The idea of “pragmatism” provides a successful account explaining why municipalities re-internalize previously privatized responsibilities for service delivery. This paper develops the idea by accounting for remunicipalization in contexts defined by failures with service innovation – rather than delivery – under privatization. This account highlights remunicipalization as an act of public entrepreneurship and offers a complementary explanation for the dynamics in local service restructuring. Analytical utility is demonstrated in a case study of the restructuring of local energy supply in Aalborg Municipality, Denmark. In perspective, the paper refines the understanding of contexts, behaviours, and dynamics leading to remunicipalizations in the twenty-first century.
Introduction of public policies calling for new service innovations in situations where service delivery is privatized can lead to unforeseen public-value failures, i.e. failures to invest in and deliver services in compliance with broader public values
Remunicipalization driven by public entrepreneurship offers a pragmatic response to situations where calls for service innovation under privatized delivery results in public-value failures.
To enable public entrepreneurship, municipalities must nurture capacities and a willingness to search for and invest in innovative solutions under conditions of substantial uncertainty about institutional conditions and feasible technologies from a long-term perspective.