On the Genealogy of Public and Private: Beyond Market and State to the World of Pluralism

On the Genealogy of Public and Private: Beyond Market and State to the World of Pluralism

Jari Vuori (University of Eastern Finland, Finland) and Marika Kylänen (University of Eastern Finland, Finland & Warwick Business School, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5031-2.ch002
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Abstract

Since the late 1990s, the literature of public-private management and publicness have increased, but the genealogy of public-private in a frame of pluralistic definitions has not been studied. This study focuses on ascertaining how the nature and operations of public-private relations influence discursive practices in public-private management, organization, and policy studies. The literature review produced thousands of abstracts (N=2242), but only few articles (N=39) from 22 highly ranked journals (2000-2010). Despite the research of public-private management, it seems that a surprisingly small number of researchers have recognized that the public/private sphere provides a particularly useful approach to evolve organization, management, and policy studies. The only exceptions seem to be anchored by citizenship and especially individualism, “personalized public services.” The authors also found that researchers did not integrate disciplinary traditions in their approaches and link them to different public/private arenas: public in organizations, private in organizations, public in social life, and private in social life. They conclude that the new trends in public-private organizing and management will remain an enigma unless the following is asked: how can the arenas of public/private counteract the effects of themselves?
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Introduction

Recent decades have witnessed an attempt to replace the power of public policy implementation with such emerging topics as citizen participation embedded in new ways of organizing public services (e.g. public and private partnerships, deliberative democracy, co-production etc.). Nevertheless, it seems that public-private management and policy studies have been more concerned with introducing the efficiency of private organizations into public organizations than with the idea of direct democracy. At the same time, the effect of private organizations on productivity has been inconsistent (Boardman & Vining, 2010; Rainey & Chun, 2007, 80; Daft, 2004). However, a few studies have speculated that unnecessary duplication might be motivated by the wrong question: “are public and private organizations fundamentally alike in all important respects?” (Allison, 1992). This study therefore focuses on ascertaining how the nature and operations of public-private relations influence discursive practices in public-private management, organization and policy studies. In particular, we argue that the new trends in public-private organizing will remain an enigma unless we ask the following: have we ever defined “public” and “private” in studies of organizations, policymaking and social life?

Although this question may sound naive; it can no longer be ignored. In particular, criticism of privatization has been based on experiences from the developing countries (see e.g. Weizsäcker, Young & Finger, 2006), but neoliberals have declared periodically that welfare states are in crisis (see e.g. King & Ross, 2010). Nevertheless, in developed countries the political implications or fiascos of promoting a greater role for the private sector in the delivery of public services have been ignored or even concealed (Flinders 2010, p.115). Accordingly, the distinction between public and private organizations, services or actions in general is currently conceptually indefinite, but definitely included in the policy agenda in every society. In other words, there appears to be surprisingly little actual theoretical variety in terms of epistemological and ontological search for new original methodological approaches in public /private research.

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