Handbook of American Public Administration
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Handbook of American Public Administration

Edited by Edmund C. Stazyk and H. G. Frederickson

The Handbook of American Public Administration draws on the expertise of established and emerging scholars to provide national and international audiences a comprehensive review of the current state and future direction of theory and practice in US public administration. The authors provide a cross-disciplinary, holistic review of the field and pave an agenda for future research.
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Chapter 8: Dueling banjos in American public administration: the enduring themes of accountability and performance

Gene A. Brewer

Abstract

American public administration became a self-aware academic discipline and field of professional practice during the Progressive Era. The politics–administration dichotomy provided the intellectual rationale for this transformation, but it was subsequently debunked, causing grave concerns about the accountability and performance of public administrators because they are appointed rather than elected officials with lifetime tenure. This chapter explores the tense relationship between bureaucratic accountability and performance in American public administration, focusing on how these concerns emerged during the Progressive Era and why they continue to dominate the study and practice of public administration today. Efforts to resolve these concerns are summarized and critiqued. Finally, the chapter concludes that the pursuit of accountability and performance will likely shape the future of American public administration_even as the administrative state shrinks and shared governance proliferates. Public administration scholars and practitioners will thus need to continue searching for ways to satisfy these howling demands.

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