A Citizen's Guide to Public Administration
The History and Politics of Managing Public Affairs
Routledge – 2014 – 128 pages
What is public administration and what does it do? Though government bureaucracy is much maligned, could the modern state exist without it? Why is public administration and bureaucracy so misunderstood? By invoking enduring ideas about representation and democracy, Anthony Bertelli sheds light on these ellusive questions in a concise but nuanced narrative that relates the history of the modern bureaucratic state to contemporary efforts to treat government more like a business. The idea of a principal-agent relationship is the book's guiding theme to help readers understand the ongoing debates about how best to manage public affairs in a democracy.
Bertelli begins by explaining how a principal-agent relationship can describe the democratic connection between citizens and administrators through their elected representatives. He then confronts the question of efficiency by considering the experience of the New Public Management movement, which focused on introducing incentives and market competition into public management, in the United States and internationally. The book next turns to the political sport of big-government-bureaucracy-bashing and how it misinterprets modern public governance structures, explaining the latter as the essay progresses. The book concludes with a discussion of how contemporary public administration scholars and public intellectuals do not do an effective job of countering such arguments and how this was quite different in the work their counterparts before World War II. Public administration, Bertelli argues, has lost its pragmatism in the face of political attacks.
Anthony Bertelli holds the C.C. Crawford Chair in Management and Performance in the
School of Policy, Planning, and Development at the University of Southern California. His research interests converge on the role of political institutions in shaping public policy outcomes and organizational structures. His work has appeared in a variety of scholarly journals including the British Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Journal of Theoretical Politics, Political Studies, Public Administration Review, and Public Choice.