On Track or Derailed: The Role of State-Owned Enterprises in Partly Marketized Public Service Delivery. Lessons from Passenger Rail in Denmark and Sweden

Lene Tolstrup Christensen

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-review


    The paper seeks to conceptualize and deepen our theoretical understanding of the State Owned Operator (SOE) as an institutional actor in the marketization of public service delivery as a sticky and hybrid governance form that serves both as a policy tool and a market actor in contemporary public administration. With the so-called New Public Management reforms in the 1980-90’s, the SOEs were put under pressure leading in some cases to a privatization and divestment of the companies and/or the introduction of market mechanisms like contracting out of services in their service domains (Hood, 1991). In the literature, privatization stayed on the research agenda until the mid 2000’s where the interest of the SOEs decreased since many companies were sold off and the academic interest turned towards studying the dynamics of the new markets caused by privatization such as regulation (Levi-Faur, 2011), contracts and partnerships (Hodge et al, 2010). However, according to the OECD, SOEs continue to play a role e.g. in sectors with natural monopolies such as railways, where ‘strategic’ national interest exist like energy and where recurring public policy objectives such as public service delivery are at play (OECD, 2014). Though being exposed to market reforms and the introduction of competition in public service delivery, in many sectors SOEs are still parts of the governance structure. The paper is based on a comparative case study of passenger rail in Denmark and Sweden from the 1990’s till today using document analysis and in-depth interviews. The paper suggests that the role of the SOEs should be analyzed not as the leftover of failed market reforms, but as a legitimate institutional actor that represents a hybrid governance form in public service delivery where more logics are at play.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication date2015
    Number of pages33
    Publication statusPublished - 2015
    EventThe 19th Annual Conference of International Research Society for Public Management. IRSPM 2015 - University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom
    Duration: 30 Mar 20151 Apr 2015
    Conference number: 19


    ConferenceThe 19th Annual Conference of International Research Society for Public Management. IRSPM 2015
    LocationUniversity of Birmingham
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    Internet address

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