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Between life and death: organizational change in central state bureaucracies in cross-national comparison

Identifying and explaining change in the structure of central state bureaucracies and the determinants of survival of individual public organizations are two closely related areas of research in public administration. We aim to bridge the gap between these two main strands of studies of organizational change by presenting a novel approach to collecting event history data for public organizations.

Brendan J. Carroll, Jana Bertels, Caterina Froio, Sanneke Kuipers, Lena Schulze-Gabrechten, Scott Viallet-Thévenin
03 November 2020
Sage Journals

We have developed this framework as part of the Structure and Organisation of Governments Project, which aims to map entire central state bureaucracies in three Western European countries. Our approach is flexible enough to describe macro-trends in public sector organization populations and to explain these trends by analysing the event histories of the organizations they comprise. In addition to presenting our framework and how we applied it to create this data set, we also present some initial cross-national comparisons of the distribution of the event types recorded, highlighting initial findings and promising avenues for further research.

Points for practitioners

We present here a novel approach for representing the structural changes that organizations and sub-departments experience over time that can apply to any hierarchical organization (public or private). Applying the approach illuminates the historical development of organizations and their parts, and allows cross-national comparisons of events and trends across organizations. Our comparison of ministerial organizations in France, Germany and the Netherlands from 1980 to 2013 shows that trends in the size of bureaucracies mask considerable structural changes within.


Read the report on the website of Sage Journals.

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