Construction and effects of markets in a local authority in New Zealand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to make intelligible the rationalities and mechanisms through which markets have been proffered as alternatives or complements to traditional welfare-based provision and the effect of this development on the subjectivity of workers. Design/methodology/approach - The research involved collection of archival data, personal encounters and in-depth interviews with managers, staff and elected representatives at a local authority in New Zealand. Michel Foucault's concept of governmentality is mobilised to interpret these data. Findings - The paper finds that the mandatory changes required by legislation are associated with efforts to constitute local authority workers as business-like subjects through disciplinary mechanisms and technologies of the self. While markets have permeated this local authority, with some managers and staff claiming to work in a business-like manner and transact with each other as customers, these discourses have not vanquished the traditional concern of working for one organisation to serve the community. Research limitations/implications - While the results of this study are not generalisable to other contexts, they show how the introduction of New Public Management in a specific context is associated with a contest between the traditional discourses of community and public service, and the more recent ones of enterprise and customer. The paper illuminates the pathologies associated with these new technologies and how their implementation is often divergent from the rationalities in the name of which they are promoted. Practical implications - The paper will contribute to ongoing debate on how best to deliver public goods and services and especially, the limits and potential of markets. Originality/value - The paper's mobilisation of Foucault's governmentality framework in the study of a local authority case study in a contemporary setting is relatively unusual.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1055-1086
Number of pages32
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Local government
  • Markets
  • New Zealand
  • Public sector organizations
  • Public sector reform

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)


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