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The search for consistency

An Introduction

Edoardo Ongaro

In this concluding chapter we review different conceptions of public administration – as practical wisdom, as practical experience, as scientific knowledge, or as an interpretivist venture from the multiple philosophical perspectives reported throughout the book. We also briefly consider some challenges posed by new technologies to public administration. The chapter then wraps up on the journey made throughout this book and recalls the main argument of this book: the enduring contribution that philosophical thought may furnish to public administration.

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Edoardo Ongaro

This chapter revisits a wide range of key themes in public administration and management in light of key philosophical ideas introduced in the previous chapters. Its thrust is making a contribution to bring fundamental issues of ontology, as arisen over the centuries in philosophical thought, into the public administration discourse. Themes discussed include the significance for foundational issues in public governance of the notion of the Kantian transcendental subject, critical realism and the continued significance of the system of the four causes as delineated by Aristotle for the study of public administration, relativism and postmodernism in contemporary public administration, positivism and neo-positivism in public administration, paths of application of existentialism, phenomenological thought, structuralism and Gramscian thought to contemporary public governance and administration, amongst others. Reflections are proposed about implications for public administration of different philosophical notions of ‘time’ and of the distinction between potentiality and actuality. Profiles of philosophy of knowledge (epistemology) for public administration are also discussed.

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Wolfgang Drechsler

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Edoardo Ongaro

This chapter discusses political philosophical issues for the field of public administration. It provides an overview of the foundational issues underlying all doctrines that have the ambition to suggest how the public sector and public services ought to be organised as part of the broader political system. The chapter reviews common good arguments and social contracts arguments, expanding the former to encompass utilitarianism and the latter to include Rawls’s account, and then further expanding to discuss whether personalism at least provides a partly alternative standpoint. It then discusses doctrines about public governance and public management – like the New Public Management, New Public Governance and others – in light of each of the justification arguments introduced. It is argued that the field of public administration would benefit from engaging in philosophical issues of justification and legitimacy of public governance and public services management.

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Edoardo Ongaro

This book provides a systematic introduction to the philosophical foundations of the study and the practice of public administration. It reviews all the main philosophical streams, from ancient Greek philosophy to the contemporary strands, and discusses their significance for public governance and public management. Ontological and epistemological issues are brought to the fore in discussing contemporary conceptions of the nature of public administration. The quest for justification and legitimacy of public governance is examined, and 'Common Good', 'Social contract' and 'Personalism' arguments vetted. The works of thinkers like Thomas More and Niccolò Machiavelli are revisited and the implications for contemporary public administration are drawn.
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Edoardo Ongaro

This chapter reviews modern and contemporary philosophy, from the German philosopher Immanuel Kant to contemporary philosophical strands. Philosophical schools discussed include idealism, Marxism, historicism, positivism, conventionalism, phenomenology, existentialism, structuralism, spiritualism, amongst others. Some implications for the study and practice of public administration that are developed in later chapters (notably 4 to 6) are here previewed.

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Edoardo Ongaro

This chapter reviews ancient, medieval and early modern philosophical thought, outlining some of the multiple contributions it may provide to the field of public administration. Philosophical streams addressed include classical metaphysics, patristic philosophy, medieval philosophy, the dispute over the nature of universal concepts and their significance for contemporary debates, Renaissance, the scientific revolution, empiricism, rationalism and the Enlightenment. Some implications for the study and practice of public administration that are developed in later chapters (notably 4 to 6) are here previewed.

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Introduction and rationale

An Introduction

Edoardo Ongaro

This chapter points to the gap in the current literatures in public governance, public administration and public management as regards the philosophical issues – ontological, political philosophical and epistemological – that underlie and ground any inquiry into public administration topics. The chapter examines this gap and addresses defining issues about how to characterise the field of public administration, on one hand, and about what philosophy is, what questions it addresses that are not tackled by the social sciences and what constitutes progress in philosophical thought, on the other hand. On these bases, it provides an outline of the book.

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Foreword

An Introduction

Geert Bouckaert

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Edoardo Ongaro

This chapter presents the masterpieces of three authors – Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Niccolò Machiavelli and Thomas More – as entry points to discuss three themes of major significance for public administration: the role of virtues (of governors and citizens alike) in public governance, the meaning of realism in politics and public administration, and the significance and potential of utopian thinking for public governance and administration. It is then discusses how utopias, ideal types, paradigms, models and ‘good practices’ jointly constitute a repertoire of conceptual tools for the development of public administration.