The Prospects for Revitalizing Ethics in a New Governance Era

Guy B. Adams and Danny L. Balfour

in The Oxford Handbook of American Bureaucracy

Published in print October 2010 | ISBN: 9780199238958
Published online January 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of American Politics

The Prospects for Revitalizing Ethics in a New Governance Era

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This article starts by describing public service ethics within the general context of ethics itself and how the dominant culture of technical rationality in the United States has contributed to the disconnection between ethical theory and ethical practice in American bureaucracy. Professionalism appears to be a source of ethical standards for organizational practice. It then describes how and why the decline of the nation state and the rise of the market state have helped to exacerbate this disconnection, most especially by adding economic rationality to the ethical limitations afforded by technical rationality. A review of public service ethics in the nation state offers a mixed picture at best, one contributing perhaps to both the rise and fall of the nation state. Next, the article shows the complicity of academic research in perpetuating the ethical theory/ethical practice disconnection by marginalizing the study of public service ethics.

Keywords: public service ethics; governance; United States; technical rationality; American bureaucracy; professionalism; market; economic rationality

Article.  8629 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Public Administration ; Public Policy

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