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The Limits of Loyalty? The Contested Relationship between Civil Servants and Politicians

Professor Rune Premfors
Oxford Stockholm Centre for Organisational Research, Sweden

Date: 6 December
: 1:00pm - 2:30pm
: CARR Seminar Room, H615

In modern democracies constitutional rules typically state that civil servants must be loyal to their political masters. Bureaucrats are expected to carry out ministers' wishes and directives, and also to provide them with policy analysis and advice. But what if civil servants are confronted with situations where they disapprove with a course of action favoured by a minister?
This seminar presentation examines how civil servants within the Swedish Government Office (Regeringskansliet) act when obedience becomes an issue. The research reported includes: a questionnaire sent out to all civil servants significantly involved in policy analysis, advice and execution within the Government Office; some focus groups; and case studies selected on the basis of their illustration of contested relationships.
Apart from reporting and discussing the Swedish findings the talk will include reflections on methodology, asking in particular if an all-out ethnographic approach is both possible and more appropriate in this 'back-stage' area of government. Finally, the Swedish case is compared with what we know about others, in particular the available research on Britain.

Rune Premfors is Professor of Political Science at Stockholm University and since 2003, Director of Score (Stockholm Centre for Organisational Research).
His current research interests include: Democratic theory and practice; historical-institutional theory; democratization of Sweden in comparative and historical perspective; comparative public sector reform. His most recent publication is Deliberativ demokrati (Deliberative Democracy) 2004, of which he is co-editor and co-author.