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Monastic governance: forgotten prospects for public institutions


Inauen, Emil; Rost, Katja; Frey, Bruno S; Homberg, Fabian; Osterloh, Margit (2010). Monastic governance: forgotten prospects for public institutions. American Review of Public Administration, 40(6):631-653.

Abstract

To overcome agency problems, public sector reforms started to introduce businesslike incentive structures to motivate public officials. By neglecting internal behavioral incentives, however, these reforms often do not reach their stated goals. Our research analyzes the governance structure of Benedictine monasteries in order to gain new insights into solving agency problems in public institutions. A comparison is useful because members of both organizational forms, public organizations and monasteries, see themselves as responsible participants in their community and claim to serve the public good. We study monastic governance from an economic perspective. Benedictine monasteries in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, and German-speaking Switzerland have an average lifetime of almost 500 years, and only a quarter of them broke up because of agency problems. We argue that they were able to survive for centuries due to an appropriate governance structure, relying strongly on the intrinsic motivation of the members and internal control mechanisms. This governance approach differs in several aspects from current public sector reforms.

JEL Classification: D73, G3, Z12, H83

Keywords: Public Governance, New Public Management, Public Sector Reform, Psychological Economics, Agency Problems, Monasteries, Benedictine Order

To overcome agency problems, public sector reforms started to introduce businesslike incentive structures to motivate public officials. By neglecting internal behavioral incentives, however, these reforms often do not reach their stated goals. Our research analyzes the governance structure of Benedictine monasteries in order to gain new insights into solving agency problems in public institutions. A comparison is useful because members of both organizational forms, public organizations and monasteries, see themselves as responsible participants in their community and claim to serve the public good. We study monastic governance from an economic perspective. Benedictine monasteries in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, and German-speaking Switzerland have an average lifetime of almost 500 years, and only a quarter of them broke up because of agency problems. We argue that they were able to survive for centuries due to an appropriate governance structure, relying strongly on the intrinsic motivation of the members and internal control mechanisms. This governance approach differs in several aspects from current public sector reforms.

JEL Classification: D73, G3, Z12, H83

Keywords: Public Governance, New Public Management, Public Sector Reform, Psychological Economics, Agency Problems, Monasteries, Benedictine Order

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Business Administration
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Language:English
Date:2010
Deposited On:11 Feb 2011 11:59
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 14:43
Publisher:Sage Publications
Publisher DOI:10.1177/0275074009360372
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-44779

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