Navigating the Fragments: Political Dimensions of Managing Networked Public Service Delivery

  • Patrick Bishop


Our knowledge of networked governance is first acquired through empirical research. Like other empirically derived concepts - Robert Dahl’s ‘democratic pluralism’ or Robert Putman’s ‘social capital’ - its cogence comes from being built on observable facts. Networks occur in government and in governance, they can be described and how they work can be ‘mapped’. What is missing from our lexicon to discuss and, more importantly, evaluate networks is the normative dimension. How ought networks to work? Can we develop an argument that says networked government, or networked service delivery, is in any sense ‘better’ than other organisational forms? To answer these questions and to answer the questions posed more broadly here about the politics of new forms of public governance and leadership, we need to look to more traditional political theory: to evaluate the use of networks in terms of democracy rather than just in terms of empirical description. By bringing our empirical knowledge of the existence of networks into conjunction with the normative values of democracy it is hoped to provide some insights on how public sector managers in regimes who aspire to deliver democratic outcomes might ‘lead’ through the use of ‘networks’. Of course, such a discussion presents something of a methodological nightmare as, rather than supplanting the meta narrative of representative government with a post modern narrative of ‘governance’ and ‘networks’, it brings them together. Any incommensurability, however, can only serve to exemplify and highlight the complexity of ‘leadership’ in the contemporary public sector.


Social Capital Public Manager Responsible Government Network Governance Bonding Social Capital 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bishop, P./ Carmel, C. (2003), The New Public Sector: Changing Management, Organisation and Ethics, in: Bishop, P./ Connors, C./ Sampford, C. (eds.), Management, Organisation, and Ethics in the Public Sector, UK: Ashgate, pp. 3–18Google Scholar
  2. Bishop, P./ Davis, G. (2002), Mapping Participation in Policy Choices, in: Australian Journal of Public Administration, Vol. 61, No. 1, March, 2002, pp. 14–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Considine, M. (2002), The End of the Line? Accountable Governance in the Age of Networks, Partnerships, and Joined-up Services, in: Governance, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp. 21–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Englestad, F./ Østerid, Ø. (eds.) (2004), Power and Democracy, Critical Interventions, Aldershot: AshgateGoogle Scholar
  5. Fox, C./ Miller, H. (1995), Postmodern Public Administration, Towards Discourse, London: SageGoogle Scholar
  6. Goldberg, E. (1996), Thinking about How Democracy Works, in: Politics and Society, Vol. 24, No. 1, pp. 7–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Hajer, M. A./ Wagenaar, H. (2003), Deliberative Policy Analysis, Understanding Governance in the Network Society, Cambridge: Cambridge University PressGoogle Scholar
  8. Hooge, L./ Marks, G. (2003), Unravelling the Central State but How? Types of Multilevel Governance, in: American Political Science Review, Vol. 97, No. 2, pp. 233–243CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Pollitt, C./ Bouckaert, G. (2000), Public Management Reform, A Comparative Analysis, Oxford: Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  10. Putman, R. D. (1993), Making Democracy Work, Civic Traditions in Modern Italy, Princeton: Princeton University PressGoogle Scholar
  11. Putman, R. D. (2000), Bowling Alone, The Collapse and Revival of American Community, New York: Simon & SchusterGoogle Scholar
  12. Rhodes, R. A. W. (1997), Understanding Governance, Policy Networks, Governance, Reflexivity and Accountability, Buckingham: Open University PressGoogle Scholar
  13. Sabetti, F. (1996), Path Dependency and Civic Culture: Some Lessons from Italy about Interpreting Social Experiments, in: Politics and Society, Vol. 24, No. 1, pp. 19–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Shapiro, I. (2003), The State of Democratic Theory, Princeton: Princeton University PressGoogle Scholar
  15. Shergold, P. (2004), Connecting Government, Whole of Government Approaches to Australia’s Priority Challenges, Institute of Public Administration, Occasional Paper, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  16. Skelcher, C. (2005), Jurisdictional Integrity, Polycentrism and the Design of Democratic Governance, in: Governance, Vol. 18, No.1, pp. 89–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Torgerson, D. (2003), Democracy through Policy Discourse, in: Hajer, M. A./ Wagenaar, H. (eds.), Deliberative Policy Analysis Understanding Governance in the Network Society, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 113–138Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Deutscher Universitäts-Verlag | GWV Fachverlage GmbH, Wiesbaden 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick Bishop
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Politics and Public PolicyGriffith UniversityBrisbaneAustralia

Personalised recommendations