The public sector remains an inescapable component of development. Moving beyond the limited agenda of public sector reform, this interdisciplinary panel addresses public sector transformation as a contentious and transnational process of organisational and political change.
The public sector remains an inescapable component of development policy, whether as an instrument of regulation, service delivery, redistribution or recognition. In an increasingly transnationalized world, public servants face a complex landscape of interactions with political regimes, civil society, the private sector, international organisations, academia, and their professional peers across the world; actors who advance competing agendas about how the public sector should think and behave, about what policy domains it should oversee or release. Moving beyond the relatively technocratic contours of the public sector reform agenda, this panel addresses the broader politics of public sector transformation: the everyday contestation of institutions, the resilience of organisational cultures, the role of policy entrepreneurs, or the growth of epistemic networks that blur the boundaries between state, society and regime. In so doing, the panel seeks to bring together theoretical contributions from political economy, contentious politics, organisation sociology, development administration, history, critical theory and international relations, harkening back to a time before academic disciplinary boundaries sequestered the study of public administration from politics and sociology. These theoretical contributions will be explored through empirical narratives of change and contestation from across the global South, from fragile countries with weak public institutions all the way to emerging economic powerhouses struggling with persistent informal legacies. The panel will place a particular emphasis on contributions addressing one or more of the following analytical sub-themes: Public entrepreneurs, Organisational change, Formal and informal institutions, Discourses about the state, Public sector advocacy, and Transnational influences.