Explaining the Persistence of Unprofessional Bureaucracy in a Modernising State:Romanian Exceptionalism

  • Irina Gheorghe-Common

Student thesis: Phd


There is a tendency in the international literature to generalise about developments and reforms in public administration across groups or types of country, often across those in close geographical proximity. Since the revolutions across Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) in the late 1980s, this tendency is revealed by various labels: 'transitory states', 'post-communist states', 'post-socialist states', which suggests that they all possess similar characteristics, and thus have similar administrative systems. Furthermore, many of these states are now members of the European Union (EU). However, the CEE countries are on differing reform trajectories; they have not all arrived at the same stage at the same time (some await EU membership; chiefly those in South East Europe). This thesis concentrates on Romania to provide a detailed analysis of its public administration trajectory and contends that is too simplistic to regard Romania as 'similar' to its CEE neighbours. Moreover, there is no definitive account of the development of public administration in the country, and this is one contribution that this thesis makes.The thesis engages with institutional theory; both historical and sociological, to provide a framework for analysing the present state of public administration in Romania, characterised as an 'unprofessional bureaucracy'. The thesis employs the concept of path dependency from the institutionalist framework to explain the lack of change in Romania despite apparently 'path breaking' events such as the revolution of 1989 and accession to the EU. The empirical research at the heart of the thesis is based on interviews with members of the bureaucratic and political elites of Romania. The resulting commentary also provides a further important contribution for the thesis as this is the first instance of academic research on public administration in Romania that harnesses such information. By definition, elite interviews are difficult to attain, especially within the political context of Romania. By using institutionalist theory, the thesis clearly explains the current state of public administration in the country, which is far removed from the idealised and internationalised approaches to administrative change typified by reform movements such as New Public Management and Governance.
Date of Award1 Aug 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorLeo Mccann (Supervisor) & Liz Richardson (Supervisor)


  • Romania; public administration; exceptionalism
  • path-dependency

Cite this