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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.)

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. Monopoly power is easily abused. What institutions are necessary to protect against the abuse of the state’s monopoly on the use of force?
  4. 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?
  5. 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?
  6. 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?
  7. States will continue to adapt in response to changing circumstances. What institutions are necessary to assure that the process of adaptation proceeds smoothly?
  8. 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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