An Inclusive Democratic Polity, Representative Bureaucracies, and the New Public Management

By Kelly, Rita Mae | Public Administration Review, May-June 1998 | Go to article overview

An Inclusive Democratic Polity, Representative Bureaucracies, and the New Public Management


Kelly, Rita Mae, Public Administration Review


Public administration scholars separate over whether the public bureaucracy of the democratic polity ought to be the starting point of public administration scholarship. Dwight Waldo (1948). John J. Kirlin (1996), and Vincent Ostrom (1997) among others, have argued that the democratic polity needs preference and that focusing predominantly on improving efficiency of administrative processes can in fact harm the very polity that such improvements are supposed to help. Procedural due process, substantive rights, equity. and protection of minority rights as well as equal opportunity arid equality among citizens are values that have precedence over efficiency. They argue, and I agree, that a particular public bureaucracy or administrative structure is embedded within a particular political socioeconomic system. If the result desired is an inclusive, democratic polity, then these organizations ought to be grounded in theories, assumptions, and understandings of reality that advance knowledge of, and give direction toward, attaining such a polity.

Grounded in rational choice and public choice and containing elements of Total Quality Management (TQM), the New Public Management (NPM) seeks to offer more efficient mechanisms for delivering goods and services and for raising governmental performance levels. Such a goal would appear to be highly commendable and desired by all citizens. As Parsons, Merrick, and Watson (1996, 26) in their study of Deep South mayors note, "The social contract, in large part, is about the equitable distribution of city resources." The Civil Rights Movement concerned equal services in terms of sewers, paved roads, and street lights as well as equality in voting, jobs, and education.

The purpose of this article is to examine the implications of the new public management movement for representative bureaucracies and the development of an inclusive democratic polity. In examining these matters, I will first define an inclusive democratic polity and examine the extent to which the theory and assumptions that undergird the New Public Management are likely to provide guidance to those implementing it should they wish to promote an inclusive democratic polity. Since the NPM is largely derived from rational choice and public choice theories, I will focus primarily on them.

However, I will also note briefly how TQM has modified these theories. After assessing these theoretical issues, I will then discuss the meaning and rationale for a representative bureaucracy. Once these basic concepts are articulated, I will suggest how a representative bureaucracy might assist in resolving the problems facing the NPM as the result of trying to apply private sector and market concepts to the public sector.

Advancement of an Inclusive Democratic Polity

Basic Definition

Stated most simply, an inclusive democratic polity is one that provides all its adult, mentally competent citizens with full rights, duties, and responsibilities and a sense of belonging as an equal partner entitled to the benefits and burdens society offers. It is a political entity that consciously strives for human development, dignity, liberty with responsibility, and justice for all. It is an open society grounded in action research and evolutionary learning in which relationships and dynamic contexts matter as well as individuals and groups. In the United States this society needs to work within the framework of the U.S. Constitution and a republican form of government. It is a society in which the people share, as Alexis de Tocqueville, Vincent Ostrom, and Harold Lasswell have suggested, a body of common knowledge grounded in a shared community of understanding with a degree of trust in each other and in the political system, of which the government is an important but not the total part. There is also basic clarity about the place: its material conditions, technological levels, and the nature of national goals. …

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An Inclusive Democratic Polity, Representative Bureaucracies, and the New Public Management
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