The explanatory power of institutions

Johan P. Olsen has contributed with a chapter in the volume Theory and Practice of Public Sector Reform, presenting an institutional perspective on public sector reform.  

The book is edited by Steven Van de Walle and Sandra Groeneveld.

About the book

Theory and Practice of Public Sector Reform offers readers differing theoretical perspectives to help examine the process of public sector reform, combined with an overview of major trends in the core areas of the functioning of the public sector. The book addresses three core issues. First, conceptual and theoretical perspectives on public sector reform; second, major changes in specific areas of public sectors – 'objects of reform’; and third, the study of public sector reform.

Aimed at academics, researchers and advanced students, this edited collection brings together many of the most eminent academics in the area of Public Policy and Management. It seeks to link to theory in part one and insights into specific thematic areas in part two, offering readers a display of theoretical perspectives to look at public sector reform.

An institutional perspective

How important are institutions of government and what are their ordering effects? The aim of Johan P. Olsen's chapter is to contribute to a research agenda and theoretical understanding of political-administrative organisation and organising. Based on an institutional approach, the chapter asks what explanatory power established institutions have, compared to actors and deliberate design and the wider societal conditions, when it comes to public sector reform.

A common assumption is that institutions are excessively static and that institutionalism cannot make sense of change because it is overly structural and does not grant purposeful actors a proper role. Olsen argues that this is mistaken. An institutional focus does not deny the importance of political agency. The chapter introduces two competing perspectives to institutionalism – an actor-centered and a society-centered approach. Then it outlines an institutional approach, and discusses what such an approach may contribute in an era of comprehensive European reforms.

Full info

Johan P. Olsen
An institutional perspective

In: Theory and Practice of Public Sector Reform
Steven Van de Walle and Sandra Groeneveld (eds)

Routledge, 2016
ISBN 9781138887411

Published Aug. 18, 2016 5:01 PM - Last modified Dec. 7, 2016 10:59 AM