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Beyond Service

Beyond Service: State Workers, Public Policy, and the Prospects for Democratic Administration

  • Book Info
    Beyond Service
    Book Description:

    Greg McElligott traces neoconservative labour market policy from its international origins to the local offices of the Canadian state.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7136-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-14)

    Leftist critiques of neoconservatism have for years suffered from a depressing tendency to overestimate both the strength of this movement in Canada and the tenacity of its grip on the state. With an implicit call for victims of neoconservatism to unite on the basis of their victimization – that is, on the basis of their weakness – this emphasis has created a discourse which is inherently self-limiting and increasingly obsolete. It is the contention of this book that workers within the Canadian state represent not only a missing link in left strategy, but also the key to transforming the impotent...

  6. Part 1: The View from the Front Line

    • 1 ‘Appearing to Be in Control’
      (pp. 17-52)

      Somewhere between the impotent commanders ofWar and Peaceand the potent but irresponsible elites parodied by C. Wright Mills there lies a space where state workers can act autonomously but responsibly, and state managers can be held accountable for the human consequences of their actions. Mainstream administrative theory has been sending scouting parties into this space for several years, and those on the margins have recently rediscovered it.

      While lately it has been spilling onto the streets, resistance has long boiled away within the very social organizations built to contain it. Fascination with the structures of power, and the...

    • 2 Class and Management in the Canadian State
      (pp. 53-80)

      In this chapter and the one that follows it, I will try to insert some class content into the traditional preoccupations of management theory as they have been applied to the Canadian state. The intent in the first instance is to dispel any notion that the techniques of public management have been evaluated in a scientific fashion somehow above basic political interests. Thereafter, it should be possible to see a growing concern for policy slippage among management ranks, expressed in a search for new ways to control front-line workplaces. This discussion will provide evidence relevant to the second question posed...

    • 3 Beyond Reason: The New Legitimation
      (pp. 81-104)

      Since the 1970s the threat of international competition has been used to inflate productivity expectations and justify radical restructuring in both business and government. But with fiscal crisis dramatically reducing the margin for material concessions, and overt coercion generating as well as suppressing dissent, managers need new, cheap ways to secure employee loyalty. These conditions have increased the appeal of ideological campaigns stressing service quality, which promise to strengthen the ‘internal cement’ binding state workers to their managers.¹

      The previous chapter described how elements from the more coercive end of the state’s strategic repertoire were deployed in the 1980s and...

  7. Part 2: Border Disputes

    • 4 External Pressures, Internal Needs
      (pp. 107-144)

      Chapter 1 tried to show where there is space in theory for front-line workers to affect policy outputs in politically significant ways, while defying or evading the wishes of managers. Chapters 2 and 3 engaged in a critical reading of government-wide management practices, seeking ‘contradictions ... lines of rupture ... [and] residues of resistance.’¹ The next four chapters will gradually take on a more concrete focus, as we explore the impact of employees in one federal department, the former Employment and Immigration Canada (EIC), and one policy field – labour market policy.

      EIC was formally known as the Commission and...

    • 5 Bargaining and Beyond
      (pp. 145-161)

      The power of the Canadian Employment and Immigration Union was not expressed primarily through the traditional channels of collective bargaining. Militancy in this domain facilitated militancy elsewhere and contributed to the atmosphere that made mundane resistance possible. But the CEIU was structurally and strategically disconnected from the bargaining table.

      Structurally, the CEIU represented onlypartsof bargaining units (those parts in Employment and Immigration Canada) and thus had only partial influence on collective agreements negotiated by the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s central offices. PSAC was an unwieldy instrument to begin with, and during the period in question its bargaining...

    • 6 Clients and Consciousness
      (pp. 162-187)

      Continuing academic neglect of state workers and their unions has led to the perpetuation of some increasingly dubious assumptions about the state itself. Whether the state is seen as the embodiment of some public good (as in mainstream public administration) or of class rule (as in neo-Marxist state theory), the bureaucracy’s strength is portrayed as essentially undiminished by mass unionization. This same impression is often conveyed by public sector union leaders. When they speak of being scapegoated, or blame managers for waste and inefficiency, they effectively deny that state workers wield any politically-relevant power. From this perspective it is very...

    • 7 Front-line Workers and Public Policy
      (pp. 188-214)

      Role conflict among front-line workers was, for James O’Connor and others, a beacon of hope as the first waves of neoconservatism began to break against the Keynesian state. It showed that people trained to understand and alleviate social problems were seeing through the formal goals of their work (‘serving the needy’) to its actual purpose (‘regulating the poor’). Unease could only grow as state workers were told again and again to do ‘more with less.’ The pretense of service would fall away, and the duties of control would become all-consuming.⁴

      Pressures for greater productivity (‘mass processing’), and conflicts over the...

  8. Part 3: Self-Management and Citizenship

    • 8 State Workers and Democratic Administration
      (pp. 217-237)

      This admonition is the product of some ten years of reflection in Ottawa on the values appropriate to a ‘renewed’ public service.³ Prompted initially by a legitimation crisis brewing inside the bureaucracy, a ‘values search’ had at first produced strange promises that front-line workers would be ‘empowered to serve.’⁴ But the cited document returns in a much cruder way to traditional values like obedience and loyalty. Mass layoffs might inspire doubt, butA Strong Foundation(from which the citation is taken) assures workers that people remain ‘the greatest asset of the public service’ and urges them to ‘discover afresh the...

  9. Conclusion: Bringing State Workers In
    (pp. 238-252)

    It is important to remember that nearly all the issues discussed above relating to the Canada Employment and Immigration Union, and to struggles inside Employment and Immigration Canada would be ignored entirely in traditional studies of labour market policy. Methodological debates here are implicitly polarized between only two options: take state workers seriously or expunge any trace of them from the analysis.

    Through an empirical examination of one federal department and one policy field, this book has tried to insert state workers into state theories, policy debates, and progressive political strategies. It has argued that the neglect of these workers...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 253-306)
  11. References
    (pp. 307-330)
  12. Index
    (pp. 331-338)