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Motivation, Agency, and Public Policy: Of Knights and Knaves, Pawns and Queens Paperback – 29 Jun 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; New Ed edition (29 Jun. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199298912
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199298914
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 1.8 x 15.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 481,755 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


'... a fascinating new book ... short, accessible and profound.' (The Economist)

'... splendid book.' (The Spectator)

'His arguments are lively and original.' (John Rentoul, The Independent)

'This book is significant on two counts: for what it says and for who is saying it. important book...well written and free of jargon.' (Prospect)

'This important book develops a number of arguments ... The book is bold and ambitious in the way that it moves from concepts to policies ... The book is also powerful and compelling in its advocacy of quasi-markets ... works best as an analysis of how the diverse motivations of welfare providers can be channelled to ensure that benefits and services are both delivered more efficiently and become more responsive to the needs and aspirations of those who receive them.' (Social Policy and Society)

About the Author

Julian Le Grand is the Richard Titmuss Professor of Social Policy at the London School of Economics. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health Medicine, a Founding Academician of the Academy of Learned Societies for the Social Sciences and a Senior Associate of the Kings Fund. He has acted as an advisor and consultant to the World Bank, the European Commission, the World Health Organisation, The Cabinet Office at No.10 Downing Street, HM Treasury, the UK Departments of Health and Social Security and the National Audit Office on health policy, welfare policy and social exclusion. He is the author, co-author or editor of twelve books and over ninety articles and book chapters on public policy, including health.

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Format: Paperback
Here is a book that takes a good idea and develops it through examples in the different fields of public policy. There is a focus on health and education, and the examples are British, but the premise enables the reader to extrapolate not only to public policy anywhere, but in fact to most walks of life, with ideas that can just as easily be applied to an individual as to a population. The arguments are compelling, the text well written, succinct, and enjoyable, and the applications to real life pleasing. How do we get people to do things? Well, that depends on the type of person they are. Obviously. But here is a book that really summarises this. Well worth a read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2 reviews
An excellent thinking framework 15 Mar. 2005
By Richard - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The author uses an easy-to-understand framework to describe the expectations of public service users in society, both today and in years past, and, the motivations of agencies that act as providers of these services.

Examples mainly drawn from education and healthcare in the UK show an increasingly informed public that demand greater accountability and value for money from service providers (from Pawns to Queens). From this customer-driven evolution there appears to be an increasing realisation that those who provide services to the public do so with a wide spectrum of different motivations (from Publicly-Spirited Knights to Self-Interested Knaves).

Interestingly, the author finds that characteristics of both 'knightly' and 'knaveish' behaviour in combination may indeed yield the greatest benefit for society. The 'robust' strategy / policy therefore becomes one where altruism and self-interest align, a point where society benefits the most from the efforts of the publicly employed agent(s).

It is in matters of policy execution, however, that the book probably falls a little short. Description of how you might identify and implement 'robust' strategy is high-level and hard to visualise, via, an action plan, for example. An example of a 'robust' strategy was provided from public housing but was not particularly well specified. The ideas the book presents clearly outweigh the policy implementation path attempted.

Policy implementation and the small font with which the book has been printed are the only drawbacks. Otherwise it is well written, well researched and an important contribution of ideas to those engaged or interested in public policy.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Public confidence erodes 7 Nov. 2004
By William H. Colbert - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
From the Journal of Economic Literature September 2004:

Explores assumptions and realities concerning human motivation and the implications for the design of public policy. Describes how in Great Britain and other countries there has been a gradual erosion of confidences in the reliability of the public service ethic as a motivational drive and a growing conviction that self-interest is the principal force motivating those involved in public services, and how these changes have resulted in radical reforms in public service delivery systems. Reviews the empirical evidence concerning the existence of self-interested and altruistic motivations in the public sector. Illustrates how policy structures and context can change the balance of self-interested and altruistic motivations in individuals working in the public sector. Develops a theory of public service motivation and explores the implications for service delivery. Considers whether users of publicly funded services should have control over how much and in what way they make use of publicly funded services or whether their use should be largely determined by professionals or others involved in service provision. Explores the question of the appropriate balance of power between individual users and professionals in the context of health care, education, and saving for retirement. Assesses some specific policies or proposals designed to address motivation and agency issues in the welfare state, considering the U.K. experience with Primary Care Trusts in the health care sectors; the U.K. experience with parental choice and competition in primary school education; the idea of a capital grant, or demogrant, to every young adult; the idea of "partnership" matching grants to encourage savings for pensions and long-term care; and a proposal to increase individual citizens' control over the fiscal systems through hypothecation or the earmarking of particular tax revenues for specific uses. Le Grand is the Richard Titmuss Professor of Social Policy at the London School of Economics. Index.
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