Reshaping government bureaucracy: The politics of public personnel reduction in Britain, the United States, and Japan

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Administration


Patricia Ingraham


Great Britain, Public administration

Subject Categories

Public Administration


The aim of this dissertation is to examine the politics of administrative reform during the era of the New-Right ideology, which has been characterized as a minimalist paradigm for governance, privatization, deregulation, welfare state retrenchment, managerialism, and cutback management. Specifically, this study examines the experiences of public personnel reduction during the Thatcher administration of Britain in 1979-88, the Reagan administration of the United States in 1981-87, and the PCAR and PCPAR of Japan in 1991-91. How successful were the public personnel reduction plans in Britain, the United States, and Japan? Why did some agencies gain, and some lose during the cutbacks? What were the basic rationales of cutback management that explain the variations? Was there variation across countries?

The dissertation tests several competing theoretical arguments for the explanation of public personnel reduction and reshaping government bureaucracy. This study focuses on institutional presidency, deregulation, managerialism, welfare state retrenchment, and privatization movement. Regarding the analytic method, both quantitative (ANOVA and regression analysis) and qualitative (Boolean analysis) methods are applied to test the hypotheses.

The empirical results show divergence of the personnel reduction across the countries. Public employment reduction in Britain could be termed "liberal reduction." British personnel reduction was in accordance with the fundamental economic idea of neo-liberalism within the New Right: small government. The Thatcher government enjoyed substantial autonomy to accomplish substantial personnel reduction in most aspects. Elitist higher civil servants reshaped bureaus into more controlled and policy-oriented agencies, by hiving-off the delivery agency.

Public employment reduction in the United States could be termed "conservative expansion." Using the politics of deficit issue, President Reagan achieved domestic reduction in the early years. Under the divided government system, Reagan tried to institutionalize the presidency and politicize the bureaucracy. Under his reign, the personnel in the presidential agency and the delivery agency were increased, but the reduction plans had bad results.

Public employment reduction in Japan could be termed "state corporatistic reduction" Public sector reduction was pursued through the consensual politics of power elites in Japanese society: bureaucracy, big business, and LDP politicians. The target of reduction was the production agencies and the delivery agencies, such as affiliated agency and local offices that were ease choices for the Japanese power elite.

Beyond the divergence, this study found some commonality regarding the personnel reduction in three countries. There were no comprehensive personnel reduction plans in the countries. Also, the conservative governments did not reduce personnel in the regulatory agencies and the integration apparatus.


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