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The Danish Control‒Trust Balance in Public Governance

Jacob Torfing (Roskilde University, Denmark)
Tina Øllgaard Bentzen (Roskilde University, Denmark)

Public Governance in Denmark

ISBN: 978-1-80043-713-5, eISBN: 978-1-80043-712-8

Publication date: 23 February 2022


Denmark is characterised by high levels of trust between citizens and public authorities as well as between public leaders and employees, providing a comparative advantage when it comes to expanding public welfare, enhancing economic performance and handling a crisis like COVID-19. Public governance, however, requires a delicate balance between trust and the legitimate need for control to secure accountability This chapter explains how the high levels of trust in the Danish public sector are wedded to a pragmatic combination of various public governance paradigms, which has produced a ‘hybrid governance system’ balancing the legitimate demand for control with widespread trust in public employees. Traditional Weberian bureaucratic values of regularity, impartiality and expertise are combined with a limited and selective introduction of New Public Management reforms. Simultaneously, a dynamic neo-Weberian state works to satisfy an increasingly demanding citizenry while new platforms for developing collaborative solutions to complex problems are designed and developed at the municipal level. This hybrid governance system produces a virtuous circle of trust sustained by trust-based systems of evaluation, assessment and accountability developed in close dialogue between public managers and employees. The chapter demonstrates how a long-lasting political-administrative culture based on trust and a pragmatic, non-ideological combination of different governance paradigms has generated a positive trust‒public governance feedback loop. Striking the right control‒trust balance remains a continual challenge, however, to avoid governance failures eroding citizen trust in the public sector and to safeguard public values of transparency, accountability and performance.



Torfing, J. and Bentzen, T.Ø. (2022), "The Danish Control‒Trust Balance in Public Governance", Krogh, A.H., Agger, A. and Triantafillou, P. (Ed.) Public Governance in Denmark, Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 111-129.



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