Public Management in the Postmodern Era
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Public Management in the Postmodern Era

Challenges and Prospects

Edited by John Fenwick and Janice McMillan

Challenging the traditional orthodoxies of public management, this timely and comprehensive book adopts a lively and critical approach to key questions of public policy and management.
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Chapter 3: Democracy Without a Centre: Towards a Politics of Difference

Paul H.A. Frissen


Paul H.A. Frissen INTRODUCTION Modernist public administration theory views the state as a problemsolving machine and supports it in this role. This is based on a strong conviction that society can be created and managed. Due to societal difference, or ‘multiplicity’,1 a different view, which is beyond goal-orientedness, will be taken in this chapter. As the world is contextual, perspectivistic and relativistic, public administration can be nothing other than ironic. We are ignorant in a tragic way. Disregulation, in the sense of letting go and leaving to others, then becomes very important. This assumes an aesthetical view of politics. Politics is design and representation. Multiplicity means that the state can, therefore, only be amoral. As the big monopolies of violence and taxation are entrusted to the state, it needs to focus on creating checks and balances of a horizontal nature, which should, above all, protect minorities. The state is a will-less institution that has no centre; its most important modus operandi is ‘muddling through’. BEYOND GOAL-ORIENTEDNESS Public administration theory needs to stop thinking in terms of goals and means. Goal-orientedness is one of the most guiding and structuring ideas of the modern state and of the knowledge that has always served this state. Spicer calls this view of a ‘purposive state’ a teleocratic view of the relationships between politics, public administration and society. Public administration is an instrument in the hands of a goal-oriented state. Power is centralized and based on rational science (Spicer, 2001: 70–71). Spicer shows...

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