Marketization trajectories in the Danish road and park sectors: A story of incremental institutional change

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Purpose – The article’s purpose is to improve the understanding of the evolution of marketization in the public sector as a process of institutional change.
Design/methodology/ approach – The article is based on a study of marketization and gradual changes in the involvement of private contractors (as providers of maintenance services) in the municipal road and park sectors in Denmark over the past 30 years. The study draws theoretically on historical institutionalism as an interpretive framework and empirically on findings from earlier research, register data from municipal accounts as well as new survey data.
Findings – Marketization within the road and park sectors has historically taken place through gradual changes, in particular by processes of layering and displacement, which has added up to substantial transformations in both sectors. Transformations relate to the levels of private sector involvement, the purpose of using private contractors, the extent of competition and the design of contractual arrangements. The road sector has been a frontrunner in this marketization process, while the park sector increasingly has been “catching up.”
Originality/value – The article contributes to the understanding of the historical development and differential pathways of marketization within the public sector. In particular, our study highlights how pathways of gradual change, spurred by the influx of long-term policy pressures, over time can lead to substantial institutional transformations.
TidsskriftInternational Journal of Public Sector Management
Udgave nummer5
StatusUdgivet - 2016


  • Contracting out
  • Historical institutionalism
  • Local governments
  • Marketization
  • Parks
  • Public sector reform
  • Roads


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