Eight questions that Public Management can’t answer
Here is a working list of critical questions in Public Administration that Public Management, as a domain of research, generally does not ask and cannot answer. A first cut — and open for comments below! (This is tied to the panel discussion on Public Management and the State at the upcoming PMRA conference. A set of short papers for this panel will be published by Governance in April and has informed this list.)
- Before we can think about the efficient exercise of public power, there must be a state with undisputed control of territory — in Weber’s words, there must be a monopoly on the use of force. What institutions are necessary for this monopoly to be maintained?
- Sometimes states cannot establish durable monopolies on the use of force over the whole of their territory. Is it possible to continue delivering services under such conditions?
- Monopoly power is easily abused. What institutions are necessary to protect against the abuse of the state’s monopoly on the use of force?
- As a practical matter, states cannot wield power effectively unless rulers are generally regarded as legitimate holders of power. What methods — other than satisfaction with service delivery — can be used to maintain legitimacy?
- Specific agencies and programs implicitly rely on a larger infrastructure, such as (1) institutions for taxing, borrowing, and expenditure control; (2) institutions for gathering data about social and economic conditions; (3) institutions to protect against capture by political parties, economic actors, and families or ethnic groups; and (4) institutions to punish non-compliance with governmental directives. How is this infrastructure built and maintained? What happens if it is neglected?
- The scope of state action is constantly changing. This is evidenced by the growing typology of states — the night-watchman state, the positive state, the welfare state, the garrison state, the neoliberal state, the regulatory state, the post-Westphalian state, and so on. Each type of state has a distinctive architecture and poses distinct management challenges. But why does the scope of the state vary?
- States will continue to adapt in response to changing circumstances. What institutions are necessary to assure that the process of adaptation proceeds smoothly?
- Sometimes extraordinary conditions require a suspension of the normal processes of government. Countries enter a “state of emergency” or “state of exception,” either explicitly or implicitly (as the United States did after 9/11). What institutions are necessary to assure an appropriate transition into and out of a state of emergency? How does the task of management change during a state of emergency?
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