Young Loyalties: Loyalty Conceptions and Loyalty Conflicts of Young Dutch and English Public Administrators

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Anneke Twijnstra
Gjalt De Graaf


Public administrators nowadays find themselves in a differentiated polity, which affects them in many ways. Images of the new public administrator clash with the classic images of the ‘old’ one: the public administrator who neutrally and obediently carries out orders of elected politicians. Since Weber, many interesting studies have been done on the separation between administration and politics. In this literature it becomes clear that public administrators today serve many masters, not just politicians. Do any of the interests of their masters contradict each other? Among the various objects of loyalty—colleagues, the public good, administrators’ consciences, administrators’ organizations, the law, the organizations’ clients, and elected officials—where do the loyalties of young public administrators lie? In this study we focus on the loyalties young public administrators, that is, on the future of governance. Generational differences could have implications for, for example, recruitment, training and development, rewards and working arrangements, and management styles. To answer the research questions, we conducted an international comparative study. Twenty young English administrators and 20 young Dutch administrators Q sorted statements on their loyalties. The answer to our main research question turns out to be a mix of all possible loyalties. Our results describe five conceptions of loyalty. These results are compared to previous Q studies on the loyalties of older Dutch administrators and to a recent comparative Q study on English and Dutch administrators’ democratic subjectivities. We found two typical Dutch loyalty conceptions and two typical English loyalty conceptions. Finally, we found that different loyalty conceptions mean different loyalty conflicts.

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Twijnstra, A., & De Graaf, G. (2013). Young Loyalties: Loyalty Conceptions and Loyalty Conflicts of Young Dutch and English Public Administrators. Operant Subjectivity, 36(2). Retrieved from