The public service ethos and the role of the British Civil Service

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The last Conservative administration invested much time and effort in reforming the structure and organisation of the Civil Service. Yet it left untouched the core principles which underpinned Whitehall, often referred to as the public service ethos. In this article, we argue that this ethos has been defended by both conservative and liberal opinion as something fundamentally good. Yet, in reality, the public service ethos is a power/knowledge system which legitimises the rule of a particular elite by presenting public service as a worthy occupation and, thereby, authorising a system of power which is relatively closed and secretive. This accounts for why it has been in the interests of both the last Conservative administration and the present Labour government to ensure the ethos remains intact.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-66
Number of pages22
JournalWest European Politics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2000

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