Manager and Civil Servant: Exploring actors' taken-for-granted assumptions in public administration

Tom Karlsson

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)

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Manager and Civil Servant is an exploration of actors’ taken-for-granted assumptions that govern perceptions concerning how public administration should be undertaken within contemporary welfare states. It is argued that more than 30 years of continuous reforms directed towards public administration have caused dilemmas to arise. These dilemmas have resulted in a shifting of balances regarding the underpinning pillars of public administration. These reforms have furthermore resulted in an emergence of challenging social systems, entailing new beliefs and practices. The question posited is “how do actors engaged in public administration make sense of the dilemma(s) they face”. Theoretically, this dissertation entails institutional theory as well as Structuration Theory. These are combined in a framework, wherein agency and structure are used in order to characterise manifestations of taken-for-granted assumptions. The framework is furthermore elaborated through conceptual perspectives concerning Management as well as Civil Service in order to model a framework for public administration. Empirically, this dissertation entails a use of qualitative as well as quantitative methods. Open-ended interviews are combined with self-administered surveys, statistical analysis, and focus groups. Two important contributions are highlighted. Firstly, actors engaged in public administration reject the idea of polarisation concerning inherent public administrative activities and that the dilemma being accentuated within public administration. As such, instances of making sense are reduced due to an unconscious enactment of meanings and sanctions that reject the presence of dilemmas. Secondly, actors’ ability to reject polarisation, and thus dilemma, can be explained through compartmentalising interdependent perspectives. On the one hand actors enact an internal perspective wherein instances of Management make sense. On the other hand actors enact an external perspective wherein instances of Civil Service make sense. The separation and compartmentalisation of these perspectives not only enable actors to reject dilemma, they are enabled to enact seemingly different roles at once. They become both Managers and Civil Servants.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Business Administration
  • Jonnergård, Karin, Supervisor
  • Paulsson, Gert, Supervisor
Award date2014 Jun 3
ISBN (Print)978-91-7473-979-4, 978-91-7473-980-0
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2014-06-03
Time: 10:15
Place: Holger Crafoords Ekonomicentrum, EC3:207

External reviewer(s)

Name: Gerdin, Jonas
Title: Professor
Affiliation: Örebro University


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Business Administration

Free keywords

  • Public Sector Reform
  • Management
  • Civil Service
  • Taken-for-granted Assumptions
  • Institutional Theory
  • Structuration Theory


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