Laga efter läge: Statsråds föreställningar om styrning i Regeringskansliet

  • Date:
  • Location: Statsvetenskapliga institutionen, Brusewitzsalen, Östra Ågatan 19, Uppsala
  • Doctoral student: Noreland, Lena
  • About the dissertation
  • Organiser: Statsvetenskapliga institutionen
  • Contact person: Noreland, Lena
  • Disputation

This thesis concentrates on two questions: What beliefs do ministers have of appropriate steering in the Swedish core executive Regeringskansliet (RK)? Do they believe that RK is a politically steered organization as it is usually described, or as a throughout political organization, as some political scientists have recently depicted it?

RK embraces two institutional subcultures: one non-political with permanent civil servants and firm rules and regulations for work processes, the other one political, where work conditions are more adaptive. Analyses of beliefs that ministers may have, build on information from interviews with 35 ministers in governments from 1991 to 2014. They answered questions about their steering of preparation work in cases, performed by civil servants. They described their choice of strategies and means for steering. Their explicit memories of actual steering activities have been used for inferences of their beliefs. The research method is typically qualitative. Two organizational theories serve as basis for the analyses. One is the legal bureaucratic model, mainly according to Max Weber. Either ministers steer the work of civil servants hierarchically, giving instructions directly to them. Or else, they steer with political advisers as proxies, thereby involving them in the hierarchical steering. The other one is a cadre theory - an unorthodox choice, which reflects a recent idea saying that RK is a throughout political cadre organization where ministers, staff members as well as civil servants are political office holders. All ministers stressed that work processes in RK ministries are steered by them, i.e. they believe RK to be a politically steered organization. Ministers chose steering strategies according to institutional demands and possibilities and according to their beliefs of what strategies match their individual ambitions for the government position. Most ministers stated that they gave instructions directly to civil servants. But approximately three out of ten ministers said that they steered using political advisors as proxies, in some cases with far-reaching mandates to act independently. The ministers focused both on steering formulation of the matter per se and preparation procedures when it was important for the political outcome.

From minister perspectives the political staff can be identified as a cadre. Evidence for civil servants being seen as political cadres was scarce. One minister had practiced typical cadre steering in specific task forces, parallel to hierarchical steering in the ordinary ministry organization. Some ministers had used detached cadre-oriented means. In their opinion, informality in steering procedures promoted the performance of civil servants. One minister mentioned that all work in RK ultimately results in government decisions, and that is why RK may be characterized as an outright political organization. Almost all ministers who used political advisors as proxies, belonged to coalition governments. Their choice of steering strategy can be understood as an adjustment to the heavy workload that coordination of politics imposes on them.