Structural efficiency in the Queensland Public Service: Tango, waltz or funeral march?

Kellie, Deborah (1996). Structural efficiency in the Queensland Public Service: Tango, waltz or funeral march? PhD Thesis, School of Social Science, The University of Queensland.

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Author Kellie, Deborah
Thesis Title Structural efficiency in the Queensland Public Service: Tango, waltz or funeral march?
School, Centre or Institute School of Social Science
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1996
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Supervisor -
Total pages 365
Language eng
Subjects 360202 Public Administration
Formatted abstract
The past decade has seen an increasing desire to extend democratic participation in the organisation of society in many spheres, as evidenced in notions of community empowerment and of worker empowerment. Traditionally, within sociology, democratisation initiatives in the workplace have been viewed as exemplars of capital's attempt to maximise labour's exploitation. In that framework cyclical resurgences of participatory schemes are viewed as the latest managerial fad.

One reason sociology has not explored alternative explanations of these initiatives is perhaps due to Weber's contention that bureaucratic administration is not receptive to democratic principles of participation. Unfortunately, Weber did not offer a full explanation of why this might be so and his dictum appears to have been accepted without question.

In 1987 the Australian Industrial Relations Commission agreed to the introduction of award restructuring to improve Australian enterprise. With award restructuring came a precedent for worker participation in decisions affecting the way work should be performed. The adoption of the structural efficiency principle and the enterprise bargaining principle by employer and employee ostensibly paved the way for greater worker involvement, even empowerment. Given that this is an initiative geared towards the democratisation of the workplace such a transition should, according to Weber's conjecture, be impossible. If successful, conceptions of power enshrined in the formal administration of work, which we call bureaucracy, need redefinition.

To investigate this issue I examined the implementation of the structural efficiency agenda in two departments of the Queensland Public Service. In so doing it became evident that the values underpinning power relations in the bureaucracy appear to be the stumbling block which support Weber's conjecture. Changing the social processes and structure of power in the workplace to facilitate empowerment requires a value shift of immense order: at the macro level, rather than the micro level of organisational change.

The approaches to organisational change through manipulation of organisational culture are simplistic in that they do not recognise the intractable nature of personal values or the psycho-social dynamics through which they are developed. The control perspective favoured within critical sociology can also be viewed as simplistic as it assumes, as do most politicians, that people are not aware of what is going on around them. If false consciousness was simply the case we would not see the continuing efforts to extend democratic rights to all spheres of life. This thesis reflects critically on the meaning of participation at work in order to unmask the values that impede change. It is hoped that in the process we will be able to enhance attempts to democratise our society.
Keyword Public administration -- Queensland -- Evaluation
Organizational change
Corporate culture
Additional Notes The author has given permission for this thesis to be made open access.

Document type: Thesis
Collections: Queensland Past Online (QPO)
UQ Theses (RHD) - Open Access
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Created: Mon, 14 Dec 2009, 14:21:29 EST by Ms Natalie Hull on behalf of Social Sciences and Humanities Library Service