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Abstract

A fundamental re-thinking is currently underway throughout the world about how to cope with public problems. Stimulated by popular frustrations with the cost and effectiveness of government programs and by a new-found faith in liberal economic theories, serious questions are being raised about the capabilities, and even the motivations, of public-sector institutions. This type of questioning has spread beyond American political discourse to other parts of the world. Underlying much of this reform surge is a set of theories that portrays government agencies as tightly structured hierarchies insulated from market forces and from effective citizen pressure and therefore free to serve the personal and institutional interests of bureaucrats instead. The heart of this revolution has been a fundamental transformation not just in the scope and scale of government action, but in its basic forms. Instead of relying exclusively on government to solve public problems, a host of other actors is being mobilized as well, sometimes are their own initiative but often in complex partnerships with the state.

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