The Language of Public Administration: Bureaucracy, Modernity, and Postmodernity

The Language of Public Administration: Bureaucracy, Modernity, and Postmodernity

The Language of Public Administration: Bureaucracy, Modernity, and Postmodernity

The Language of Public Administration: Bureaucracy, Modernity, and Postmodernity

Synopsis

This original study specifies a reflexive language paradigm for public administration thinking and shows how a postmodern perspective permits a revolution in the character of thinking about public bureaucracy. The author considers imagination, deconstruction, deterritorialization, and alterity. Farmer's work emphasizes the need for an expansion in the character and scope of public administration's disciplinary concerns and shows clearly how the study and practice of public administration can be reinvigorated.

Excerpt

Coping with the practical problems of bureaucracy is hampered by the limited self-conception and the constricted mind-set of mainstream public administration thinking. Modernist public administration theory, although valuable and capable of producing even more remarkable results, is limiting as an explanatory and catalytic force in resolving fundamental problems about the nature, size, scope, and functioning of public bureaucracy and in transforming public bureaucracy into a more positive force.

This study specifies a reflexive language paradigm for public administration thinking. The paradigm is used to provide insights on public administration from the modern and postmodern perspectives. A major finding is that modernist public administration theory (as science, as technology, as enterprise, and as interpretation) encounters crippling dead-ends. The situation is aggravated by the limited scope of the discipline. The study shows how the postmodern perspective permits a revolution in the character of thinking about public bureaucracy, and this is explored by considering imagination, deconstruction, deterritorialization, and alterity. The language of public administration, as distinct from its modernist manifestation, does not face dead-ends.

The study implies the need for an expansion in the character and scope of public administration's disciplinary concerns. It implies that public administration research and discourse can have more long-term and fundamental benefits by strengthening the link between practical concerns and philosophical perspectives. It illustrates, for instance, how consciousness of the impact of our conceptual frameworks can permit theorists and practitioners to struggle away from a unidimensional and distorted understanding of public bureaucracy. It shows how the study and practice of public administration can be reinvigorated.

Acknowledgments

In writing any serious book on public administration, it is worth repeating that primary acknowledgment must be given to the practitioners and thinkers from whom one has learned. Despite barbs and criticisms hurled against public employees, public service is, in my view, an eminently worthwhile calling. I am proud to . . .

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