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Public value pragmatism as the next phase of public management

16 June 2008



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New Public Management has now been ‘new’ for more than 15 years, and public administration scholars are calling for new approaches, such as networked governance or collaboration. However, these approaches share with their predecessors the problem that they tend toward a one-best-way orientation. Instead, the authors argue, the next phase should be what they call ‘public value pragmatism’. In other words, the best management approach to adopt depends on the circumstances, such as the value being produced, the context, or the nature of the task. They illustrate a decision framework for determining the most appropriate approach for different types of circumstances. The emerging literature also tends to be unclear about the level of the public sector to which it applies. The authors distinguish three levels—programs, organizations, and whole public sectors—and put forward some propositions about how public value pragmatism might apply at each level.

Suggested citation

Alford, J., & Hughes, O. (2008). Public value pragmatism as the next phase of public management. The American Review of Public Administration38(2): 130-148.

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Authors: John Alford and Owen Hughes
Published Date: 16 June 2008