News from Governance November 4, 2015
An International Journal of Policy, Administration, and Institutions

Co-Editors  Alasdair S. Roberts and Robert H. Cox   Book Review Editor  Clay Wescott 
Studying accountability in moments of transformation
In the current issue of Governance, Johan Olsen makes the case for a more sophisticated approach to the study of accountability in government.  "A huge literature," says Olsen, examines accountability in "normal times," when "it is taken for granted who can call whom to account for what."  Less examined are those moments when fundamental premises about accountability relationships are in flux.  We are passing through one of those transformational periods now, Olsen argues, and simple principal-agent models do not help us understand what is happening.  His "institution-centered approach" to studying accountability "assumes that the degree of institutionalization of accountability practices is variable and changing."  The restructuring of such practices is shaped by "uncertainty about facts and causality, ambiguous and competing normative standards," and indeterminate power  relationships.  Read the article.  Olsen is a recipient of the APSA John Gaus Award and the Aaron Wildavsky Award for his contributions to public administration and political science.

On the Governance blog, Per Laegreid provides a brief appreciation of Olsen's article. "Accountability is often studied in stable situations where relationships between actors and forums are rather clearly defined," Laegreid says. Olsen provides new insights on "how accountability unfolds in disorganized situations where accountability processes are restructured." Read the note .
How China flouts conventional wisdom on institutions and growth
Conventional wisdom says that the quality of governance determines economic prospects.  But China scores poorly on most commonly used measures of good government, and achieves high economic growth.  How can this be?  In the current issue of Governance, Bo Rothstein agrees that "the institutional theory of development is probably right," but that current scholarship has "missed the importance of a specific organizational form of public administration," the cadre organization.   The cadre model is sometimes more efficient than Weberian bureaucracy, Rothstein argues.  It "works as a solution to the most general problem in public administration: how to handle delegated discretion."   Read the article .
On the blog: Debating global governance, Canada's election, and improving governance in poor countries
On the Governance blog, readers debate the recent commentary by David Coen and Tom Pegram calling for a "new generation" of global governance research.  Read replies from Yves Tiberghien, Karthik Nappiachan and Angel Saz Carranza

Sandford Borins discusses the international implications of Canada's October 19 election: "Policy analysts and politicians in other countries have much to learn both from the Canadian election itself and from the sea-change in public policies that will follow."   Read the note.  

And M.A. Thomas comments on a recent review of her new book, Govern Like Us. "Americans (and many others) have come to believe that there is only one moral and legitimate way for governments to hold power," Thomas says. "Despite its merits, this governance ideal is not a present possibility for everyone. Some governments hold power differently because they must if they are to govern at all."  Read the note.
CFP: Is public management neglecting the state?
Professors Brint Milward  and Alasdair Roberts  invite expressions of interest from academics interested in participating in a panel to be held at the Public Management Research Conference at Aarhus University on June 22-24, 2016. The question to be addressed by the panel: Is public management research neglecting the state? The short papers produced for the panel will be published as a collection in Governance in June 2016.   More details here .  

And on the Governance blog, Brint Milward offers a draft comment as background for the panel.  "There is no arguing with the success that the public management movement has had in the United States and around the world, Milward says.  "But this success has not been without its cost."
Book reviews: Curbing corruption, managing public investment
In the current issue of Governance, Kilkon Ko reviews Different Paths to Curbing Corruption, edited by Jon S.T. Quah.  The book examines anti-corruption policies in six countries and provides "much insight" on the keys to success in fighting corruption.  Read the review.

And Salvatore Schiavo-Campo reviews The Power of Public Investment Management by Anand  Rajaram.  It is "a good start" in consolidating existing knowledge about the management of public investment.  Read the review.
Video: Kettl on the merit principle in crisis

Don Kettl of the University of Maryland gave a lecture at the University of Missouri on October 1 about his recent Governance commentary, "The merit principle in crisis."  Watch the video. "Far too many scholars and schools of public affairs"  have neglected important questions about human capital in government, Kettl said in his lecture.   Read the commentary and read responses to the commentary on the Governance blog.  
Fudan University hosts successful conference
Yijia Jing (Fudan University) and Yves Tiberghien (University of British Columbia)
The School of International Relations and Public Affairs at Fudan University partnered with Governance to organize a symposium on governance in China on October 15-16. "The conference brought together the best experts on administrative reforms in China," said Robert Cox, co-editor of Governance. " They provided a comprehensive overview of three decades of reforms.  Notable themes  were fiscal and administrative decentralization, performance evaluations and the diffusion of best practices across China's regions and municipalities."