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Iraq’s tough governance setting: Examining the importance of self-sacrifice over institutions to public service motivation

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Public service motivation (PSM) is understudied within ‘tough governance settings’ such Iraq’s, as it transitioned from dictatorship to democracy amidst civil unrest. Debates surrounding a universal construct of PSM currently focus on whether a love of public institutions is an essential component, or if measures of self-sacrifice will suffice. Results from a multidimensional PSM measure previously utilized in western settings are used here in Iraq. The results demonstrate that items from typical PSM dimensions remain in the model, but the pro-social, self-sacrifice dimension is the only reliable subscale. Reinforcing a pro-social foundation of PSM, a pro-social unidimensional measure fits the data well and respondents themselves define ‘public service’ in pro-social terms. Showing little connection to institutions, PSM in Iraq correlates with public servants determining the public interest based on their knowledge of their communities and of citizens and less on professional expertise, adopted plans or on guidance from elected officials. Contrary to reports of a divided Iraq, PSM scores are similar across regions. These insights have implications for PSM measurement, governance choices in developing countries, and comparative public administration research.
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Keywords: Iraq; comparative public administration; institutions; public interest; public service; public service motivation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: 0000000121088169University of Baghdad 2: 0000000121060692University of Kansas 3: 0000000419368294University of Iowa

Publication date: September 1, 2019

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  • The¬†Journal of Contemporary Iraq & the Arab World¬†is a peer-reviewed journal devoted to the study of the contemporary Middle East and Arab public sphere. Publishing works in both English and Arabic, the journal engages arts and culture, politics, history and economics as they address real world problems across the modern states and mosaic of cultures connected to the Middle East region. JCI&AW works to provide a platform by conveying prominent and emergent new voices in the field as well as by highlighting the relevance of evolving topics and questions of research in the scholarship of Middle Eastern and Iraq Studies.
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