Breaking up a Partnership to Build a Competitive Market in Denmark’s Ambulance Service: How Can Studies of Contract Reversals Learn from the Sociology of Markets?

Sarah Wadmann*, Iben Emilie Christensen, Jakob Kjellberg, Carsten Greve

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The paper analyses a case of contract reversal in the market for ambulance services. The paper suggests that the sociology of markets-literature provides insights into market institutions of importance to relations between government and contractors that will benefit contracting out theory. Building on document analysis and interviews with 19 key stakeholders, it is demonstrated how a regional government in Denmark tried to wrestle the service provision from a long-time private provider and create a competitive market, only to discover that the implementation of the new contract was beset by obstacles largely stemming from informal norms in the market and attempts of the existing provider to hamper market entry for challenger firms. The result was a contract reversal: from private provision to government-provided service delivery. The paper contributes to the contracting out literature by providing a more elaborate understanding of the institutional conditions under which contract reversals can take place.

Original languageEnglish
JournalLocal Government Studies
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)937-956
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019

Bibliographical note

Published online: 12. May 2019


  • Contracting out
  • Competitive tendering
  • Contract reversal
  • Emergency services
  • Institutional change
  • Sociology of markets

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