Arendt paints as the realm of necessity: fulfilling the requirements of life or mere existence not unlike those activities required of other species for base mundane survival. Politics, meaning discourse, occurs in the public sphere. Politics within the public sphere provides challenges whereby humans can achieve, nay become, something other than passive acquiescent beings. By this rendering, politics/discourse is heroic, agonistic (oppositional), and performative. As performative, discourse is not about some consensual process of discovering some preexisting harmonious truth, as Habermasian discourse theory might be interpreted to imply. From the viewpoint of the individual, it is a launching of oneself onto a public stage whereupon the individual will not so much find a self, but develop one in agonistic tension with similarly developing agonistic others. Consensus within a discourse, it follows, will never be complete; points of view will not swallow each other up.
Discourse theory is one of several alternative conceptualizations available to those attempting to develop a normative theory for public administration. One task incumbent on any such theory is to valorize the undeniable and irreducible exercise of discretion by nonelected public officials. Discourse theory is a strategy similar to Mary Parker Follett's "circular response" of individuals to each other and as parts of the group, for will formation. It is also close to the communitarian strategy to promote community/administrator interface as exemplified, for instance, by Terry L. Cooper in his An Ethic of Citizenship for Public Administration ( 1991). All such moves presuppose, often quite specifically, the incapacity of the current electoral representative practices to express the sovereign will of the people.
Perhaps the most fully developed use of discourse theory occurs in Charles J. Fox and Hugh T. Miller Postmodern Public Administration: Toward Discourse ( 1995). They hold out authentic discourse as both an alternative lens by which current practices might be more positively interpreted and as an in principle feasible ideal toward which those practices can be encouraged to strive. Those practices include interagency task forces, ad-hocracies, intergovernmental cooperative arrangements, policy networks, and so called "reg-neg" (regulation by negotiation). This favorable assessment is in stark opposition to mainstream political science interpretive schemes. The literature on iron triangles and sub-governments casts potentially discursive practices in a negative light. The iron triangle literature assumes the legitimacy and viability of the formal electoral representative system and regards informal policy-relevant discourse as a potential theft of sovereignty from the electorate. So from this overhead democracy point of view, the practices that Fox and Miller promote as benign appear to be malignant. Conversely, Fox and Miller use discourse to affirm a more interagency bottom-up concept of democracy. Such an interpretation is consistent with ethical exercise of discretion by nonelected public servants.
Discourse as an in principle feasible normative ideal is articulated by Fox and Miller through the concept of "warrants for discourse." These are specific extensions of Habermas's discursive validity claims. Specifically, authentic discourse about public policy and its implementation requires sincerity, situation-regarding intentionality, willing attention, and substantive contribution. The extent that these warrants are violated is the extent to which authentic discourse is not achieved. The warrants alert participants in public conversations to violations of commission and omission. Egoists and dissemblers are foiled by the requirement to be sincere. The merely self-aggrandizing are trumped by the standard of a higher public interest entailed in situation-regarding intentionality. The apathetic and inattentive are encouraged to become engaged lest the willing attention warrant be violated. Free riders will ultimately be shunned for violating the substantive contribution warrant. Warrants for discourse are presented as tough-minded normative standards, but they are selfenforcing, not rules enforced by some sort of discourse police. They are proffered as a corrective to the many instances of unauthentic manipulation that often pass for public policy will formation in these postmodern times.
CHARLES J. FOX AND HUGH T. MILLER
Arendt, Hannah, 1963. On Revolution. New York: Penguin.
Fox, Charles J. and Hugh T. Miller, 1995. Postmodern Public Administration: Toward Discourse. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Habermas, Jurgen, 1983. The Theory of Communicative Action. Boston: Beacon Press.
-----, 1989. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, trans. by Thomas Burger and Frederick G. Lawrence. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Villa, Dana R., 1992. "Postmodernism and the Public Sphere". American Political Science Review, vol. 86, no. 3 (September) 712-721.
DISCRIMINATION, AGE. Disparate, unfavorable, or inconsistent treatment of a individual in the United States over the age of forty with respect to compensation, terms or conditions of employment, or privileges of employment.
A broad network of programs addresses the special needs of the employed, unemployed, and unemployable aged population in American society, including the problem of age-based discrimination at work. President John F. Kennedy