Consultants, depoliticization and arena-shifting in the policy process: privatizing water in Berlin

Beveridge, R. (2012) Consultants, depoliticization and arena-shifting in the policy process: privatizing water in Berlin. Policy Sciences, 45(1), pp. 47-68. (doi:10.1007/s11077-011-9144-4)

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This paper examines the effects of the growing presence of management consultants in policy processes. In particular, it addresses the key concern that consultants employed by governments often operate in new institutional arrangements not subject to the formal rules of political systems. Their activities, often secretive, are seen to undermine the democratic legitimacy of political decision-making. Despite the significance of these concerns there is still a lack of conceptual and empirical research on these topics. Addressing this gap, the paper first seeks to begin a more conceptual discussion about the role of consultants and “governance”. Turning to the literature on depoliticization in public policy, and following Flinders and Buller (Br Polit 1(3):293–318, 2006), it is argued that the hiring of consultants should be seen not as a move from political to apparently neutral, expert forms of policy-making, but as a shift in the arena of political decision-making. Such shifts can contribute to the emergence of what Hajer (Policy Sci 36(2):175–195, 2003a) calls the “institutional voids” of governance: the emergence of ad hoc political spaces in which the rules and outcomes of policy-making are unclear. It is argued that these ad hoc spaces may work to undermine the traditional institutions of political systems without providing an alternative form of democratic legitimacy. The paper examines these issues with reference to a case study of consultants working for the Berlin government on the privatization of the Berlin Water Company in 1999. It concludes by reflecting on the usefulness of the arena-shifting notion and outlining areas for future research.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Beveridge, Dr Ross
Authors: Beveridge, R.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Urban Studies
Journal Name:Policy Sciences
ISSN (Online):1573-0891

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