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As a final year student looking for a job, I was first attracted to the UK civil service by the intellectual environment and variety of roles it offered. With a certain innocence, I also had the sense of the service as operating systems which arbitrated impartially between differing societal interests in pursuit of the wider public interest. This was how I picked my initial department and first post – the Department of the Environment, working in the Planning: Land Use Policy division.
Day one as a fast-stream new entrant was an introduction to hierarchy and differentiation. I was first assigned a desk, to receive the comment from my new co-workers, only half in jest, that it had two too many drawers for my grade. There was also some humour about entitlements to a size of carpet or of room. I then was sent to collect my office supplies and was asked at the supplies room whether I was worthy of a green administrative tray, set aside for those of us who worked on policy, or a grey executive tray set aside for those who dealt with process. This distinction for civil servants dated back to Gladstone’s time as Chancellor of the Exchequer under Queen Victoria, as the ‘footing best calculated for the efficient discharge of their important functions according to the actual circumstances of the present time’ and was still very much alive and well. The history of the civil service cast a long shadow. When I came to attend the then UK Civil Service College, the main buildings on the site were named after Northcote and Trevelyan – the 19th-century authors of the Gladstonian Reforms.
The Brundtland Report called in the late 1980s for a radical new global ethic of sustainable development. This aim has been constrained and co-opted by practice and values drawn from very different views of the way the world and life should work, and it is under challenge from bleak views of society and of civics.
The persistence of existing bureaucratic norms and practices constitute a hidden factor in unsustainability, reinforcing wider political and social norms of governance. By recognizing this, we can begin to scope a new purpose and accompanying processes for public administration. These processes can embed an enabling, systemic and reflexive approach. Much of the basis for this can be found in new approaches being pursued in response to the challenge of reshaping governance to address unsustainability at multiple levels of governance. This practice can find further focus by applying a civic republican approach to change which sees a new basis for governance as non-domination, with dialogue and civic responsibility at its heart.
Academic and political approaches to sustainable development, governance and public administration reflect a diverse range of values and disciplinary lenses. This makes it nigh impossible to find a common theoretical frame for exploring the question of what lessons sustainable development governance has for bureaucracy. Any single framing risks ignoring important debates and viewpoints. Applying theory also risks the ire of the Anglo-Saxon distrust of theory, a distrust captured in Woodrow Wilson’s opening quote to the chapter, but a lack of theory can be very unhelpful to consistency of approach and the ability to reflect. In preparing this book, however, I have been drawn to a set of writers on governance who seem to speak most clearly to the concerns I found in my bureaucratic practice.
Of the modern authors, I have focused on Michel Foucault’s analyses of technologies of power and domination and on Phillip Pettit’s presentation of the aim of civic republican governance as the minimization of domination over others. Pettit and Foucault appeal because they both recognize governance as a dynamic process and acknowledge the significance of the minutiae of process that are the stuff of bureaucracy, not just the grand political sweep.
Newly minted in 1986 after graduating from college, I joined the civil service with a smattering of governance knowledge gleaned from my reading at university of Plato and Aristotle and the Enlightenment moral philosophers. I arrived with a naïve sense of my future work as the objective balancing of societal needs.
My formal introduction to UK governance, such as it was, came with my induction training as a fast-stream civil servant. I dare say my French colleagues, who pass through L’Ecole Nationale d’Administration, receive a more philosophical perspective, but our British training was one of process and order. The training module ‘Parliament, Government and the Civil Service’ gave a formal view of the respective relations and a practical sense of how to navigate them through case examples and talks by senior, recently retired guest speakers. At no point did we spend time on considering what governance was for – our role was simply to support the process as impartially as we could. There was also nothing, as I can recall, about the public or stakeholders, although we did interestingly receive training in presentation skills. The remaining focus was on the core practice skills of evidence-based advice – economics (especially cost–benefit analysis) and statistics, business and public accountancy and the basics of avoiding judicial review of decisions.
This book owes its origins to my 30 plus years of practical experience – and oftentimes frustration – in attempting to pursue public policy on sustainable development as a civil servant in the UK, EU and UN. Despite those frustrations, I remain of the view that sustainable development, in the form of the Brundtland Report’s ethical call to transformative action, has powerful lessons for how we might govern and, especially, for the future role of public bureaucracy.
My involvement with sustainable development as a bureaucrat began when I worked as part of the team which wrote the UK’s first comprehensive environment strategy (This Common Inheritance) in 1990. My interest was then developed through the award of a Nuffield and Leverhulme international travelling fellowship to consider impacts of transport planning and policy upon the environment. This introduced me to international perspectives including the institutions of the World Bank and UN and brought me in contact with the New Zealand Resource Management Act. I also had the great privilege of learning from the differing perspectives of my main academic hosts: Professors Charles Vlek (RU Groningen), Peter Newman (Murdoch University) and Art Rosenfeld (Lawrence Berkley Laboratories).
We have seen how existing bureaucratic frames are deeply rooted in the goal of economic efficiency and the desire for control, order and planned uniformity. They are constrained by a structure, toolkit and narratives designed for and on the model of industrial capitalism which seek to remove complexity and ignore or downplay dynamic linkages between society, economy and environment. This has contributed to a milieu in which individual consumption and power are the purpose of life and economic growth the mantra of governance. They have bred a competitive democracy that seems unable to adapt and is now at risk from the siren call of totalitarianism, fed by disconnect from civic life and a nostalgia for old certainties. The mechanistic growth and efficiency model is incompatible with the reflexivity, uncertainty and localized discussion and decisions which are needed to govern for the systemic challenges of sustainable development.
If bureaucracy is to play a part in change, it needs to reflect a primary civic republican aim of building a strong and pluralistic civil society in which everyone, and, in this modern era, also the social and natural world in which we live, are reconnected, rather than enabling systemic dominations.
Woodrow Wilson used a very mechanical metaphor for his call for fresh approaches to public administration at the close of the 19th century. This book calls instead for a socio-ecological expression of the tradition of civic republicanism as its pathway to transformatory change for the 21st century, one in which we move from a controlling bounded rationality to supporting a reflexive, place-based, discursive democracy that fosters a pan- or at least polyarchy of social and ecological reconnection and non-domination. The final chapter spells out the specific kind of changes and the likely legal underpinning needed for this new civic bureaucracy. Through them we may hope to achieve a new guiding purpose of reflexive, civic reconnections that can help to unlock the present system and address the democratic impasse that risks planetary health and threatens democracy itself.
The opening chapters explored the way in which dominant narratives of governance, bureaucracy and sustainable development have largely co-opted the potential emancipatory power of the original ethical call of the Brundtland Report. This has resulted in a failure to recognize or realize the transformatory implications for governance and public bureaucracy represented by the challenge posed by the concept of governing for sustainable development.
In this timely analysis, Matthew J. Quinn plots a landmark reimagination of governance and public administration, underpinned by sustainable development and civic republicanism.
He draws on governance literature and Foucault’s concept of governmentality to demonstrate the anachronism of existing bureaucratic norms and how these have thwarted sustainability and fuelled right-wing populism. Using international examples and the author’s own extensive experience in sustainability governance as a senior UK official, the book proposes a new civic bureaucracy which fosters societal engagement and dialogue. It sheds new light on debates about the emerging crisis of governance, the role of public bureaucracy and the means to embed sustainability in governance.
Back in 2014, Paweł Swianiewicz lamented in a piece published in Local Government Studies that ‘most of the academic literature on local government treats Eastern Europe either as terra incognita, requiring exploratory investigation in the future, or puts the whole region into one basket described as “new local democracies”, coupled with accompanying stereotypes’ (Swianiewicz, 2014a: 292). Observed from the south-west corner of Europe, this grievance sounds eerily familiar. In my own experience with scholarly research on local government and politics, I have also encountered a fair share of broad stroke generalizations and stereotypes about the ‘Southern European’ model or the ‘new democracies’ of the 1970s when referring to Portugal, Spain and Greece.
The aim of this chapter is twofold. First, I review three major contributions to the study of territorial reforms present in the work of Paweł Swianiewicz. Most of his studies were developed in the context of local governments in Central and Eastern European post-communist countries, particularly Poland, but I argue that they have contributed to expanding the knowledge and study of territorial reforms in general. The second aim is to discuss how these contributions have enriched the study of territorial reforms in Western Europe and how they have broadened the scope of the field to encompass new research questions, theoretical approaches and country cases. In reflecting on these contributions, I will highlight the importance of time and space in advancing this research agenda on territorial reforms.
The chapter is divided into five sections. After this introduction, the following three sections review the contributions of Paweł Swianiewicz’s writings in three major threads in the study of territorial reforms.
Over the last 20 years or so there has been a welcome expansion of academic interest in the role of political and managerial leadership in improving the quality of local government and local governance. In particular, international comparative study of the leadership efforts of elected politicians, appointed public servants and civic actors has grown, and, as a result, our understanding of the roles of different kinds of leader in shaping local life chances, as well as in improving processes of decision-making, has been advanced (Mouritzen and Svara, 2002; Haus et al, 2005; Swianiewicz, 2006; Hambleton, 2015; Sweeting, 2017). This chapter is the first of three contributions in this volume that are designed to build on the established local government leadership literature and, hopefully, deepen our understanding of the changing nature of local, or place-based, leadership in modern systems of governance. Heinelt (Chapter 11) provides new insights by comparing and contrasting mayoral leadership in Germany and Poland, and Hanssen (Chapter 12) illuminates our understanding of climate change leadership by providing a case study of the way the parliamentary model of governance in Oslo, Norway has been reshaped in recent years. In this chapter, I focus on the important contribution that inspirational local leadership can make to the governance of the multicultural city.
For centuries, if not throughout human history, cities have grown and changed as a result of migration and immigration. A consequence is that all cities are, to some extent, multicultural or multi-ethnic. As Peter Hall notes, in his magisterial review of creative cities in history, cultural diversity has been a key asset in the emergence and development of dynamic cities.