Target, shaper, implementor : Regional Administrative Behaviour in the Rescaling of Norway’s Subnational Government Architecture
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The Norwegian 2014-2020 Local Government Reform, and the 2015-2020 Regional Government Reform reduced the number of municipalities from 428 to 356, the number of counties from 19 to 11, and transferred some political and administrative tasks from the national level to the local and regional levels. The two reforms contained both voluntary and coerced dynamics, where especially the latter was (and continues to be) the subject of controversy and debate. Reforms that amalgamate governments and decentralise tasks intricately involve the administrative sphere in the affected institutions. The effects of such reforms are often measured based on administrative changes. Literature relating to such reforms has followed trends of amalgamation and decentralisation reforms since the 1970s. What has remained relatively unknown, however, is administrative dynamics at play during such reforms. In acknowledging that administrators play a role not only as implementors, but also shapers and contributors of policy, an important question has therefore lingered: what sort of behaviour can we observe among administrators undergoing, and involved in, significant institutional changes that amalgamation and decentralisation bring? In this thesis, I study the regional administrative sphere during two of the most contested public sector reforms in Norway of the last few decades. In three individual research papers, I measure and analyse regional administrators’ preferences towards coerced territorial amalgamation and decentralisation, and decision-making of municipal territorial structures by elite administrators. The three papers are connected through an overarching informative and interpretive framework of rescaling. The papers utilise rich survey and interview data, and subsequently involve both quantitative and qualitative methods for analysing them. The findings show that the rescaling framework can help us to understand the preferences and decisions among regional administrators involved in rescaling reforms. But as the rescaling phenomenon is multifaceted, so too are the findings. Administrators’ preferences and decisions are driven by arguments of functionality as well as issues of community and identity – but it depends on the particular form of rescaling. The findings contribute to the rescaling literature by demonstrating how the logics of rescaling mobilise preferences in the administrative sphere. It also contributes to our understanding of the factors that drive preferences and behaviour among administrators generally, and our understanding of regional administrators specifically. By focusing on the various procedural dynamics (coercion and voluntary amalgamation) it also demonstrates the type of rationalisation that increase support for controversial policies. This is important to know, as these administrators were not only involved in shaping the reforms but were (and are) also directly affected by them.
Has partsPaper I: Myksvoll, Thomas., Tatham, Michaël. and Fimreite, Anne Lise. 2021. “Understanding Bureaucratic Support for Coerced Institutional Change”. Governance, in press. The article is available at: https://hdl.handle.net/11250/2836138
Paper II: Myksvoll, Thomas. 2020. “Reserved but Principled – and Sometimes Functional: Explaining Decentralisation Preferences Among Regional Bureaucrats”. Scandinavian Journal of Public Administration 24 (3): 73-101. The article is available at: https://hdl.handle.net/11250/2836162
Paper III: Myksvoll, Thomas. “Discretionary Manoeuvrability: The Logics Behind Administrative Shaping of Territorial Rescaling”. Undergoing review in Local Government Studies. The article is not available in BORA.