Aucoin’s New Public Governance

… a core term in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100


Peter Aucoin, reference below, proposed the term “new public governance” to describe the way leaders in many governments have incorporated a stronger role for political direction into he mechanisms associated with New Public Management (NPM):

“NPM encompassed an understanding that the relations between ministers and their public servants needed to be altered. Economies had to be achieved in order to reduce budgetary outlays, and ministers had to ensure that they controlled any budget-maximizing behaviour on the part of their bureaucrats. Ministers had to insist on better public service management in order to achieve efficiencies as a second means to reduce costs. What they wanted from NPM was improved management of resources and better delivery of public services. At the same time, political leaders such as Thatcher, Reagan, and Mulroney … had to ensure that they were not captured by their bureaucrats’ policy preferences. Thus they had to end the bureaucracy’s monopoly position in giving advice to ministers by bringing in political staff as alternative or competing sources of advice.” (page 25)

He reviewed the experience in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada and observed that:

“In each of these cases, developments were emerging that could not but introduce tensions with NPM. These developments constituted what I will call the New Public Governance (NPG). This new dynamic is clearly the political element of governance, an element that cannot but affect public management reform as an integral part of governance. (Together, NPM and NPG might even be viewed as parts of a dialectic process, with NPM the thesis and NPG the antithesis but with the synthesis not yet clear.) NPG entails the following:

  • The concentration of power under the prime minister and his or her ‘court’ of a few select ministers, political aides, and public servants.
  • An increased number of political staff, and their enhanced roles and influence.
  • Increased personal attention by the prime minister to the appointment of senior public servants (where the prime minister has the power to appoint).
  • Increased pressure on the public service to provide a pro-government spin on government communications.
  • The increased expectation that public servants will demonstrate enthusiasm for the government’s agenda beyond the traditional requirement of loyal implementation of the government’s program.

“Under NPG, political leaders seek to reassert their democratic right to govern by taking control of the state apparatus. The structures of government everywhere are thus subject to pressures that serve to concentrate power at the centre.”

Topic, subject and Atlas course

Modernizing Government in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100.


Peter Aucoin (2008). “New Public Management and New Public Governance: Finding the Balance,” in Professionalism and Public Service: Essays in Honour of Kenneth Kernaghan, eds. David Siegel and Ken Rasmussen, pp. 16-33. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 19 November 2016.