Revisiting Waldo's Administrative State

Constancy and Change in Public Administration

by David H. Rosenbloom,

Series: Public Management and Change series

The prevailing notion that the best government is achieved through principles of management and business practices is hardly new—it echoes the early twentieth-century "gospel of efficiency" challenged by Dwight Waldo in 1948 in his pathbreaking book, The Administrative State. Asking, "Efficiency for what?", Waldo warned that public administrative efficiency must be backed by a framework of consciously held democratic values.

Revisiting Waldo's Administrative State brings together a group of distinguished authors who critically explore public administration's big ideas and issues and question whether contemporary efforts to "reinvent government," promote privatization, and develop new public management approaches constitute a coherent political theory capable of meeting the complex challenges of governing in a democracy. Taking Waldo's book as a starting point, the authors revisit and update his key concepts and consider their applicability for today.

The book follows Waldo's conceptual structure, first probing the material and ideological background of modern public administration, problems of political philosophy, and finally particular challenges inherent in contemporary administrative reform. It concludes with a look ahead to "wicked" policy problems—such as terrorism, global warming, and ecological threats—whose scope is so global and complex that they will defy any existing administrative structures and values. Calling for a return to conscious consideration of democratic accountability, fairness, justice, and transparency in government, the book's conclusion assesses the future direction of public administrative thought.

This book can stand alone as a commentary on reconciling democratic values and governance today or as a companion when reading Waldo's classic volume.

In The Press

The book's major strength lies in its application of public administration theories to tomorrow's social problems that we, as a planetary society, have not widely discussed . . . [it] advances Waldo's work into the twenty-first century and serves as an excellent graduate text in public administration theory or as a supplement in an introductory course.

About The Author

David H. Rosenbloom is a Distinguished Professor of Public Administration in the School of Public Affairs at American University. He is the author of Administrative Law for Public Managers and coauthor of several books including Public Administration: Understanding Management, Politics, and Law in the Public Sector and A Reasonable Public Servant. He is the recipient of the 2001 John Gaus Award for Exemplary Scholarship in the Joint Tradition of Political Science and Public Administration and the 1999 Dwight Waldo Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Literature of Public Administration.

Howard E. McCurdy is a professor of public administration in the School of Public Affairs at American University. He is the author of several books including Space and the American Imagination and Faster, Better, Cheaper: Low Cost Innovation in the U.S. Space Program. He is the recipient of the Henry Adams Prize and the Eugene M. Emme Astronautical Literature Award.