What brings the state back in? An examination of contracting reversal

Wan Ju Hung, Jiahuan Lu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose: In recent years, there is a steady increase of studies documenting the emergence of “contracting back-in” in many countries around the world, that is, governments bringing previously contracted services back in-house and once again relying on public employees to deliver these services. Through a survey of the academic discourse on contracting back-in, this manuscript describes the phenomenon of contracting back-in and discusses its implications for “bringing the state back in”. Design/methodology/approach: The manuscript conducts a systematic review of existing literature on contracting back-in with a focus on the scope and rationale of contracting back-in. Findings: The existing literature demonstrates that contracting back-in is often as common as contracting out and can be found in a variety of countries and across different service areas. Existing studies also suggest that contracting back-in is driven by a mix of managerial, political, and environmental factors. The rise of contracting back-in could imply a revival of the administrative state in public governance and a more dynamic, potentially more complicated, system of public service delivery. Originality/value: The manuscript contributes to the special issue on “bringing the state back in” through the lens of government contracting. It adds a number of implications to the discussion on the emergence of the “new” administrative state and strategies to reinvent it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)441-462
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Public Sector Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 15 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Public Administration
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


  • Contracting back-in
  • Government contracting
  • Reverse contracting
  • Systematic review


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