Confucian Ethics and the Limited Impact of the New Public Management Reform in Thailand

Journal of Business Ethics 97 (S1):61-73 (2010)
Abstract
The diffusion of New Public Management reforms across the globe is based on the assumption of the universal applicability of managerialism, driven by instrumental rationality, individualism, independence and competition. The aim of this article is to challenge this conception and to fill a significant gap in the existing research by analysing potential problems arising from the implementation of the NPM philosophy in non-Western public organisations. In-depth interviews and a large-scale survey were conducted across six public organisations in Thailand based on the Competing Values Framework (CVF). Thematic analysis of the data revealed that the traditional cultural model of the organisations studied was characterised by a combination of hierarchical and clan-based cultures, which remained largely unaltered despite massive-scale reform. The persistence of this hybrid cultural system appears to be rooted in the deep-seated Confucian ethical values governing Thai society, in which the organisations are embedded. Based on the research findings, the paper underlies the importance of a symbolist viewpoint of culture and argues that a rational perspective underpinning a functionalist cultural management must be challenged
Keywords Confucianism  Civil service  Thailand  New Public Management  Organisational culture
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