Today’s way of reforming the public sector and its institutions relies upon a long tradition of public sector reforms in Denmark. These years,reforming is a hot topic. The central government and its public servants are working on a premise of permanent openness and classical bureaucratic notions of professionalism.They are producing reforms that aim to steer and not-steer at the same time with the purpose of shaping new spaces of innovation and renewal, but with a distinct focus on the outcome of reforms.
The focus of my research project and my PhD thesis is how reform as a concept has itself been reformed. Within the context of the Danish central government we have witnessed two shifts in the form of reforming: from reform as legislation to reform as politics, and from reform as collective responsibility to reform as individual responsibility.
Through studies of a hundred years of reform practice in the Danish central government along with a great amount of legislation and parliamentary reports combined with ethnographic fieldwork in two Danish ministries, my thesis presents a thorough historical analysis of the development of reform as a concept and its semantics, form and media. Then, from a sociological perspective informed by Luhmann’s social systems theory, the thesis points to the practical consequences of this development and discusses the possibilities of future reforming.
The PhD project is an industrial PhD project made in collaboration between Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy at CBS and the Danish Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Education.