Postmodern Public Administration
Charles J. Fox
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This widely acclaimed work provides a lively counterbalance to the standard assessment-measurement-accountability prescriptions that have made showing you did your job more important than actually doing it. Now extensively revised, it articulates a postmodern theory of public administration that challenges the field to redirect its attention away from narrow, technique-oriented scientism, and toward democratic openness and ethics.The authors incorporate insights from thinkers like Rorty, Giddens, Derrida, and Foucault to recast public administration as an arena of decentered practices. In their framework, ideographic collisions and everyday impasses bring about political events that challenge the status quo, creating possibilities for social change. "Postmodern Public Administration" is an outstanding intellectual achievement that has rewritten the political theory of public administration. This new edition will encourage everyone who reads it to think quite differently about democratic governance.
than spoken in a normal tone of voice. This may seem odd, because a classical liberal might find herself ideologically close to those in the United States who nowadays are identified as neoconservatives or probusiness right-wingers. This is not so much irony as custom. In the United States, the image of a liberal is someone who supports the welfare state, including Social Security, public education, some kind of nationalized health care system, as well as “big government,” civil rights, and equal
contingency and surprise. Many niggling quarrels— such as the exclusion of dedicated state and local civil servants, the elitism implied by the role of the “upper reaches” of the civil service for which Rohr proposes a senatorial role—could (but won’t) be picked. Other more substantive objections that we share with others (such as Stivers’s  charge of instrumentalism of the founders, or P. Cooper’s  demur relating to agencies’ actual performance) need not be repeated here.
The latter point is the more important one for our consideration, because the American legal system from that point on overtly recognized entities such as corporations as citizens, for most intents and purposes. In 1978 this corporate right of free speech was extended to allow corporations to influence electoral ballot questions, in First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a majority opinion written by Justice Lewis Powell, overruled the Massachusetts Su-
double-slit experiment is well-known among physicists: Imagine a panel with two slits in it, standing in front of a screen. If one of the slits is closed, light enters through the other slit, and a corresponding distribution of light can be observed on the screen. If both slits are opened, the light particles hitting the screen manifest something more peculiar in the aggregate than two distribution patterns summed. A different pattern appears, one that seems impossible if light were truly
directing energy toward the problematic situation. We propose the event, or the impasse, as a concept that presages the paradigmatic shift away from traditional public administration entities such as bureaucracy and organization. The Momentous Event Our ontological redescription takes a radical turn. Policy discourse takes place within the context of ongoing recursive practices—usually it is proposed that some social institution (set of recursive practices) be altered, adjusted, or created anew.