Functional Politicisation Among Lower-Ranking Civil Servants: Conflicts and Dilemmas in Danish Central Government

Birgitte Poulsen, Pernille Boye Koch

Abstract


The role of the civil servant in modern democracies is increasingly complex due to multiple and co-existing forms of democratic governance. Civil servants need to balance between traditional bureaucratic norms ensuring a rule-governed public administration where they represent neutral competencies within the political system, while they at the same time must ensure efficiency in the public sector, interact with various stakeholders and citizens, and ensure the loyal implementation of the will of elected politicians.

In the wake of several Danish political scandals involving both ministers and civil servants, the so called Bo Smith Commission was established in order to examine and discuss the current norms and practices of the civil service. In this article we draw on a survey conducted by the Bo Smith Commission in 2015 including nearly 4.000 lower-ranking civil servants. Through an in-depth study of the 554 responses in the open category, we uncover how functional politicization is manifested in Danish state administration among lower-ranking civil servants. The study, thus, uncovers in detail the characteristics of functional politicization and investigates the coping strategies of lower-ranking civil servants, when the demand for political responsiveness compromises classical norms integrated in the Rechtsstat.


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Scandinavian Journal of Public Administration

School of Public Administration, Box 712 - SE-405 30 Göteborg

ISSN: 2001-7405, E-ISSN: 2001-7413