change: Patterns of Continuing Administrative Reform

B. Guy Peters

The article concludes that the public sector reforms are remarkable for several reasons. One is the simple magnitude of change that has occurred in administrative systems that have a natural inclination to be static. In addition, the fact that changes have been implemented almost everywhere in the world, and the range of changes that have been introduced are also dramatic. Perhaps only in time of war or major economic upheavals have governments attempted to reform themselves with quite this degree of zeal and over such an extended period of time.

Further, even when the results of the reforms that are implemented have been disappointing to their advocates, or even produced contrary results from those intended by the designers, many reformers appear to have persisted along the general routes that they were already treading. In the terminology of the historical institutionalist, there appears to have been a great deal of "path dependency" in these programs of reform, and an apparent inability to react to failure in ways other than to do more of what had already failed. Thus, no matter whether managerialist changes resulted in any definable benefits for government, elites involved in the process of producing change were likely to continue to implement yet more changes of roughly the same type.

The multiplicity of apparent reasons for reform, and the seeming incapacity to say clearly when sufficient change has been achieved, reflects the rather inadequate state of theorizing about organizations and organizational performance in the public sector. It is difficult to say that one organizational format is likely to be more effective than others in particular circumstances, or to say that one type of reform will be able to produce desired outcomes when others will not. In short, administrative science has a long way to go to be the predictive science that would make such useful advice possible. Likewise, although have developed an interesting catalog of the causes of continued efforts at reform, there is as yet no theoretical guidance for understanding the political and administrative processes involved in reform.

Reform of the public sector has been, and continues to be, an active concern of governments in Europe, North America, the Antipodes, and most other places in the world. The reforms have been characterized by a range of "solutions" and a variety of styles of intervention. Public administration certainly looks different than it did some two decades ago, and a different language is used to describe the way in which government works. But it is still necessary to ask whether the familiar aphorism of "plus ca change" applies here as well. That is, despite all the reforms -successful and otherwise- any number of problems remain in public administration in these countries, and some of these represent the products of previous reform activity. The applied reforms have had their benefits, but they also have their costs so that there remains a great deal of work to do to make government perform as most citizens and most politicians would like.

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