The Impact of New Public Management Reforms on Public Servants’ Ethics: Towards a Theory

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Abstract

Recent years have witnessed an increasing concern about the impact of New Public Management (NPM) reforms on public servants’ ethics. The academic literature about this topic is still characterized by considerable confusion and the article proposes a falsifiable theory as a way out of this. Specifically, it demonstrates that, when all the claims in the literature are translated into the proposed conceptual framework, they amount to an integrated set of propositions (that is, a theory) about the causal relationship between organizational processes (as changed by NPM-reforms) and public servants’ ethics. Such an integrated theory is possible because, although the normative positions taken by the authors are clearly rival ones, their empirical claims are complementary. With the diverse claims thus integrated into one theory, the article provides a basis for empirical research and for the NPM-ethics debate to proceed in a more explicit and systematic way.

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