Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Reconsidering Fabricating the People: A Reply to the Symposium Contributors

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Reconsidering Fabricating the People: A Reply to the Symposium Contributors

Article excerpt

I want to thank the contributors to this symposium for generously giving their time and insight to this discussion of the book, Fabricating the People: Politics and Administration in the Biopolitical State. Alexander Kouzmin, initiated this symposium several years ago. He died at his home in Australia as the symposium (among Alex's very many projects) was in process. This was a saddening, significant personal loss to those, like me, who knew Alex; to say nothing of the professional and intellectual loss his death has meant to public administration and critical management studies. In this context, I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the contributors for their thoughtful papers. I am indebted, most especially, to Kym Thorne, who was indefatigable in his commitment to carrying the symposium forward in Alex's memory. PAQ's editor, Aaron Wachhaus, has my sincere appreciation for his enthusiasm about the project and patience in waiting for the collection to be completed. The symposium also benefitted from the insight of an exceptional group of reviewers, and I thank them as well.

The papers in this symposium are provocative and raise compelling issues about the book. They reveal a close, sometimes intimate, familiarity with the text and have inspired me to read the book with fresh eyes and renewed enthusiasm. I cannot reply to all of the essays with the depth each warrants and so commend each to the reader's attention for closer study and to assess the quality of my own engagement with them. Here I address some of the major questions that the papers raise and areas that, I think, are most instructive in clarifying the book's aims. Before giving each essay focused-attention, I will briefly sketch the context within which the book was written and describe how this context shaped its purposes. In the process, I consider a couple of issues that cut across the contributions.

CONTEXT AND GENERAL AIMS

The book originated within the "Blacksburg tradition" as an inquiry into the legitimacy question in public administration (e.g, McSwite, 1997; Rohr, 1986; Stivers, 1993; Wamsley et al., 1990). Contra the Blacksburg tradition, my intent was not to attempt to legitimize the administrative state or offer a normative theory that would do so. Rather, I wanted to offer a critical, historical account of the emergence of the modern field and institutions of public administration and to show the eclipse of those conditions in order to demonstrate the limits of the field's practical and academic legitimation efforts. The book's analysis sought to offer a very different account of "public administration," one informed by reconsideration of the development of the practices of "government" (Foucault, 1979/1991), the relationship between society and state, the production of social order, and the field's problematic, unanalyzed relationship to popular sovereignty. Notwithstanding its limitations, I think the book largely succeeded.

We use the tools we have available to make things. For me, those intellectual tools at the time were the literatures of (post-)Structuralism, psychoanalytic theory, twentieth century Continental philosophy, and theoretically allied research from across the humanities and social sciences. More particularly, the book was in tacit conversation with another set of texts, most notably Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's (2000) Empire and Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe's (1985) Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. It was Hardt and Negri's critique of the People that prompted me to think about contemporary antigovernmental sentiment not in terms of normative or performative behavior but, as it were, as a "problem of the people" (Catlaw, 2009). However from my vantage in public administration, I did not feel that their book opened up clearly or easily enough into a truly alternative account of government and governing. Partly, I thought rightly or wrongly, this was because their Deleuzian approach lacked a useable theory of the human subject and basis for action and because their embrace of Deleuze's doctrine of the univocity of being baffled me (cf. …

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