what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Friday, June 15, 2018

A rare glimpse of Neighbours’ Affairs

For decades, tens of billions of euros have been poured each year by the EC into educational. Cultural, scientific and cross-border European projects – such as the Erasmus and Interreg programmes. Clearly these develop networks of interested individuals who – at least for the duration of the programmes – have learned how things are done in different countries.
But, as I’ve noted here several times, this hasn’t obviously produced a European public. Newspapers remain firmly national in their focus – despite the valiant efforts of Le Courrier International to encourage an interest in their neighbours’ affairs by running translated articles But no one has followed its example – although The Guardian does cooperate from time to time with a few other European papers on special features.
Perhaps insular Britain is not the best example (Die Zeit and Le Monde’s global coverage has always been better than the UK’s) but even well-educated Brits could probably tell you little more about their European neighbours other than that Finnish schools and the French health system are the best; that most European railway networks are vastly superior to the UK’s; and that German cities and society are impeccable!           

Of course, beneath the surface, there is a huge amount of European networking going on at the level of professional associations – particularly universities whose various academic disciplines still have the budgets to bring people together in Conferences, networks and Programmes.
My own field of public administration, however, has had a fairly low profile compared with, for example, the European Consortium for Political Research which boasts no fewer than 18,000 political scientists in its ranks. True, there is a European Group for Public Administration but the link hardly indicates great activity and certainly the NISPAcee Annual Conference has seemed the only place worth attending for me - with its focus on transition societies…But even that consists  more of people polishing their CVs than attempting a serious dialogue
In 2000 Chris Pollitt and Geert Bouckaert produced Public Management Reform; a comparative analysis; new public management, Governance and the neo-Weberian state which rapidly became the key reference for the subject in Europe. There was also this EC programme which also brought together some academics in PA from central and south-eastern european universities…

The problem perhaps is that public admin scholars focus, by definition, on “the state” which takes such different structures, meanings and traditions in the various European countries. And PA scholars have also tended to be pragmatic people – in the “positivist mould and slow therefore to pick up on philosophical and “constructivist” schools of thinking…. Bevir and Rhodes’ paper Traditions and Governance (2003) and Fred Thompson’s paper on The 3 faces of public management (2008) are two very rare forays into that forbidding terrain ....

Now an Italian scholar has somehow dramatically broken open what was threatening to become rather too insular a world – Edoardo Ongaro produced last year a fascinating-looking title -  Public Administration and Philosophy – an introduction (2017) – building on a comparative book he wrote in 2009 - Public Management Reform and Modernization: Trajectories of Administrative Change in Italy, France, Greece, Portugal and Spain (2009)
But he has now brought together in 63 chapters a massive and fascinating-looking collection - The Palgrave Handbook of Public Administration and Management in Europe; ed Edoardo Ongaro and Sandra van Thiel (2018)  coming in at almost 1400 pages. This Google book excerpt covers most of the first 100 odd pages…including, for the first time, linguistic issues…
...and the link on the title gives the annexes on the different continental admin traditions (40 pages) with someone from one continent reflecting on another's tradition. 
Chapter Two can also be found here

There have been other such collections – from Oxford, Routledge and Jossey-Bass I recall eg Oxford Handbook of Public Administration (2003) – but this one seems in a league of its own in not only its width and depth but the quality of the writing of at least those parts I’m able to read….It is the first really comprehensive look at different aspects of managing public services in different European countries!!

I’m sorely tempted to buy it – despite its 210 pound price tag (down from 260). These days we’re expected to pay upwards of 50 euros for a 250 page specialist book …..so it’s a bargain!! 

Update; a few days later, the price has risen to 300 pounds!!!! Some algorithm must have read my comment about it being a bargain! But not at this price!
pps; I found it for less than half that price at a Berlin bookseller!!!

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