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DEMOS-Demokratisk og effektiv styring, planlegging og forvaltning

The State as a Corporate Actor: Structural Choices, Historical Legacies, and Organisational Legitimation

Alternative title: Staten som bedriftsaktør: Strukturelle valg, historiske linjer og organisatorisk legitimering

Awarded: NOK 10.3 mill.

Governments may create corporate entities outside of their central government organization that includes ministries and agencies. In Norway and Sweden, a variety of such "corporate entities" exists and they engage in very different sectors and services, ranging from public infrastructure such as energy or telecommunications, to the alcohol monopoly and welfare services. Our project aims to study the emergence of these corporate organizations across these two countries and for a longer time period (1950 to 2020). We study the formal structure of these corporate entities and whether and which changes have been made to their structures. In addition, we are interested in the effects of such corporatization reforms on the legitimacy of governments' actions in the views of citizens or interest groups. We expect that governing parties matter, which are in office when such structural choices are made. At the same time, historical pathways may also influence when and how governments decide to create corporate entities or to change their formal set-up. In addition, we are interested in the effects of these corporatization patterns on the legitimacy of governments' decisions and actions, i.e. whether these are acceptable and appropriate in the views of citizens or interest groups such as trade unions and the like. In our project, we collect and use a range of data, we map the formal structures of the corporate entities based on the State Calendars in Norway and Sweden as well as official reports. Moreover, we will conduct case studies on selected cases of corporatization, in which we collect and utilize documents and conduct interviews with experts involved in these decisions, such as officials, interest group members, journalists etc. Lastly, we will also rely on existing data, e.g. on parliamentary debates, to study how former choices over corporate structures influence choices later on.

STATECORP analyses the relevance of structural choice politics and historical legacies for corporatisation patterns in Norway and Sweden (1950–2020) as well as their consequences for organisational legitimation. The project seeks to enhance our current understanding of corporatisation at the fringes of the public sector, bridging separate literatures and taking into account the multitude of actors that are activated in (and implicated by) these dynamics. By studying the causes of corporatisation and its consequences, especially for the organisational legitimation of corporate entities, the project adds to various scholarly debates and sheds light on an oftentimes overlooked yet arguably large part of the modern democratic state. STATECORP follows an inter-disciplinary approach and links explanatory theoretical perspectives on structural choice politics and historical legacies with an evaluative theory on organisational legitimation. It applies a mixed-method research design and combines state-of-the-art quantitative analyses with a set of historical case studies, inter alia based on extensive document analyses using also text-as-data techniques. The project generates knowledge and data relevant to various disciplines. Its findings inform debates on the structural dynamics of the democratic state and corporatisation as a key structural dynamic in the Scandinavian context, studying the importance of actors and their context as well as sectoral or organisational legacies. Likewise, its evaluative view on organisational legitimation examines how these corporate forms manage legitimation, i.e. performative, moral, technical, and legal reputation towards various audiences in society. Lastly, STATECORP provides actionable knowledge on corporatisation that is of direct use for those involved in these dynamics and their consequences.

Funding scheme:

DEMOS-Demokratisk og effektiv styring, planlegging og forvaltning