New Public Management (NPM)

The New Public Management (NPM) approach to public service production and delivery runs counter to the old ('traditional') bureaucratic approaches that were born with the emergence of the modern states systems across most of the Western world. It rejects the idea of a specific culture for public organizations and typically argues that such organizations should be managed in the same way as any private sector organization (Osborne & Gaebler, 1992; Hood, 1995; Page, 2005; Riccucci, 2001, see also Dunleavy, Margetts, Bastow and Tinkler, 2006)). Discussions around NPM have been driven by two principle features that emerged in the 1980s during the era of politicians such as Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. First, NPM advocates a different role for elected officials when compared to traditional systems of government. Politicians are left primarily with a goal-setting role: anything relating to service production and delivery in the public sector should be conducted in a 'market'; the logic being that such an arrangement would ensure increased efficiency and lower costs to the government, and ultimately the taxpayer. Second, New Public Management advocates less input control but emphasises the evaluation of impact and thus performance. This, in turn, requires organisational models that prioritise 'management' in an economic sense rather than in terms of societal needs (Schedler, & Proeller, 2000).

Although this view had many advocates across many (particularly Anglo-Saxon) countries in the world, it was also criticised for its view of public administrations as places where democracy could be 'managed' through accountability mechanisms set up to render civil services accountable to the public, and to effectively 'de-politicise' the process of service delivery. This dominant view that was in practice in many public administrations across the world has now been complemented by discussions on Public Value Management.

Related terms: Public Governance, Policy Analysis, Public Policy


    Behn, Robert D. 1998. “The New Public Management Paradigm and the Search for Democratic Accountability.” International Public Management Journal 1 (2): 131–164.

    Dunleavy, Patrick, Helen Margetts, Simon Bastow, and Jane Tinkler. 2006. “New Public Management Is Dead-Long Live Digital-Era Governance.” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 16 (3): 467–494. doi:10.1093/jopart/mui057.

    Hood, Christopher. 1995. “The ‘New Public Management’ in the 1980s: Variations on a Theme.” Accounting, Organizations and Society 20 (2-3) (February): 93–109. doi:10.1016/0361-36820361-3682 (93)E0001-W.

    Osborne, D. & Gaebler, T., 1992. Reinventing Government: How the entrepreneurial spirit is transforming the public sector. Wokingham: Addison-Wesley.

    Page, Stephen. 2005. “What's New About the New Public Management? Administrative Change in the Human Services.” Public Administration Review 65 (6): 713–727.

    Riccucci, Norma. 2001. “The "Old" Public Management Versus the ‘New’ Public Management: Where Does Public Administration Fit in?.” Public Administration Review 61 (2): 172–175.

    Schedler, K. & Proeller, I., 2000. New Public Management. Stuttgart: UTB.

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