The constitution of public sector management work

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Public sector management work contributes directly to political systems of western democracy. This contribution has far-reaching consequences for the public sector, other sectors and citizens. From the 1980s public sectors have experienced significant reforms by successive governments across Anglo-American polities. Such reforms and the contemporary management ideas on which they were based, including new managerialism and ‘new public management’ (NPM) travelled, were translated and transformed, some accepted and others rejected. These reforms have changed the public sector, but how these reforms have influenced and changed the constitution of public sector management work is less clear. This research sought to understand ‘how do current and former Departmental Secretaries in the Australian Public Service (APS) constitute public sector management work, in the context of evolving reforms?’ using a qualitative case study. What it finds is that Departmental Secretaries constitute public sector management work to suit the institutionalised, governmental, bureaucratic and political domain of the public sector, in which they work, rather than the market-oriented managerialism or new public management advocated by reformers. This research makes an original contribution to public administration theory and also to a lesser extent to new institutional theory as it pertains to the travel of ideas.
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