Reforming the Welfare State. Accountability, Democracy and Management

Project Department: Uni Research Rokkan Centre (group: Health and Welfare ) period: 01.01.11 - 31.12.14

Project results

This project displays how accountability developments contribute to sustaining the dilemmas found in public services and administration. The project also shows how important administrative policy
is for political, professional and administrative legitimacy, and that some developments are as international as they are national.

Project members: Per Lægreid, Simon Neby, Tom Christensen, Haldor Byrkjeflot, Tord Skogedal
Linden, Kristin Rubecksen, Werner Jann, Bastian Jantz, Tanja Klenk, Ina Radtke, Karsten
Vrangbæk and Paola Mattei.

Affiliates: Peter Lango, Kristin Reichborn Kjennerud, Flemming Larsen and Ingo Bode, as well as
a number of students from the University of Bergen, Copenhagen University and the University of

Special issue in International Journal of Public Administration on
"Acccountability, Performance and Legitimacy in Welfare Reforms" based on the research project on 'Reforming the Welfare State: Democracy, Accountability and Management".

Guest editors: Werner Jann and Per Lægreid.
Articles by Jostein Askim, Tom Christensen, Bastian Jantz, Werner Jann,
Kristin Reichborn Kjennerud, Tanja Klenk, Tord Linden, Per Lægreid, SImon Neby and Karsten Vrangbæk.

See also the projects website

About the project

Political legitimacy is a precondition for the sustainability of the welfare state, and it is for this reason that the project aims to address how recent welfare state reforms have affected political governance and the relationship between the state and its citizens. Such reforms have often focused on the establishment of managerial accountability, neglecting the critical issue of how to maintain and develop mechanisms for political accountability. Converging trends towards New Public Management have affe cted the balance between managerial autonomy and political accountability across welfare sectors and countries. To what extent has it been possible to combine the various modes of accountability? In what way, for what and to whom are public managers in th e various welfare services held accountable? Our main focus will be on administrative reforms and to what extent they have affected accountability relations in specific sectors; hospitals, welfare administration and immigration; and in specific countries; Norway, Denmark and Germany. A main argument for comparing reforms in these welfare state sectors is that they cover major areas of welfare provision. The sectors display important variations in bureaucratic capacity, specialization and representation of users and citizens. It is of interest to establish whether differences among sectors are more important than among countries. There has been a discussion about the Scandinavian model of welfare state administration, specifically about whether it still exists or whether it is breaking up. By comparing two Scandinavian countries with Germany we are able to address this question. The analysis will provide policy-makers as well as scholars studying welfare reforms with important insights into how reforms may be designed and introduced in a way that does not undermine the political sustainability of welfare state institutions.

Funding source: The Norwegian Resarch Council

More information about the project.



  • Byrkjeflot, Haldor; Neby, Simon; Vrangbæk, Karsten Changing accountability regimes in hospital governance: Denmark and Norway compared. Offentlig förvaltning. Scandinavian Journal of Public Administration 2012 ; Volume 15 (4). s. 3-23
  • Christensen, Dag Arne; Christensen, Tom; Lægreid, Per; Midtbø, Tor Cross-Border Coordination Activities in Central Government Administration - Combining Organizational Conditions and Individual Features. Public Organization Review 2012 ; Volume 12. s. 367-382
All articles


All book chapters


  • Neby, Simon; Lægreid, Per Gaming the system and accountability relations: Negative side-effects of activity based funding in the Norwegian hospital system. Uni Rokkansenteret 2012. 32 pages Rokkansenteret Notat(10)
  • Neby, Simon; Jantz, Bastian Soft sanctioning, real relationships: Accountability, media and public sector interaction in German employment administration and Norwegian hospitals. Uni Research, Stein Rokkan Centre for Social Studies 2013. 22 pages Rokkansenteret Notat(6/2013)
All reports