Emily St Denny, Public Policy, University of Stirling, writing in Local Government Studies, 2018 (Routledge)
"The defining property of a dominant orthodoxy is its mundane invisibility. The paradigms and practices orthodoxies sustain do not simply reveal themselves to us. Rather, we glimpse their pervasive presence only when we purposefully scrutinise the structure of our everyday. In the case of the contemporary British public sector, this means taking a step back and critically engaging with the influence of neo-iberalism. The short and stimulating essays compiled in this collection invite readers to do precisely this.
...The argument woven through the contributions is simple: because of its flawed neo-liberal assumptions, New Public Management (NPM) oversimplifies, misunderstands, and distorts our complex social reality, resulting in, at best, chronically suboptimal outcomes for service users and, at worse, social and economic pathologies that threaten lives and livelihoods.
The format of the volume is stimulating and refreshingly accessible to non-specialists. Hardly bigger than a journal issue, the contributions it comprises are cogent, concise and punchy – shorter than an article, longer than a blog post – and draw on the experience and insights of a range of authors from the academic, public, and third sector.
...The conclusion, for each author, is that tinkering at the edges of current public administration and management practices is doomed to fail. The whole public sector system needs to be rethought to foster collaborative and revolutionary innovation. This ‘systems’ perspective is woven through each essay, it considers the public sector to be something more than the sum of its parts: a complex and dynamic whole with emergent, rather than determined, properties."
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Kittens are Evil: Little Heresies in Public Policy
John Tizard in The Municipal Journal (themj.co.uk)
"The authors each challenge a current orthodoxy pervading our public services, including local government. And collectively, they challenge the concept that the only way to secure better public services – whatever ‘better’ may be – is by the adoption of New Public Management (NPM) and acceptance of a neo-liberal ideology...
...The authors challenge a range of specific policies and programmes with supportive evidence and helpfully also propose some reasonable alternatives. Critically, and in my view, quite rightly, there is a powerful thread throughout the book that public services cannot simply be modelled on the business sector...
...Local government could learn and re-think a great deal by reading what are less than one hundred pages, packed with provocation and evidence. Here lies the foundation for a new popular and people centric approach."
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Ian Railton on amazon.co.uk
"If you think there is something quite wrong with the world of public policy, then read this! Perhaps you are on the receiving end of what appears to be quite barmy strategy, or maybe you are making the decisions, wondering why the same thinking you've always applied is still not working.
I have an allergy to cats so somewhat reluctantly accepted a recommendation of a colleague to read this - he said “you’ll like this, it says what you've been saying all along ... and it's nothing to do with cats!”. I read part of one chapter, it might have been something like ‘everything you know about management is wrong’ and I put it down after a few minutes. I had mixed emotions... the words could have been my own and I could feel the anger starting to rise in me! A couple of weeks later I read it cover to cover, not actually front to back but just where I let it take me. I definitely read the front pages last as I recall laughing when I noted a really positive reference to Toyota. Toyota is the one company in the world that I think has it pretty much right, so given I had agreed with absolutely everything in the book, how palpable and reassuring it was that Toyota should find its way in their somehow?
On completion I was energised and back on my campaign trail... The world is upside down and inside out and no one seems to be able to see how it is; people just carry on as before, Del Amitri style. So, this book is great and I agree with its every word and sentiment. It’s also dangerous - it’s hard to live in ‘the matrix’ knowing this really isn’t how the world should be, it makes you full of fight and fighting is tiring. So, wait until you have a spare moment, or wait until you are thinking of giving up trying to make the world a better place....then read this and energise! And pass it on to someone else, someone in the public sector suffering from all this bad-thinking, or better still someone high up, in the hope that they might finally see the folly of their ways."