Central Authority and Institutional Autonomy

Johan P. Olsen

in Governing through Institution Building

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780199593934
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191594632 | DOI:
Central Authority and Institutional Autonomy

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Chapter 4 explores the processes through which institutions struggle for a place in the democratic order and how they achieve and lose primacy and autonomy. It attends to why it is difficult to find a form of political organization that is perceived as normatively best and also sustainable, securing a stable equilibrium between central government and partly autonomous institutions. The analytical value of ‘autonomy’ as detachment from politics and the apolitical dynamics of change assumed by many New Public Management reforms are questioned, and the interplay between central authority and institutional autonomy is interpreted as an artefact of partly decoupled inter-institutional processes involving the struggle for power among interdependent and co-evolving institutions that are carriers of competing yet legitimate values, interests, behavioural logics, and resources. The issues are illustrated by the cases of public administration and the public university.

Keywords: central authority; institutional autonomy; democratic order; new public management; apolitical; power struggle; public administration; universities

Chapter.  9964 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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