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The transformation of public officials: from democrats to meritocrats

Conference contribution
Authors Vicki Johansson
Published in European Group of Public Administration (EGPA) 11-13 September, Belfast
Publication year 2019
Published at School of Public Administration
Language en
Keywords Meritocracy, democracy, public officials
Subject categories Public Administration Studies

Abstract

ABSTRACT: A meritocracy like all other "cracies" aside from democracy is a stratification system in which one group of citizens is given greater legitimacy than others to participate in society's collective decision-making processes. Nevertheless, as societal decision-making systems meritocracy and democracy are entirely incompatible. Is a society a meritocracy (those with knowledge govern and make decisions) it is not a democracy (all members regardless of knowledge govern and make decisions). Here, it is necessary to point out that meritocracy as a societal decision-making system does not equalize with meritocracy as a recruitment system. In contemporary political-administrative systems meritocratic and democratic decision-making principals are at work parallel and simultaneously at the same time as both meritocratic and democratic values are cherished and regarded as legitimate. One reasonable proposition is that when two basic values are conflicting with time one value will be strengthened on the expense of the other; Are democratic values strengthen meritocratic values are weekend and vice versa. In this paper changing values among managers and senior public officials and managers in Swedish municipalities is analysed. The analysis is based on two identical surveys conducted 1980 and 2016 (i:e before and after the implementation of NPM-inspired reforms) where a representative sample of municipal managers and senior officials were given the opportunity to answer questions about their tasks, working conditions, as well as attitudes and values. Theoretically the paper takes its departure in theories of meritocracy and democracy as well as management theories. The analysis shows that NPM-inspired reforms have changed the context within which managers and senior municipal officials perform their tasks affecting both their role perceptions, interaction patterns and values. In comparison with their colleges from 1980, the municipal officials of 2016 to a higher degree cherish meritocratic and elitist democratic values. The changes are most profound within the care and education sector.

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