Call for papers: The provision of “hard” public utility services in local government


This Special Issue addresses the provision of “hard” public utility services in local government, e.g. water supply, sewage systems, energy provision, waste collection and disposal, fire protection, and public transport. These sectors, while providing basic services for the well-being of citizens and the effective functioning of the local community, seem to have attracted scarce attention from social scientist researchers. The paucity of attention becomes even more conspicuous when compared to the large amount of research that has focused on “soft” personal services like education, health and social services. The ambition of this Special Issue, therefore, is to bring light on existing research and stimulate new research on the hard services of local government.

The policy sectors of hard services involve what has been described as “mature” technological systems. Although most aspects of our everyday life is highly dependent on the effective performance of these services, they are operating in the background or in the shadows of politics so to speak. We take them very much for granted and only become aware of their existence when they fail or when they stop functioning. Local governments often agentify or corporatize their hard service entities, thereby placing them at an arm’s length from elected political bodies. Sometimes they are contracted out to private or public-private companies. Because the provision of these services often rely on complicated and specialized technologies, beyond the competence of the average local councilor and administrator, engineers and other experts (agents) hold an information and knowledge advantage over their formal governors (principals). In addition, ideological trends like neo-liberalism and NPM have promoted ideas and ideals of arm’s length governance to such an extent as to make many public service providing entities more or less autonomous, making transparency, accountability and control more problematic. Further, hard local services often imply huge investments in infrastructure and technology, affecting natural and man-made environments in maybe irreversible ways and having lock-in effects on technical solutions and financial resources for decades.

For this Special Issue, we invite scholars to submit papers on topics related to the organization, governance and regulation of hard local government services in the Nordic countries. We especially, but not exclusively welcome papers that have a comparative perspective, addressing at least two Nordic countries.

For more information, please contact the guest editors:

Lisa Hansson: associate professor in political science at Molde University College, Faculty of economics and social sciences, Norway,,

Harald Torsteinsen: professor of political science/public management at UiT – The Arctic University of Norway, Department of sociology, political science and community planning; adjunct professor at Molde University College, Faculty of economics and social sciences, Norway,

Extended deadline for submission

Abstracts (approx. 400 words) should be sent to the guest editors by from 1 May 2017 to 15 May.

Deadline for full papers is from 1 October to 1 November 2017. Submit your full paper to SJPA, in accordance with the author guidelines of the journal (cf. Mark your submission with “Hard services in local government”.

Posted: 2017-02-16

Call for papers: The role of civil servants


In the 21st century, public organizations are increasingly complex in terms of multiple institutional rules, norms and practices, constituting a difficult challenge for civil servants to define appropriate identities, roles and relationships.  In this call for papers we wish to draw attention to the roles of civil servants within increasingly complex public sector organizations.

Suggested, although not exclusive, research questions to be addressed in the special issue are:

  • What is the nature of public administration considering increasing institutional complexity in terms of persistent bureaucratic traditions, new public management solutions, participatory ideals, activist sentiments among officials etc.?
  • What are the consequences of this institutional complexity for the possibility of preserving a coherent, rule-governed public administration and what does public mean today in public administration?
  • What types of roles are civil servants playing in relation to different institutional rules and norms and various actor categories (politicians, citizens, organizations) and how do they handle frictions and conflicts?
  • What type of role conceptions of civil servants are developing, including public service ethics? What alternative and contending role-conceptions and ethics are prevalent and supported?

We welcome empirical, theoretical, and conceptual papers related to these questions, wherein focus could be on transnational, governmental, regional, or local levels. Papers should reflect on the Scandinavian context, thereby including a discussion of how key findings relates to civil service within the Scandinavian countries.

Guest editors: Tom S. Karlsson, School of Public Administration, University of Gothenburg, Jan Olsson, Political Science, Örebro University

A letter of interest in participating in the special issue together with an abstract (250-300 words) of the proposed paper should be sent to the guest editors by March 1st 2017. All papers will be subject to regular double-blind peer review. Deadline for submission of full paper: June 30th 2017.

Contacts for further information or issues with respect to the special issue:

Tom S. Karlsson, Assistant Professor in Public administration, School of Public Administration, University of Gothenburg;

Jan Olsson, Professor in Political Science, Örebro University;

Posted: 2016-10-20

Scandinavian Journal of Public Administration

School of Public Administration, Box 712 - SE-405 30 Göteborg

ISSN: 2000-8058