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Resisting the Ascendancy of Public Management: Normative Theory and Public Administration

Camilla Stivers
Administrative Theory & Praxis
Vol. 22, No. 1 (Mar., 2000), pp. 10-23
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25611404
Page Count: 14
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Resisting the Ascendancy of Public Management: Normative Theory and Public Administration
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Abstract

Though the field of public administration has historically been grounded in a tension between a science-based quest for efficiency and the essentially contested questions that mark public life, this conceptual arena is under siege by adherents of public management, who reject "traditional" public administration in the way Herbert Simon did more than fifty years ago, and for similar reasons. Taking Dwight Waldo's position that public administration is fundamentally a theory of politics, this essay argues that while scientific knowledge has a place in the field, the quest for a science of management should not be permitted to occlude the political. It argues that normative theory points us in the direction of usable knowledge, a form that is neither pure science nor conventional wisdom, and concludes by suggesting a stance for normative theorists, one aimed a preserving the publicness of public administration.

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