Change Calls Upon Public Administrators to Act, But in What Way? Exploring Administration as a Platform for Governance

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Administrative Theory & Praxis


An economy based on open and loose networks with information and big data platforms designed for sharing and hacking is being thrust upon us. How might this impact the way we govern and how administrative work gets done? When addressing public issues, administrators have always faced complexities of governance, including divergent structures and procedures. These are most apparent when administrators experience slippage among groups and between steps, lack clarity on responsibility, and uncover variations in assumptions about activities and goals. An anxious and confused public sector seeks clarity in the face of incoherent choices often associated with fundamental societal change. This can lead to noncongruent horizons of understanding that are “normal” (i.e., the way the system works), not aberrant (i.e., a scandal). Therefore, shared understanding and clear answers might not exist. Administrators may serve most efficiently by enacting authority that encourages debate, discussion, and deliberation. This paves the way for engaging the public by accepting that possible solutions: (1) exist somewhere in between and are situational; (2) are not “owned” by any one person and/or technology; and (3) require an interpretive dimension for learning and understanding. We argue that public administrators in an evolving economy are no longer merely rule or contract bearers, but instead agents of deliberation operating platforms for discovery. A multitude of necessary and relevant skills is associated within changing conditions; one we find most compelling involves enacting a hermeneutic mind.

Original Citation

Nicholas C. Zingale, Daniel Cook & Melanie Mazanec (2018) Change Calls Upon Public Administrators to Act, But in What Way? Exploring Administration as a Platform for Governance, Administrative Theory & Praxis, 40:3, 180-199, DOI: 10.1080/10841806.2018.1485447