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Oxford University Press, available June 2010 

Edited by Helen Margetts, Perri 6, and Christopher Hood.  

 Further details can be found here

This book explores the unintended and unanticipated effects associated with ‘modernization’ projects and tackles the key question that they provoke – why do policy-makers persist in such enterprises in the face of evidence that they tend to fail?

Paradoxes of Modernization first discusses what is meant by ‘modernization’ and ‘unintended consequences’, placing public policy reform within more general intellectual and social trends. It presents eight case study ‘modernization’ projects. Their architects promised faster trains, a more efficient and reactive health service, a more motivated public service, better performing local government, enhanced information for prospective US university students, reduced rates of child malnutrition in developing countries, and a free, open, safe, interconnected cyberspace for people to conduct their social and political life. Each case provides a neat story with a paradox that varies the modernization theme and tackles the question: why was the project pursued? The conclusion categorizes the cases in terms of their outcome, from success to disappointment, and suggests some strategies for a more balanced version of modernization for current and future policy-makers.


This book originates from the joint Public Services Programme and Oxford Internet Institute seminar series held in 2008.


Part 1: Understanding Modernization’s Paradoxes
1: Christopher Hood, Helen Margetts, and Perri 6: Introduction
2: Helen Margetts: Modernization Dreams and Public Policy Reform
3: Perri 6: When Forethought and Outturn Part: Types of Unanticipated and Unintended Consequences
Part 2: Societal Innovations
4: H. George Frederickson and Edmund C. Stazyk: Ranking of U.S. Public Affairs Educational Programs: Searching for Quality, Finding Equilibrium
5: Jeanette Hofmann: Et in Arcadia Ego: From Techno-Utopia to Cybercrime
6: Yorick Wilks: Happy Surprises? The Development of the World Wide Web and the Semantic Web
Part 3: State-Centred Reforms
7: Devi Sridhar: Addressing Under-nutrition in India: Do ‘Rational’ Approaches Work?
8: Justin Keen: Integration at any Price: The Case of the NHS National Programme for Information Technology
9: Timothy Leunig: Post-world War II British Railways: The Unintended Consequences of Insufficient Government Intervention
Part 4: Modernization of the State
10: David Marsden: The Paradox of Performance-related Pay Systems: Why Do We Keep Adopting Them in the Face of Evidence That They Fail to Motivate?
11: George Boyne, Oliver James, Peter John, and Nicolai Petrovsky: What if Public Management Reform Actually Works? The Paradoxical Success of Performance Management in English Local Government
Part 5: Conclusion
12: Helen Margetts, Perri 6, and Christopher Hood: Modernization, Balance, and Variety