chapter  10
Central agencies in Sweden
A report from Utopia
ByJon Pierre
Pages 12

Much of the recent restructuring of government in Western Europe has been aimed at separating policy and operations. The preferred strategy to accomplish this goal has been the creation of agencies, operating at armslength distance from policy makers, and making these agencies the key operative structure of central government. As other chapters in this volume substantiate, the agency concept has quickly gained massive popularity, not least because they are seen as the epitome of the autonomous operative arm of government (see also Pollitt et al. 2001). The Swedish system of government probably became somewhat of a role model in this type of administrative reform. Having had agencies in place for centuries, Sweden provided a natural point of departure for an investigation of what could be gained from creating agencies and the institutional and political consequences of such structures on government more broadly. It should therefore be a sobering thought to the advocates of agencification to learn that the past 15 or so years has seen a recurrent debate in Sweden on whether this institutional arrangement is conducive to the role of government in contemporary governance (see Pierre 1995).