Considering (New Public) Civil Servants: Emerging Roles and Contexts

Tom S. Karlsson, Jan Olsson


Public organizations In the 21stcentury, are increasingly complex in terms of multiple institutional rules, norms, and practices. This complexity constitutes a difficult challenge for civil servants to find and determine appropriate identities, roles and relationships in their everyday work.  For this special issue we made a call for scholars to contribute new addressing the roles of civil servants within increasingly complex public sector organizations, focusing on a couple of interrelated research questions:

  • What is the nature of public administration taking into consideration increasing institutional complexity in terms of persistent bureaucratic traditions, new public management solutions, participatory ideals, activist sentiments among officials and so forth?
  • What are the consequences of this institutional complexity for the possibility of preserving a coherent, rule-governed public administration and what does public mean today in public administration?
  • What types of roles are civil servants playing in relation to different institutional rules and norms and various categories of actor (politicians, citizens, organizations) and how do they handle frictions and conflicts?
  • What type of conceptions of civil servants’ roles are developing, including public service ethics? What alternative and contesting role-conceptions and ethics are prevalent and supported?

This introduction should be understood as being both a summary of the current state of research in relation to civil service – its predicaments and challenges – as well as being a suggestion for future attention among scholars and practitioners. We have thus written this introduction not only with the purpose of summarizing the main components inherent in the six articles that are included in this special issue but with the hope of also spurring discussions concerning what civil service has been, currently seems to be and might become in the future.

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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