We can learn a great deal about a society from the words that crop up again and again in government policy documents, that are de rigueur in the top circles and that mark the insiders from the outsiders. In the 1980s, that language was the language of the market and those who wanted to get on in any sphere of public life went to business school to learn it. Every organisation got its ‘mission statement’; people who used to suffer poor quality public services suddenly became ‘customers’ — even those on welfare benefits, who were hardly in a position to exercise much choice. Public sector services were ‘outsourced’, bureaucracies were ‘downsized’, departments became ‘cost centres’. The development of a new approach to public management placed ‘performance’ and ‘efficiency’ at the top of the agenda.
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