Public-Private Partnerships and Democratic Governance: Towards a Non-Utilitarian Perspective

Christian Rouillard
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Though they can hardly be thought of as a new and innovative mean for alternative service delivery, public-private partnerships (P3s) have recently been the object of a sustained interest in political circles, as a preferred managerial and legal apparatus to reconfigure the State. Rooted in a public discourse that stresses the fiscal and budgetary constraints of governments, the need for greater efficiency and “value-for-money” from public sector organizations, as well as risk –sharing between public and private sectors, P3s appear to have become an unavoidable component of any administrative reform. In other words, P3s are mostly understood through utilitarian perspectives. This communication will propose a non-utilitarian perspective on P3s. It will argue that P3s not only blur the boundaries between public and private sectors, but significantly transform the identity of public organisations.

This argument will proceed in two steps:

1) A significant body of literature in public administration complains about the exclusive role of public bureaucracies in policy development and policy implementation. Drawing from the policy network and critical managerial studies literatures, the communication will argue that the exclusive role of bureaucracies in public governance has been greatly exaggerated, and that the disconnection from the organisations’ environments is not as significant as often claimed. From this perspective, P3s appear much less essential.

2) Just like organisations, policy networks draw boundaries: they exclude collective actors from public governance. Without negating the downside of such exclusion, the communication will argue that it has nonetheless historically encouraged the development of democratic identities. In contrast to utilitarian views, it will be suggested that the changes entailed by P3s do not add up to a reduction in the exclusiveness of networks, but instead erode democratic identities amongst collective actors, both within and outside public sector organisations.

Keywords: Public-Private Partnerships, Democratic Governance, Non-utilitarian Perspectives, Critical Managerial Studies, Public Organizations
Stream: Politics, Public Policy and Law
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Christian Rouillard

Associate professor and Canada Research Chair in Governance and Public Management, School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Associate professor at the School of Political Studies of the University of Ottawa (Canada), where he holds a Canada Research Chair in Governance and Public Management, Christian Rouillard was formerly associated with the École nationale d’administration publique (Gatineau campus (Québec, Canada). He holds a PhD in political science (specializing in public administration) from Carleton University (Ottawa, Canada). His areas of interest include governance and the renewal of managerial theory and practices, particularly through critical study of power phenomena in complex organizations, managerial innovation (management frameworks), new public management (theory and practice), organizational downsizing and workforce reduction, as well as, more recently, publuc-private partnerships (P3s). He has contributed several chapters to collective works and written numerous articles for scientific journals, including: Administrative Theory & Praxis (ATP); Journal of Managerial Psychology; Canadian Public Administration/Administration publique du Canada; Canadian Public Policy/Analyse des politiques; Management international/International Management/Gestión Internacional; Revue gouvernance; Relations industrielles/Industrial Relations; and Globe: revue internationale d'études québécoises. He is currently the editor of Revue gouvernance and sits on the editorial committee of the Canadian Journal of Political Science/Revue canadienne de science politique, where he will be co-editor starting June 2006.

Ref: I06P0224