Doing Public Management the Individualist Way

Christopher Hood

in The Art of the State

Published in print February 2000 | ISBN: 9780198297659
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599484 | DOI:
Doing Public Management the Individualist Way

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In the four chapters of Part II, public management ideas that loosely correspond to each of the four polar world views identified by cultural theory are discussed. Here, the cultural theory framework is mixed with a historical perspective to survey recurring approaches to public management that can be loosely characterized as hierarchist (Ch. 4), individualist (this chapter), egalitarian (Ch. 6), and fatalist (Ch. 7). What can loosely be called individualist approaches to public management start from the assumption that the world is populated by rational egoists who are bent on outsmarting one another to get something for nothing—rivalry and competition are central to the individualist view of what the world of public management is and should be like. The individualist bias embodies at least four basic propositions that contradict the underlying assumptions of hierarchism and of the egalitarian bias: first, an individualist bias does not automatically begin with a view of public management from the apex of the state, it rejects the viewpoint of the chancellory or presidential palace and is not disposed to examine public management in the context of power play among states, and instead is more predisposed to start bottom up; second, instead of assuming that the interests of the rulers and those of the ruled can go together in a positive‐sum game, an individualist bias is more likely to start from the assumption that rulers will tend to look after themselves at the expense of the ruled unless the institutions and incentive structures are very carefully engineered; third, instead of assuming that economic development and social order require hands on state administration guided by an enlightened technocratic elite, individualists will tend to assume that markets will ordinarily produce better results than bureaucratic hierarchies; and fourth, instead of assuming people that are only corrupted by evil institutions, individualists will tend to work on what Thomas Carlyle called the ‘pig principle’—the assumption that human beings, from the highest to the lowest, are inherently rational, calculative, opportunistic, and self‐seeking. These four assumptions taken together make a relatively coherent philosophy of institutional design for government; it is the first two assumptions that mainly distinguish the individualist bias in public management from the hierarchist approach considered in the last chapter, and the second two that mainly distinguish it from the egalitarian approach to be considered in the next.

Keywords: bottom up management; competition; cultural theory; individualism; individualist public management; interests of self; interests of the rulers; market control; pig principle; public management; rivalry; self‐seeking

Chapter.  8462 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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