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Analysis - (2016) Volume 4, Issue 2

Public Value Theory: Reconciling Public Interests, Administrative Autonomy and Efficiency

Gerald Turkel1* and Eli Turkel2
1Sociology and Legal Studies, University of Delaware, USA
2Institute for Public Administration, University of Delaware, USA
*Corresponding Author: Gerald Turkel, Professor, Sociology and Legal Studies, University of Delaware, USA, Tel: 972-3-640-803 Email:


Public Value Theory aims at reinvigorating the role of publicly formed values in public administration theory and research. It attempts to reconcile the conceptual antagonisms between Traditional Public Administration that seeks to limit corruption and bring expertise to administration by establishing a more autonomous legal rational organization and New Public Management that focuses almost exclusively on sharply reducing public bureaucracy through measures and organizational practices based on economic efficiency. Rather than viewing these divergent approaches to public administration either as dichotomies or rejecting them, Public Value Theory recognizes the important dimensions of public administration that they raise and incorporates their most salient features in a more inclusive approach that emphasizes the role of values. This paper locates Public Value Theory in the historical formation of theoretical approaches to public administration. Focusing on key theoretical texts and secondary sources, the paper provides internal critiques of Traditional Public Administration and New Public Management and discusses the limits of Public Value Theory. Substantively, the paper shows that Public Value Theory seeks to reconcile and balance contradictory approaches to public administration and the implementation of public policy. Public Value Theory attempts to join economic efficiency, organizational practices, rationality and independence in public administration, and the formation of public values and interests in an encompassing approach. Public Value Theory is both less insistent on specific organizational forms of public administration than Traditional Public Administration and less focused on narrowly construed criteria of efficiency than New Public Management. The paper concludes by briefly considering criticisms of Public Value theory that are concerned with its insufficient attention to the political formation of values and interests.

Keywords: Reconciling public interests; Administrative autonomy; Efficiency; public administration; Privatization; Democratic decision making


Public value theory (PVT) reformulates core aspects of traditional public management (TPM) and new public management (NPM), two sharply divergent approaches within public administration scholarship. These divergent approaches focus on alternative problems raised by the politics and economics of administering policies that emerge from governing processes claiming democratic legitimacy. In particular, PVT aims at reinvigorating the role of publicly formed values in the conceptually antagonistic terrain between NPM that focuses almost exclusively on sharply reducing public bureaucracy through measures and organizational practices based on economic efficiency, and on TPA that aims at limiting corruption and bringing expertise to administration by establishing a more autonomous legal rational organization. Rather than formulating these divergent approaches to public administration either as dichotomies or simply rejecting them, PVT recognizes the important dimensions of public administration that they raise and conceptualizes their most salient features in a more inclusive approach. In part because of the scope of PVT and its efforts at forging a critical synthesis, scholars are justifiably concerned with its definition, boundaries, and implications.

This paper locates PVT in the historical formation of theoretical approaches to public administration. Focusing on key theoretical texts and secondary sources, the paper provides internal critiques of TPM and NPM and discusses the limits of PVT. Substantively, the paper shows that PVT seeks to reconcile and balance contradictory approaches to public administration and the implementation of public policy. PVT seeks to reconcile economic efficiency, organizational practices, rationality and independence in public administration, and the formation of public values and interests in an encompassing approach. PVT is both less insistent on specific organizational forms of public administration than TPM and less focused on narrowly construed criteria of efficiency than NPM. The paper concludes by briefly considering one strain of criticism of PVT that focuses on its lack of robust analytic attention to the political formation of values and interests.

Locating PVT

PVT is located in efforts to formulate public administration in relation to historically compelling issues [1-4]. Beginning in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, there were prominent efforts to formulate public administration as independent from narrow political interests in order to minimize corruption, especially by big city and state political machines. This approach, TPA, was sharply challenged by NPM later in the twentieth century. During a time of economic change, fiscal restraint and ideologies that stressed small government, NPM focused on market-based formulations of public administration that emphasize economic efficiency. Following the Great Recession of the early twenty first century, PVT has sought to transcend the tensions that characterize these approaches within a democratic political framework. In its synthesizing effort, PVT recognizes the limiting boundaries of both TPA and NPM: TPA does not have an internal mechanism or logic that limits the expenditure of resources dedicated to organizational growth. NPM does not provide for organizational autonomy and for rule governed transparency. Moreover, neither TPA nor NPM has clear democratic transparency embedded in their logics or practices.

Traditional Public Administration

Woodrow Wilson and Max Weber, seminal scholars of bureaucracy, sought a government administration of specialized professionals working in a system insulated from the political process. Wilson emphasized the need to separate government administrators from politics. Wilson’s “science of administration” separated politics from administrative tasks, known as the politics-administration dichotomy [5,6]. Weber emphasized the characteristics of the hierarchical system of rational, bureaucratic administration. He identified types of authority within organizational structures in order to examine which types of organization have the greatest affinity with complex processes of modern society by bringing together disparate knowledge’s in a legitimate order. Weber claimed that legal-rational authority has the best fit with rational orientations to modern economic life and societies where empirical science and independent legal institutions are dominant. Legal-rational authority, characteristic of bureaucracy, calls for fixed administrative offices specializing in specific tasks. Specialization is organizationally efficient because it allows for skill-set development, automated processing and hierarchical command-andcontrol systems. In such systems, hierarchy is broken into superiors and subordinate roles with the main authority at the top of the hierarchy. Authority is partitioned and codified, enabling clear demarcations of responsibility for specific tasks. There are formal rules and procedures that establish a clear chain of command and network of communication to express expectations.

Weber recognized that bureaucracy is a form organizational rationality that lacks internal principles limiting the expenditure of resources [7]. Both bureaucracy and empirical science potentially are in conflict with economic rationality. Officials working in a bureaucratic organization may expend a great deal of resources on scientific experts who determine, for example, that it would be best to technically best to build a bridge made of platinum. Its logic of organizational differentiation based on expertise and accumulating knowledge is indifferent to scarcity and economic costs.

New Public Management

New public management brought issues of resource allocation and efficiency to the fore. It arose after the petroleum-triggered economic crisis of the 1970s that, along with broader political and ideological changes, initiated a shift away from collectivist towards individualist solutions to social problems [3,8]. A political and policy environment critical of TPM emerged with global competition, exposure to wider market forces and discourse, and ideological challenges to state centered administration and regulation. TPA’s emphasis on active management, managing by budget and rules was replaced by initiative, responsibility and performance. NPM provided critiques of bureaucracy as rigid, stifling of innovation, and lacking in economic efficiency. As an alternative approach, market-based solutions characterized by greater reliance on the private sector were viewed as the most promising path forward with a limited role for the citizenry [9].

Osborne and Gaebler’s reinventing government, a key text for the NPM movement, provides NPM’s logic and goals. The authors argue that governments can leverage the global economy in their favor to do more with less. “Entrepreneurial government” is much more flexible and dynamic than bureaucratic government. Their analysis hinges on examples of governmental failure that utilize large amounts of resources without controls on how expenditures are related to outcomes, the ways in which governmental bureaucracy contributes to the decline of the United States in the world economy, and bureaucratic organization’s stifling of creativity and blocking of innovative approaches to goal achievement. They forcefully argue that more resources allocated to government programs will not solve social problems. Instead they advocate for creative, market-based solutions. Solutions may be achieved by creating a corporation or through a market intervention utilizing private sector management and measurement techniques. The authors refer to this as steering, not rowing.

Origins of PVT

PVT is largely an academic movement within the field of public administration [3]. NPM, in which public administration scholars largely borrowed pre-existing practices from business or policy makers, PVT has been formulated within the academy. From 2000-2012, 123 of the 241 publications on PVT came from public administration scholars [10].

PVT emerged during the monumental global financial crisis that began in 2007 that was followed by the Great Recession from which the world economy has been slowly recovering. Unlike the 1970s, this crisis triggered a renewed interest in government regulation and intervention in the private economy. In the face of these conditions, PVT seeks to combine governmental action with the resources of business and the nonprofit sector. Broadly, the aim is to develop public administration as collaborative, democratic, and focused on governance.

In addition to its economic and political context, PVT responds to contemporary technologies and societal norms that have flattened organizational hierarchies. John et al. argue that public administration is moving beyond TPM and NPM towards PVT as a response to challenges of networked, multi-sector world and to shortcomings of previous public administration policies. Neither state nor private entities are capable of adequately addressing public issues. With emerging telecommunications and data based decision-making, new institutional possibilities and approaches are emerging that include features of earlier paradigms.

Institutionally, the new approach prioritizes democratic values while seeking to combine governmental action with the resources of business and the non-profit sector [1]. Government is in a special position to take the lead on public problems by harnessing its own resources, but also through convening the resources of business and non-profit sector. Thus, PVT advances a theory of public administration that is neither strictly bureaucratic or market based, but, rather, collaborative, democratic, and focused on governance.

Theoretical and Practical Aspects of Public Value Theory

TPM brings the imperatives of bureaucratic legal rational organization to public administration while NPM brings imperatives of economic efficiency. In the effort to creatively synthesize these disparate and often dichotomous approaches, it is conceptually necessary to bridge some of their key concerns so that they can be formulated more as a continuum.

In order to go beyond the limitations of TPM and NPM, concepts basic to each approach need critical examination and reworking. Efficiency is such a basic concept. Articulating a perspective on the evolution of public administration theory that combines alternative concerns with efficiency facilitates this conceptual effort.

An evolutionary perspective on public administration theory provides a dynamic framework that clarifies efficiency by considering its different dimensions [1]. Efficiency as an organizational and meansend calculus is the main concern of TPM. In essence, the role of administrators is to determine how government policy should be implemented through state organization for maximizing goal attainment. For NPM, the efficient allocation of resources and effectiveness are the main concerns. The primary focus is on minimizing costs in relation to achieving goals. The role of administrators is to determine how best to serve the public through proper spending and oversight. It is no longer necessary for administrators themselves to carry out public tasks. Their role is to ensure that public tasks were conducted most effectively at the least possible costs. PVT attempts to create a dialog between administrators and citizens about what values public endeavors should pursue and to fully consider combining economic efficiency and organizational forms, including rational autonomous organizations. Focusing on citizens, citizenship and democracy as central values, PVT is concerned with achieving goals efficiently through organizational means that engage citizens in an ongoing dialogue with officials and experts. While TPA and NMP offer specific ideas of how public institutions should be run, PVT is more concerned with procedural aspects of public affairs. PVT offers process-based notions of public management and democratic proceedings.

Integrating Politics, Efficiency, and Administration

In formulating PVT as a synthesis that incorporates and goes beyond the relatively narrow and apolitical formulations of TPA and NPM, the writings of Moore and Bozeman play central roles [11]. Moore and Bozeman converge on a similar agenda from somewhat different starting points [12]. Moore initiates his approach by criticizing NPM. Bozeman, on the other hand, formulates a critique of economic individualism. Moore argues NPM focuses government accountability too narrowly on economic efficiency while he affirms government’s unique role of accountability to justice and fairness. Bozeman argues that NPM overly prioritizes market considerations at the expense of deliberative outcomes. Through different lenses, both include political dimensions and decision making within public administration. They seek to locate concerns with economic efficiency and administration in a publicly accountable political context.

Mark Moore: Strategic Triangle and the Public Value Scorecard

Mark Moore formulates how public managers should analyze the value of public sector enterprises [13]. Two points are central to his approach. First, value is rooted in the desires and perception of individuals. Second, the public sector satisfies two general desires of individuals:

• It provides for goods and services that cannot be provided through the market; and

• It secures individual rights and clarifies responsibilities.

For Moore, the aim of public managerial work is to create public value. The public is the judge and jury of public value. The public evaluates what public administrators produce in terms of the degree to which goals articulated in public forums and through the political process are realized. For these reasons, Moore’s concept of administrative public value is robust and rooted in relationships to the citizenry. He formulates a closer relationship between the values and purposes articulated through citizen participation in the political process and the implementation of those values and purposes than both TPM and NPM. Rather than politics being extrinsic to public administration, political institutional ties and forums are central for public administrator’s decision-making. Public administration is an arena of professional autonomy that actively interprets public values articulated in political processes and assesses risks involved in pursuing alternative agendas. Public values are rooted in a reciprocal relationship between administrators and the citizenry. Value is created by satisfying politically expressed desires of citizens and clients [13].

Moore’s perspective departs from TPA’s bright line between politics and administration. High-level public administrators are interpreters of public value as well as evaluators of the risks involved in pursuing alternative policy agendas. Moreover, Moore is adamant that individual preferences and desires expressed through the political system are the basis of legitimacy in the public sector.

In line with NPM, Moore sees the situation of public administrators as somewhat similar to corporate executives with long-term commitments and fiduciary responsibility to their corporate entities and with commitments to social responsibility and stakeholders. The outward looking corporate strategy model used by corporate managers can help public administrators find public value. Managers must always have a keen understanding of what their competitors are doing, and they need to be thinking about the interactions between their decisions and their business. Further, in thinking about their own operations, corporate managers are encouraged to determine their firm’s “distinctive competencies”. Applying the distinctive competencies concept allows a business to identify the activities at which it truly excels, enabling it to expand its business in that direction without necessarily diverging from its original product line. While public managers are seeking to realize public values rather than profits, this model applies to them because both private and public managers act in complex and uncertain environments that are constantly changing.

The “strategic triangle” includes features of corporate strategy. This is a model public managers may use to orient their leadership goals. Goals must meet three criteria: they must be substantively valuable, politically sustainable and administratively feasible. Managers guided by the strategic triangle should ask whether what they are producing is actually valuable, rather than assuming it is because it has political support. Based on their professional autonomy and expertise, they must seek out deeper sources of value that underlie apparent political support. They need to assign importance to substance, politics and administration. This is different from TPA because it requires explicit sensitivity to the political environment, including as well as attention to unintended outcomes that follow the implementation of policies [14].

The strategic triangle relates substantive aims of public programs to impact and performance, relating the normative importance of pursuing aims that will bring measurable benefit to publicly articulated priorities. The triangle relates the environment in which individuals and organizations act to the pursuit of pubic value, thereby recognizing the need for the support of key external stakeholders including government, interest groups, and donors. It acknowledges that these aims can only be pursued with prior authorization from government and ongoing support from publics that fund the enterprise. Public sector decisions makers are accountable to these groups. Third point of triangle relates to resources. Public value aims must be practically achievable in terms of operational capability [15].

Politics, Efficiency, and Public Value Theory

While we have considered Moore’s approach to relations between administration and the political/public sphere, we must more fully consider his approaches to relations between economic efficiency and politics. While the relation between public administration and politics is a central problem for TPA, the relation between economic efficiency and politics is crucially problematic for NPM. Critical renderings of both public administration and efficiency are needed for PVT’s transformative synthesis.

Moore’s approach stresses the evolving role of politics in public administration as it relates to economic efficiency. TPA separated politics, NPM neutralized politics, and PVT embraces politics. The relationship of each theory’s approach to politics reveals their underlying incentive structures [4]. These disparate incentives indicate a core dilemma related to the role of politics for each approach to public administration. The dilemma for TPA is the weakening authority that the political process exercises over a professionalized bureaucracy with its internal rules and expertise. The dilemma for NPM is whether there is any room for politics in a fully market oriented approach to public provision. For PVT, the dilemma is whether asking managers to manage democracy marginalizes politicians and citizens.

Issues of efficiency are likewise problematic for TPA, NPM, and PVT. Each theory’s relationship to efficiency highlights an underlying incentive structure. In terms of efficiency, the incentive structure for TPA is to adhere to organizational goals that encompass means/end rationality and autonomy but lack an incentive to limit expenditure of resources. The incentive structure for NPM focuses exclusively on realizing end results with the least cost, stifling both participation and organizational integrity. The incentive structure for PVT presents a dilemma of balancing inclusive, transparent governance against authoritative expertise.

TPA, the dominant theoretical framework from the mid-1940s to the mid-1970s, is clearly articulated by Simon [2,3]. Simon separates decision making into “value decisions” and “factual decisions”.1 Sharply distinguishing between, on the one hand, values rooted in a variety of cultural and historical contingencies and, on the other hand, instrumental rationality focused on goal attainment based on rules, empiricism, and cost accounting, Simon argues that values-based decisions should be removed from the administrative process through the use of a standard of efficiency. In effect, Simon equates rationality with efficiency. Rationality is only obtainable in group settings. Rational action will move an organization towards its objective [2].

Because PVT aims at achieving a greater convergence of politics, administration and efficiency, this strict means/end distinction comes under critical scrutiny. Fundamentally, it fails to recognize the implications of particular means for shaping the ends that are sought. In this light, Waldo criticizes Herbert Simon’s definition of efficiency as unrealistic and impractical for the public administration practitioner. Critical of Simon’s distinction between “value decisions” and “factual decisions”, Waldo redefines efficiency for public administration by focusing on the “means-end complex” rather than resource allocation abstracted from the “value context in which it is used” [16].

Means and ends are not indifferent to each other in the decision making process; they inform and shape each other through mutual adjustments. Rather than viewing efficiency, as one-dimensional criteria about what are the most instrumentally rational means to reach an end, there should be an examination of means both in terms of efficiency and, importantly, in order to understand their consequences for the end that is sought. Public administrators should examine the means in use and realize that they have consequences for the goals they have in mind. Doing so will deeply challenge instrumental views of efficiency by raising qualitative concerns about how they may concretely affect end results.

Moore broadens the evaluative criteria for public values to go beyond the narrow bounds of efficiency associated with NPM. He confronts the logic of narrowing efficiency to highly specific outcomes by recognizing that the public values that public administration seeks to realize have to incorporate the goals and interests of broader constituencies and publics. Overly specified concepts of efficiency cannot capture the political and contextual character of public values and administration.

Moreover, Moore argues the current use of the private sector metaphor is not appropriate [15]. It cannot account for the expectations of citizens, the actual values created through public administration, and it cannot provide for an adequate understanding of public administrators and their activities. In its place, he asked for The Public Sector “bottom-line”. He offers the following four steps to outline a “bottom-line”.

1. Articulate a clear, complete and compelling idea of the public value that their agency exists to produce.

2. Develop a set of measures to record the agency’s performance in producing that public value.

3. Invite and embrace external accountability for defining and creating that value.

4. Create management systems that distribute internal accountability for public value creation across the managers and the employees of the agency so that they will feel motivated to perform in the short run and to innovate and learn over the longer run.

While public agencies have many ways to track their performance, the lack of revenue data makes calculating public value difficult. In response to this problem, Moore proposes a public value scorecard that has two main features. First, the scorecard recognizes reduction of costs as important value-creating move [13]. Second, it allows government enterprises to record the results intended as well as unintended consequences of their work. The revenues side can and should pay attention to mission achievement, positive side effects, and client satisfaction. Public management, moreover, cannot be a purely utilitarian enterprise. Managers occupy a particular fiduciary role in democratic system that requires them to act in certain ways regardless of consequences for themselves and others. In the public sector the proper arbiter of value is “we the people.” To have democratic government is to accept not only the idea that individuals are core elements of society but also that some collective decisions have to be made, even if the decision is to reduce government’s size and power.

The result of this formulation is a ledger sheet that accounts for collectively owned assets and associated costs, financial costs, unintended negative consequences and social costs of using state authority on the left-hand side and achievement of collectively values social outcomes, mission achievement, unintended positive consequences and justice and fairness on the right-hand side.

Barry Bozeman: Public Values, Democratic Process, and Pragmatism

Barry Bozeman formulates a pragmatic theory of PVT [17]. His approach is rooted in a critique of economic individualism that is overly reliant on quantitative measurement and lacking in adequate processual dimensions. In keeping with pragmatism, he takes a more institutional, processual and dynamic approach rather than an approach based on aggregating individual preferences in value formation.

Bozeman traces the rise of economic individualism to the rise of quantitative analysis in the 1950s and 1960s and the success of modern governments. As modern societies gain stability, individuals increasingly focus on creating and accumulating wealth [17]. As such, economic individualism is aligned with the privatization movement.

Recognizing that strong tendencies economic individualism and privatization have overwhelmed collective understandings of public administration and public services, Bozeman formulates the concept of “normative publicness”. Rather than beginning with the view fostered by TPM and NPM that private economic activity and political activity are located in fully separate spheres and should be sharply removed from one another in providing public services, normative publicness stipulates that we recognize that political and economic authority of institutions and policies are intertwined and mutually dependent. This understanding is necessary to achieve public values and to work toward public interest ideals [17]. Publicness is the degree of political authority constraints and endowments affecting institutions. Privateness is the degree of market authority constraints and endowments affecting institutions [17]. Rather than formulating publicness and privateness as necessarily separate and often antagonistic, they are conceptualized as interacting and have features that are mutually supportive. They constitute a dynamic continuum rather than an oppositional dichotomy. Substantively, governmental intervention and organization has succeeded in enhancing markets and economic individualism rather than undermining them.

Bozeman is critical of market-based approaches because they idealize market relations as purely competitive and do not theorize power differentials and politics. This absence of power and politics does not capture the actual situations of either actors or public administration. Market failure theory, the idea that government provides services only when there is a breakdown in the private market, is based on this ideal of a perfectly competitive market as the grounds for public policy. In market failure theory, neither the actual instability of markets nor actual relations of power are captured conceptually. In addition, market failure theory imposes an unnecessary constraint on the democratic formation of policies. Assuming perfect markets cannot provide an adequate foundation for public policy or administration. A more adequate approach is to formulate the context of public policy in terms of a political economic characterized by interpenetrating power relations in both markets and the political sphere.

Beyond criticizing the severe limitations imposed by market-based approaches, developing a robust theory of public interest has positive effects in value and policy domains. Public interest is active and vital in relation to forming policy and in administering it in a variety of organizational forms that combine market and administrative features. Bozeman pairs public interest theory with public values theory as a way to evaluate whether individual policies meet the public interest. He recognizes that determining exactly what public value is not a possibility, but developing criteria for public value within public interest framework is conceptually viable [17].

“Managing Publicness” refers to managing for public values. Concepts of publicness, public values, pragmatic public interest, public values mapping tool all must be defined. Public values provide normative consensus about

• the rights, benefits, and prerogatives to which citizens should be entitled

• the obligations of citizens to society, the state, and one another

• the basic principles of government and public policies [17].

Citizens can hold a public value that is not the same as their own self-interested private value. A theory of public value is not a theory of government or politics. Taking private value into account may be an important public value, whereas economic individualism embracing private economic values is essentially the only public value [17].

Bozeman roots features of PVT in American pragmatism, stressing the relationship of public values to the experimental and practical features of democracy. A pragmatic approach to an ideal-based public interest requires attention to public values, but does not require a monolithic construction of public values. Public values are both principled and dynamic. The striving to identify, measure and debate public values is necessary for a procedurally oriented concept of public interest [17]. Rather, Public Value Mapping provides criteria for public value. The criteria Bozeman presents are not meant to be exhaustive. They serve as a set of diagnostics presented in the spirit of deliberation.

Public values failure (PVF) occurs when neither the market nor public sector provides goods and services required to achieve values. PVF is the basis for judging whether the public interest has been upheld in a democratic process. Public values failure occurs when core public values are not reflected in social relations, either in the market or in public policy. The focus on problems of failure to ensure a legitimate government monopoly. The criteria aim to enhance decisions about the allocation of responsibilities between public and private sectors [17].

The seven public values criteria are the following:

• Value articulation and aggregation. A public values failure may occur due to flaws in the policymaking process;

• Legitimate monopolies. This is the breakdown of a government’s legitimate monopoly in the delivery of goods and services can lead to public values failure;

• Imperfect public information. The problem of imperfect information refers not to the amount of information available to the parties to a transaction but rather to the symmetry of the information;

• Distribution of benefits. A public values failure occurs when there are public domain benefits that, for some reason, not distributed;

• Provider Availability. Public Values failure can occur because there is a deficit of providers for a core public value;

• Time Horizon; and

• Substitutability versus Conservation of Resources. Either, there are threats to Dignity and Subsistence.

Alternatively, claiming public interest as the basis for public policy and administration have their own problems and limitations For Bozeman, they are either purely normative or weakly utilitarian [17]. On the one hand, public interest is often used symbolically and rhetorically to infuse a goal or objective with normative, moral authority. On the other hand, it may be used for narrowly utilitarian and partial goals and mask broader implications of a proposed action.

To provide an alternative to both market driven and normative claims, Bozeman starts by presenting public interest theory as related to specific policy issues and develops a pragmatic operationalization of public interest [17]. In public interest theory, problems are concrete and ideals are unstable. While there are always social problems, ideal solutions from the vantage points of competing public values are unlikely to be realized.

Managing Publicness

Rooted in a pragmatic approach that stresses the role of science and education in forming citizens and a public sphere capable of democratically developing public interests, Bozeman formulates two types of public management. The first type refers to the study of individual public managers and their decision-making processes. The second type refers to large-scale governance. Managing Publicness includes both types [17].

Other theories of public value use other categories such as political constraints, budgets, discretion, neutral competence and accountability mechanisms. For these theories, all of these categories, including public value, are given equal weight. For Managing Publicness, by contrast, public value is preeminent.

Managing publicness requires a statement of public value as a starting point, not as something to be negotiated haphazardly. There is a very high expectation that expectation that public value may be sacrificed only because of the most extreme and entirely uncontrollable events, events so extreme as to change the contemporary meaning of public value.

Managing Publicness does not mean managing for a particular version of the public interest but, rather, managing for citizens within the confines of the law. Bozeman is clear that he does not mean customer and takes time to point out that citizens have inalienable rights, which customers do not have.

Managing Publicness is sector neutral. It does not take sides on whether the public sector or the private sector is superior at producing goods and services. It does not claim that government should act only when the market fails, nor does it shun market intervention and privatization mechanisms. One approach is not viewed as superior to the other. Further, it endorses instances in which government is in competition with the market. What is paramount in Managing Publicness is Public Values.


TPM is focused on professionalizing and systematizing government administration. NPM introduced privatization and market considerations to the discipline of public administration. Both these models of public administration offer prescriptive ideals for public administrators. TPM is focused on eliminating the corrupting influence of narrow economic and political. This requires administrators to have a background and expertise in the field in which they work. NPM argues that administrators should look to specific administrative strategies-competition, customer service, contracting, privatizing in order to cut costs and increase effectiveness.

TPM is focused on eliminating the corrupting influence of economic interests and narrow political interests. NPM focuses on market based models of efficiency. While TPM lacks a focused concern on economic efficiency and NPM lacks a focus on corruption, PVT recognizes both of these problems within a broader context of democratic politics and public life.

In contrast to TPA and NPM, PVT provides a process-based model of public administration. Mark Moore’s strategic triangle is a management model that encourages public administrators to make calculated decisions about how to pursue policy agendas based on political context. Barry Bozeman offers a process-based theory of public interest rooted in pragmatism. Bozeman conceptualizes how public deliberation should influence public decisions.

Importantly, alternative approaches to public administration considered in this paper differ in their views on the relationship of politics to public administration. TPA separates politics from public administration. NPM ignores and neutralizes politics. PVT embraces politics. Stoker argues that each approaches relationship to politics highlights an underlying incentive structure that reveals a core dilemma [4]. The incentive structure is closely related to the role it sees politics playing. The dilemma for TPA is that politicians could not hold authority over bureaucracy, for NMP dilemma is whether there is any room for politics, and for PVT the dilemma is whether asking managers to manage democratically pushes politicians and citizens onto the margins.

Criticisms of PVT focus on its relevance given the severe inequalities in the current political order. The massive inequalities in power and participation in politics undermines the capacity for politics to serve as a legitimizing process. Political inequality is certainly a very serious issue; however, considering that TPA and NPM compartmentalized politics outside of public administration and used alternative to legitimizing rationales, PVT’s turn toward the political process is a positive direction. By bringing politics to the fore, it opens up questions about the relationship of public administration to democracy and to issues of inequality. While both TPM and NPM sought to insulate policy and administration from politics, TPM recognizes that public administration is intrinsically related to values and goals that emerge from the broader society and the political process, and that public administration gains legitimacy and adds value in relation to the broader society and political process.

A key issue is how the PVT can achieve the balance between democratic access and accountability to public institutions and market organization and imperatives. These are crucial issues for further research in order to address concerns raised by Dahl and Soss regarding PVT’s reliance on market logic [12].

Mark Moore’s strategic triangle has received attention as an empirical framework [18]; however questions remain as to whether it should be used as a framework for analyzing results oriented management or whether it can be used to analyze policy [15]. For instance, the UK government adopted Moore’s strategic triangle into a system of services, outcomes, and trust. Lowndes found that public participation and engagement rates increased when local government in UK had public value orientation, though it is not clear how public value was defined. Nonetheless, Lowndes study falls into the latter category. On the other side, Try and Radnor used it as an analytic lens through which to interpret data derived from interview with Canadian public executives. The authors concluded that Kelly’s framework succeeded as a way to understand results based management within the context of conducting these interviews. Finally, O’Toole, et al. studied the impact of managerial uses of the strategic triangle [19]. They created a formula to study impacts of managing upward, downward, and outward against environmental variables.

Moving forward, Mark Moore’s public value scorecard deserves attention. The most logical testing could be conducted by local police forces in attempting to reduce crime. Does introducing the scorecard help increase trust between local police forces and the citizens they serve?

Separately, Barry Bozeman’s notions of pragmatic public interest serve as a model for local democratic governance. Looking at separate policy areas like education and recidivism, how can democratic policy networks are established within these areas? What do these policy networks look like and do they illustrate differences how each field should be approached?

Further, the concerns Lawrence Jacobs raises about political inequality are as important as are his recommendations for addressing them. For example, how has California’s open primary system changed California politics? Have the changes made the system fairer and more open?

A final issue that needs careful scrutiny and study is the unprecedented government contracting that has been ushered in by NPM. The relationships among government authorities and contractors constitute an arena of public provision that constitutes public values, but where responsibility and transparency are problematic. This zone of intersection, largely defined through contracts, demands analytic attention from the vantage point of PVT.


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Citation: Turkel G, Turkel E (2016) Public Value Theory: Reconciling Public Interests, Administrative Autonomy and Efficiency. Review Pub Administration Manag 4:189.

Copyright: © 2016 Turkel G, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.