Beyond citizens and consumers? Publics and public service reform

Clarke, John (2009). Beyond citizens and consumers? Publics and public service reform. The NISPAcee Journal of Public Administration and Policy, 2(2) pp. 33–44.



In this article I explore some of the issues associated with the rise of the consumer as a focal point for public service reform. In the first section, I consider the ways in which the consumer has been counterposed to the citizen in recent political developments, while suggesting that this opposition may conceal other important processes and identities. In the second section, I sketch a brief history of the image of the consumer in public service reform in the UK, particularly associated with the New Labour governments of 1997-2010. Following that, I draw on a research project conducted among users, workers and managers in three public services in the UK. Here I focus on how users identify themselves and their relationships to public services. What, I ask, is the significance of their reluctance to see themselves as either consumers or citizens? Finally, I ask what their alternative identifications might point to as principles for organising public services.

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