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The analysis presented here fills a gap in the existing literature concerning the dynamic of change associated with Russian civil service reform CSR. It is argued that the process of bureaucratic modernization in Russia is undermined by the ambivalent nature of policy leadership with its financial, administrative, and technical support, and the ongoing bargain among policy advocates and policy implementers. In order to account for the outcomes reached by policy-makers, the paper presents a detailed analysis of expert interviews collected by the author among research community specialists, federal legislators, and other participants in the reform.

The discussion highlights the importance of power dynamics, which resolves conflicting views of CSR among policy formulators and policy implementers. The findings, which consist of identifying necessary and sufficient conditions of the change process, have implications for studies of modern Russian politics, states in regime transition, and world-wide modernization.

Bureaucratic modernization is a difficult concept to grasp. The reason for this is that bureaucracy, on its own, is a sign of modernization, which in turn is a result of the gradual differentiation and specialization of functions that make democracy possible Przeworski and Limongi, , p. In Russia, the idea of bureaucratic modernization the improvement of civil service institutions has been popular for a long time. Groups and individuals involved in policy-making often mobilize their resources to affect laws, regulations, and funding priorities through education, mass media, lobbying, and other methods.

Needless to say, clandestine actors threaten to interfere in policy implementation efforts, thus undermining the capacity of the state to enforce changes. The earliest project in Russian bureaucratic reform the process of civil service organizational restructuring was launched during the collapse of Communism — Since then, there have been a number of incomplete efforts made by the Russian government to modernize Russian bureaucracy Huskey , ; Brym and Gympelson The first wave started during the early years of Perestroika economic reform in the late s , and it coincided with the collapse of the Communist system.

From —, the bureaucratic reform agenda the development of professional bureaucracy again became one of the key priorities of the Russian government. In , federal powers launched a set of comprehensive policy measures that aimed to modernize the system of bureaucratic organization. In July , the Federal Council passed Law no. This law reinstated some of the existing policy implementation instruments of the civil service organization, which aimed to create a professional body of civil servants.

Policy change and the narratives of Russia’s think tanks

Beyond the division of public service into the civil, police and military, and components Law no. Some of the mechanisms discussed here were not entirely new to the post-Soviet state. However, prior to the current wave of reform —present they rarely had been implemented Table 1. In retrospect, the stage of policy formulation consisted in the enactment of the following conceptual documents:.

The implementation stage involved the enactment of Presidential Decrees that aimed to enforce new rules in recruitment, training, personnel management, and reimbursement of civil service employees. The key implementation documents were Civil Service Law no.

To date, research has not paid sufficient attention to the model of public bureaucracy that the Russian policy-makers were trying to build. Furthermore, little attention has been given to the importance of policy process, the relationship between the stages of policy formulation and policy implementation, and accordingly, to the idea of measuring and evaluating civil service reform progress. The key difficulty in explaining the dynamics of the implementation stage in the area of civil service concerns the lack of reliable evidence on the outcomes this reform yielded more than a decade after the enactment of the first Action Plan.

Perceptions and attitudes of public officials toward the goals of government-funded reform projects are also difficult to identify, which is a challenge of our research project. Have civil servants been treated as active participants of civil service reform? What role did they play throughout the stage of policy implementation? In this context, incentives provided by the program of reform with its focus on the introduction of New Public Management instruments, in a context of reform scarcity, rather than the development of social protection measures , significantly challenged bureaucratic interests.

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As an example, Public Administrative Reform PAR , which aimed to downsize and reorganize the state administration, officially started in at the same time as the civil service reform with the enactment of Presidential Decree no. However, PAR progressed faster than CSR, due to the scale of resources involved, which resulted in its shorter follow-up reform program — On paper, civil service and public administration reforms represented separate, though closely related, policy areas.

Administrative reform dealt with the core public sector, the administrative side of the government and public management executive reorganization. The meaning of PAR embraced such concepts as regulation, standardization, downsizing, developing service delivery mechanisms, and civil society engagement.

In public discourse, this reform was framed as a package aiming to reduce excessive state regulation, improve the quality of public services, increase the efficiency of government bodies, and reassure information openness. Civil service reform, by contrast, dealt with the human side of public management and administration, e.

To account for the difficulties of implementation stage, I refer to the issue of policy ambiguity unclear or contradictory goals accompanied by non-systematic enforcement process as a major mechanism employed by policy-makers to achieve superficial consensus among the variety actors involved in the reform.

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Governing Narratives: Symbolic Politics and Policy Change (Public Admin: Criticism and Creativity)

The guiding theoretical idea underlying this research suggests that the outcomes of policy implementation are influenced by a variety of different factors, such as policy continuity in a context unsettled elite consensus around policy goals. Actors decision-makers and policy implementers are treated as independent agents of change whose capacities are constrained by structural and ideational conditions they face.

The paper contributes to the growing body of literature in policy process in a non-democratic political setting of Russia Fortesque, , Martus, , Taylor, , Khmelnitskaya, , Treisman, The Russian case of CSR may be reviewed from a number of competing policy perspectives, depending on the analytical focus of the individual researcher. So far, the logic of path-dependence has been the dominant framework for analyzing the trajectory of institutional transformation after the demise of the Soviet Union.

This approach, which emphasizes policy continuity, is widely accepted because of its explanatory power and capacity to embrace the sequence and temporality of events Pierson, The shortcoming of path-dependence, however, is that it leaves us with unresolved puzzles about the role of actors in shaping policy change processes.

The literature on democratic transitions in the post-Communist world suggests that the success or failure of institutionalizing merit-based recruitment principles the most common definition of civil service reform success has been closely intertwined with the success or failure of democratic transitions. Thus, even though the actual linkage between various aspects of reform and the process of democratization was not fully explored, the cases of democratic reform success and bureaucratic modernization process, defined in terms of improving merit-based institutions legal norms and their enforcement , are found to be mutually reinforcing.

When isolating the problem of the institutional reform dynamic, what do we know about the process of bureaucratic modernization in Russia? Is the field of civil service dominated by a single player or does it privilege rational advice?

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How do we explain multiple incomplete efforts made by the Russian government to improve the regulation of civil service institutions? In this context, it is important to consider that civil service reform is one of many subfields in the policy-making process that is influenced not only by external factors, such as the nature of the regime, but, as well, by its own endogenous and self-reinforcing dynamic.

This paper considers the intractable outcomes of the bureaucratic reform process in Russia to be an appropriate subject for interdisciplinary research. Therefore, the study gains theoretical insights not only from the literature on democratic transitions that emphasizes the role of non-democratic settings, but also from relevant policy-oriented scholarship, which has the potential to account for the role of various factors in policy process, such as policy leadership, reform strategy, the bureaucratic capacity to absorb changes, and the complexity of the policy-making process.

Mainstream theories abandon the linear view of policy process where reforms are viewed as a steady progression from one step to another Lasswell, Instead, they focus on policy as a cycle, informed by a system of feedback mechanisms Brewer and deLeon, ; DeLeon, , or policy streams Kingdon, , which reveal the dynamic of change in a wide range of policy areas. Some of the existing studies strive to develop theoretical insights that move the analytical focus of political science scholars beyond a single issue or a single level of analysis.

Most of these insights rest upon various versions of institutionalism theory, applied to the field of public policy and administration.

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The alternative view, however, emphasizes target groups and service deliverers, arguing that policy change is in fact made at the local level see Lipsky, When looking into the real problems that policy formulators face, it is quite obvious that clear and coherent legislation is not possible in all circumstances. First, structural and ideational conditions may prevent policy-makers from setting coherent objectives. Based on the observation of post-Communist scholarship that both institutions and outcomes emerge from similar factors see Frye, , I suggest that the conceptual model of reform processes in Russia shall take into account the level of conflict surrounding CSR development Footnote 1.

Moreover, the study of policy implementation process shall also consider institutional and structural variables affecting the range of options that are available to policy-makers.

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The difficulty of reforming civil service, in particular, concerns the long time frame that is required to achieve substantial improvements, the concentration of costs in the government, as well as the problems involved in mobilizing popular support. In this respect, the lack of observable outcomes of CSR implementation stage may indicate a lack of political will by the country's leadership for the implementation of policy objectives or the presence of structural barriers such as entrenched interests in the development and realization of relevant projects.

In view of the above, this study observes the relevance of at least two complementary explanations of the change process that will guide our understanding of bureaucratic reform in Russia, to the extent that is possible, considering the preliminary stage of this research. The first explanation rests on the insights of the conflict-ambiguity model , which explains the dynamic behind the enactment of policy proposals and the impact of this dynamic upon the stage of policy implementation.

This model demonstrates that the stages of policy formulation and policy implementation are interconnected according to the degree of conflict surrounding the reform. Specifically, Matland suggests that policy ambiguity resolves conflict of values among various participants of the reform during the early stages of policy formulation. As a result, the choice of policy instruments is guided by the following dynamic: the higher the conflict of values regarding policy goals, the more ambiguous policy instruments are employed by the reformers. In this perspective, four implementation modes are possible: 1 low conflict-low ambiguity model administrative implementation , 2 high conflict-low ambiguity political implementation , 3 high conflict-high ambiguity symbolic implementation and 4 low conflict-high ambiguity experimental implementation Each of these types requiring the use of rather specific resources, e.


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The second explanation highlights the relevance of the interaction dynamic among various components of comprehensive change process. Chackerian and Mavima , for example, suggested that various types of interaction effects may occur among reform components or dimensions of the reform under conditions of comprehensive policy change. This model goes beyond the decision-making stage outlined earlier and observes various explanations of policy process and policy outcomes, e. The insights provided by policy implementation theories and models is not likely to be fully explored within the confines of a single article.

However, the usefulness of these insights is obvious from the fact that the Russian civil service reform represents a multidimensional process, which is influenced by conflicting and ambiguous goals, insufficient political support resource scarcity , and rigid institutional boundaries established within the system of public administration. The implementation stage of civil service reform in Russia involves the dynamic interplay among actors and institutions, as well as reform components. Administrative, political, experimental, and other policy instruments are being used to achieve implementation goals.

Taking into consideration, the discussion of CSR as a case of a long-term institutional project, a hypothesize is made that decisions made by the Russian government in the area of bureaucratic reform have responded to the underlying logic of political crisis, including popular discontent with the quality of state bureaucracy during the late s. However, policy ambiguity unclear, or even contradictory objectives, that were not followed through with effective monitoring and evaluation mechanisms has been the dominant feature of bureaucratic reform process, and primarily, of decisions made by the government in a context of unsettled consensus around policy goals.