Edited by Andrew Massey and Karen Johnston
Chapter 9: Public administration and governance in the USA
The relationship between public administration and governance in the USA has shifted dramatically in the period since the 1960s. On the surface, the 1960s represented a decade of growth of government, expanding the reach of the administrative state beyond the nation’s economy and into areas of social regulation. Beneath the surface, however, questions about power in America, and the relationship between the American people and their government, were being revisited as authority was shifted from governmental organizations to the people through, for example, the early community action programs in the War on Poverty. A number of new programs were developed to lift the American people out of poverty and to provide more access to a better life, and many of these programs required the people directly, or community organizations as a proxy, to be involved in their design and implementation. The idea that government was a necessary, but not sufficient, instrument to authoritatively allocate values (that is, to make and implement public policy) ultimately led to an exploratory journey back into the nature of American public administration and governance. In 1972, two of our colleagues taking that journey wrote a short book, From Amoral to Humane Bureaucracy, critically analyzing executive power and bureaucratic institutions (Dvorin and Simmons, 1972). Rereading that book today is a reminder that the struggles to achieve better governance cannot be found in the routine application of our existing ‘models of administration’.
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