Understanding bureaucratic support for coerced institutional change
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionGovernance. An International Journal of Policy, Administration and Institutions. 2022, 35 (4), 1119-1138. https://doi.org/10.1111/gove.12647
Institutional reform processes can be contested. The more so by those working in the affected institutions. Bureaucracies, in particular, can be resistant to change. To better understand such processes, we study the regional reform in Norway. This reform is interesting as it mixes “voluntary” and “forced” dynamics. Indeed, Norwegian regions (fylkeskommuner) can remain unchanged, merge voluntarily, or be forced to merge by central government. This provides an opportunity to better understand support for coerced change. Through a survey of regional bureaucrats, we test different explanations of support for forced mergers. We find that two logics are at play. A “logic of discipline” which appeals to right-wing bureaucrats, advocates larger units, and streamlined bureaucracies, even if this is against the wishes of the main actors involved. And an “identity logic” which recognizes that feelings of attachment are powerful shapers of preferences beyond what efficiency and functionality dictate.