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The welfare state and new challenge from the back door

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1980s in Germany, Britain, France and Italy suggests a convergent and consistent process of homogenisation driven chiefly by institutional mimetic isomorphism. This new 'organisational settlement' is increasingly shaped by the structural autonomisation of individual service delivery units. This paper argues that, when organisational autonomy becomes normatively sanctioned, that this increases the likelihood of its adoption, even in the face of different institutional conditions and welfare regimes. Hence, the paper is foremost concerned with explaining similarities and decreasing variance across countries and across sectors, and with accounting for the main driver of this homogenisation process. Why would different organisational fields across countries and welfare regimes adopt similar structures, in light of inconclusive evidence of economic efficiency gains? The convergence of the organisational settlement of the welfare delivery state is not only driven by economic globalisation or efficiency linked to performance, but primarily by the political demand to find new sources of legitimation in an age of increasing displacement of political authority to managers. The paper is structured in three main parts. First, it revisits the theory of organisational isomorphism by its application to the new patterns of change of welfare delivery. Secondly, it discusses the reform trajectories of autonomisation in schooling and hospital care in Britain, in comparative terms with France and Italy. Thirdly, it concentrates on Germany and it establishes empirically how this case does no longer fit the characterisation of 'immobilisme', especially in the health care sector. Lastly, the wider implications of organisational homogenisation for the TRUDI constellation are discussed.

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Paola Mattei

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