The tensions between the three elements of public administration – politics policy and society – have increased in recent decades. Is the present hierarchy still appropriate for the practice of administration and implementation?

Distorted balance

Until well into the twentieth century, the three elements of the public administration – the political and parliamentary system, the implementation of policy and societal mechanisms – held the public administration in balance. For several reasons, that balance has become distorted. At European level, an administrative system has emerged in recent decades which impinges on the internal structures of member states. The agencies of service delivery, care and education are increasingly in the hands of professionals and managers. Information and communication technologies have changed virtually all organisations in society and the economy. Finally, depillarisation and changes in the behaviour of citizens mean that the connection between the administration and organised society has largely been lost.

Constitutional democratic values

This study addresses the following questions:

  • How much can the existing constitutional framework and legal system be taken for granted?
  • Is a new perspective gradually emerging which derives from conduct based on constitutional democratic values?
  • What do processes such as agencrification mean for political legitimacy and effectiveness of implementation?
  • Are developments in politics and public administration linked to constitutional democratic indifference?

The research findings were published in the WRR Investigation Het gezicht van de publieke zaak. Openbaar bestuur onder ogen (‘Public administration in the public eye’), which was presented to Minister Hirsch Ballin on 28 June 2010.