Date01 July 2014
Published date01 July 2014
Book Reviews 545
Jarle Trondal is professor in the
Department of Political Science and
Management at the University of Agder,
Norway, and the ARENA Centre for
European Studies, University of Oslo,
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 74, Iss. 4, pp. 545–549. © 2014 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
DOI: 10.1111/puar.12252.
less toward the ef‌f ects of agencif‌i cation (e.g., Pollitt et
al. 2004). Moreover, to the extent that this literature
has explored the ef‌f ects of agencif‌i cation, organiza-
tion structures, procedures, and legal capacities have
served as key independent variables. A comprehensive
understanding of agencif‌i cation needs to bring several
literatures together. Government Agencies contributes
to rebalancing an overly legal bias in much of the
agency literature.
is book review asks three sets of questions:
1. What is agencif‌i cation?
2. What explains agencif‌i cation?
3. What implications does agencif‌i cation yield?
What Is Agencif‌i cation?
Historically, ministerial portfolios have been arranged
either as “integrated ministries,” meaning that a
ministerial portfolio constitutes a unitary organiza-
tion, or as vertically specialized structures, meaning
that a portfolio is split into a ministerial, or cabinet-
level, department, on the one hand, and one or more
separate agencies, on the other (Verhoest et al. 2012,
3). Over time, agencies seem to have been moved
out of and into ministerial departments, often in a
cyclical manner (Aucoin 1990; Hood and Jackson
1991; Pollitt 2008; Verhoest, Bouckaert, and Peters
2007). By an “agency,” we mean an administrative
body that is formally separated from a ministerial,
or cabinet-level, department and that carries out
public tasks at a national level on a permanent basis,
is staf‌f ed by public servants, is f‌i nanced mainly by the
state budget, and is subject to public legal procedures.
Agencies are supposed to enjoy some autonomy from
their respective ministerial departments in regard to
decision making (Verhoest et al. 2012). However,
the respective ministers normally keep the political
responsibility for agencies’ activities (cf. Pollitt and
Talbot 2004). “Agencif‌i cation” thus signif‌i es a transfer
of government activities to bodies vertically special-
ized outside ministerial departments. Related to the
NPM movement, governments across continents have
Koen Verhoest, Sandra Van  iel, Geert Bouckaert, and
Per Lægreid, eds., Government Agencies: Practices
and Lessons from 30 Countries (Basingstoke, UK:
Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). 496 pp. $170.00 (cloth),
ISBN: 9780230354357; $54.00 (paper), ISBN:
One persistent theme in public administration
is whether a government portfolio should
be organized as an integrated ministry or
as a dual organization composed of a ministerial
department and one or several semidetached agen-
cies (Verhoest et al. 2012). “Agencif‌i cation” has been
high on the agenda of administrative policy makers
for two decades, partly because of the New Public
Management (NPM) wave. Two decades of NPM
reforms have made the agencif‌i cation phenomenon
highly topical and attracted considerable scholarly
attention. After at least two decades of agencif‌i cation
research, it is time to take stock. Our starting point
for doing so is Government Agencies: Practices and
Lessons from 30 Countries, edited by Koen Verhoest,
Sandra Van  iel, Geert Bouckaert, and Per Lægreid.
Essentially, this book of‌f ers a state-of-the-art account
of agencif‌i cation. One ambition of this book review is
to bring two literatures together that are often mutu-
ally ignorant: public administration and European
studies. Whereas most studies on agencif‌i cation
have ignored this, the book under review represents
an attempt to advance research along this line. Still,
the European dimension receives scant attention in
this study.  is book review highlights a broader set
of implications of agencif‌i cation, particularly with
respect to (1) political steering and autonomy and (2)
the rise of multilevel administration.
Students of agencif‌i cation have focused on the causes
of agencif‌i cation as well as its consequences (e.g.,
Christensen and Lægreid 2006; Lægreid and Verhoest
2010; Pollitt and Bouckaert 2004; Pollitt et al. 2004).
One noticeable bias in this literature is that the vast
majority of the “agencif‌i cation” scholarship is geared
toward administrative history, reform, and change and
Agencif‌i cation
Sonia M. Ospina and Rogan Kersh, Editors
Jarle Trondal
University of Agder, Norway
University of Oslo, Norway

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