The literature on public management reform exhibits two intertwined convergence myths. First, a world‐wide consensus on a new public management (NPM) reform agenda is seen to exist amongst policy reformers and practitioners. If this agenda is not fully implemented in all cases, this is generally explained by political and reform setbacks rather than disagreement on policy aims. Second, this NPM agenda is now seen as challenged and even abandoned and replaced by an emergent post‐NPM or ‘public value leadership’ agenda and/or policy paradigm. We show the NPM convergence is overstated, with a remarkable resilience of existing institutions, and a diversity of public management systems. On the other hand, even within NPM exemplars that have putatively now adopted a post‐NPM agenda, there is debate to what degree NPM has been abandoned, and over the novelty, coherence and resilience of the post‐NPM agenda. Divergence and contextual variation prevail. The role of myth in policy reform is further examined.
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Local authorities vary considerably in their capacity for governance. The dimensions of this capacity can only be developed by drawing on local stocks of social capital. The seminal theories of social capital tend to conceive it as a community resource that is built up through a long tradition of civic engagement. We take issue with the laissez–faire implications of these theories, highlighting ways in which local governments can positively contribute to social capital formation by opening their ‘political opportunity structure’ and engaging voluntary organisations and community groups in trust–based partnership arrangements.
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