Paola Mattei
From Politics to Good Management? Transforming the Local Welfare State in Italy

West European Politics, 2007: 30, issue 3, pp. 595-620

In light of recent welfare reforms associated with new forms of managerial and financial accountability, this paper analyses the significance for the construction of new legitimate forms of governance of the relationship between public managers of welfare provider units and local elected politicians. The shift from local government as democratic representative institutions to depoliticised efficient agent of welfare provision has created in Italy the opportunity for the emergence of a new cadre of managers, less subject to interference by the parties. The increasingly problematic relationship between managers and politicians reflects the dynamics of a shifting game, originally intended for sector-specific interests, that was later transformed into a struggle between political elites across territory and about territorial politics. Any set of alternatives juxtaposing efficient management and politics is best viewed by taking account of the significance of local welfare institutions for political legitimacy.