European Association for Public Administration Accreditation

IX. Working Group on Transition, Change and Uncertainty

WG Programme Coordinators:

György Gajduschek, Corvinus University, Budapest, Hungary


Eva Zemandl, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary


Countries of Central and Eastern Europe or post-communist countries are still frequently called "transition countries”, roughly a quarter of a century after the communist regime collapsed. This fact seems to refer to the high level of change and related uncertainty in accordance with the experience of scholars and ordinary people in the region. Our working group (WG) is devoted to change and uncertainty in public administration.

The classic bureaucratic theory (e.g. Weberian), of scholars examining development (e.g., Amsden et al., 1994; Evans, 1995; Evans & Rauch, 1999; Nelson, 1994), and transnational bodies (e.g., OECD and the EU) argue that economic development necessitates stable and professional administrative systems. Modern organisational theory, on the other hand, emphasises the importance of change (Shafritz – Ott 2001) in order to improve performance and ensure adaptation to a changing environment and client needs. The problem of change appears in political science under such titles as democratisation (Haerpfer 2011) or modernisation (Riggs 1971) and other types of institutional change (Rothstein in Badie et al 2011) as well. Naturally, the most adequate literature for our interest is that on "transition”, referring typically to a triple transition (Offe-Adler 1991; Elster et al 1998) from the communist to a democratic, capitalist regime. From an administrative point of view, the main question may be, how much and what type of change is needed, and what is the level of uncertainty that endangers effectiveness and the quality of public administration? More specifically, in this WG we are looking for answers to the following questions:

1) Is there indeed a significantly higher level of change and subsequent uncertainty in the CEE region? – Our hypothesis is that there is a much higher level of change and uncertainty in the region than in Western countries. Papers that engage with this hypothesis are most welcome.

2) Is there a linear relationship between the amount of change and the level of uncertainty; or alternatively, some types of change may cause less uncertainty than others? – Our hypothesis is that some types of changes (e.g. change decided in a deliberative process, or change that fits to a longer, strategic plan) may cause less uncertainty than others. Papers that engage with this hypothesis are most welcome.

3) What are the potential causes of frequently large-sale changes in the region?

4) What are the identifiable effects of these changes?

The first session of this WG took place at the 22nd NISPAcee conference in 2014. Since then, several papers dealt with specific cases of change and/or uncertainty in various post-communist countries. Additionally, a few papers were devoted to more general, theoretical issues regarding the central problem of this WG. Most of these papers are now accessible via NISPAcee’s conference proceedings in electronic format.

For the 24th Conference, we are looking for papers that address directly at least one of the above four questions, ideally combining theoretical considerations with empirical evidence. Comparative papers are especially welcome.