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Harmony in Hierarchy? How Politicians and Public Managers Prioritize Crucial Public Values

Public Value Management, Measurement and Reporting

ISBN: 978-1-78441-011-7, eISBN: 978-1-78441-010-0

Publication date: 11 November 2014



This qualitative interview study compares public value prioritizations of ministers, members of parliament and senior public managers in the Netherlands. This article aims to answer the following central research question: how do Dutch political elites and administrative elites differ in their interpretation and prioritization of public values?


Based on coding and categorization of 65 interviews this article shows how government elites in advanced western democracies interpret and assess four crucial public values: responsiveness, expertise, lawfulness and transparency.


Political elites and administrative elites in the Netherlands are more similar than different in their prioritization and perceptions of public values. Differences are strongly related to role conceptions and institutional responsibilities, which are more traditional than most recent literature on politico-administrative dynamics would suggest.

Research limitations/implications

Our qualitative findings are hard to generalize to larger populations of politicians and public managers in the Netherlands, let alone beyond the Netherlands. However, the testable research hypotheses we derive from our explorative study merit future testing among larger populations of respondents in different countries through survey research.

Practical implications

Experienced values differences between both groups are smaller than their mutual perceptions would suggest.


Most research on public values is quantitative in nature and focuses exclusively on public managers. By adding the politician to the equation we improve our understanding of how public values are enacted in real life and set the tone for a more inclusive research agenda on public values.




The author is grateful to the Netherlands Institute of Government; without its support, this study would not have been possible. In addition, the author is indebted to all of the respondents who participated in the study.


van der Wal, Z. (2014), "Harmony in Hierarchy? How Politicians and Public Managers Prioritize Crucial Public Values", Public Value Management, Measurement and Reporting (Studies in Public and Non-Profit Governance, Vol. 3), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 243-268.



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