Postmodern public administration theory can be most easily understood as the antithesis of positivism and the logic of objective social science.
Organizational Humanism and Postpositivism
The core ideas in postmordern public administration
1. Public administrators and public agencies are not and cannot be either neutral or objective.
2. Technology is often dehumanizing
3. Bureaucratic hierarchy is often ineffective as an organizational strategy.
4. Bureaucratic tend toward goal displacement and survival
5. Cooperation, consensus, and democratic administration are more likely than the simple exercise of administrative authority to result in organizational effectiveness.
6. Modern concepts of public administration must be built on postbehavioral and postpositivist logic—more democratic, adaptable, and responsive to changing social, economic, and political circumstances.
Postpositivism is not thought to be primarily antipositivist. The positivist notion that the social world is orderly; that this order can be understood, described, and explained; and that accumulated knowledge thus attained can form the basis of theory is, in the view of most postpositivists, simply wrong.
Postmodern Perspectives in Public Administration
To attempt to understand postmodern public administration, one must begin with the postmodern characterization of modernity or high modernity:
× To postmodernists, modern public administration based on enlightenment logic is simply misguided
× Postmodernists describe modern life as hyperreality, a blurring of the real and the unreal.
× Modernity is also characterized in postmodernity as particularly authoritarian and unjust
× Modernity, in the postmodern perspective, is primarily concerned with objective knowledge and its development.
× Farmer describes modernity as expressions of the limits of prticularism, scientism, technologism, and enterprise. Form the postmodern perspective, criticisms of modernist public administration include:
Its over reliance on the logic and epistemology of objective rational social science
The implicit support it gives to authoritarian, unfair, and unjust regimes
Its bias toward American particularism
The too great attachment it has to functional management and organization technologies
Its willingness to be overly influenced by the capitalist logic of enterprise
Looking for Postmodern Public Administration Theory
× Postmodern public administration theory looks rather like a combination of the sense making logic described in Chapter 7 on decision making theory, many of the modern elements of institutional theory described in Chapter 4, and public management theory described in Chapter 5.
× Following farmer, postmodern public administration can be understood to include dialectic, a return to imagination, the deconstruction of meaning, deterritorialization, and alterity.
Feminist Perspectives on Public Administration
× The service or helping perspective of process approaches to bureaucratic functioning is thought to be feminine.
× The feminist professional distinction: female reformers of the time developed their own understanding of science, one centered not around objectivity and rigor but around connectedness. The day-to-day work of the settlement involved an intimate understanding of the circumstances of others, sympathy and support, advocacy, and anything but disinterested neutrality
× Feminists see leadership differently. The feminist perspective looks a lot like the logic of democratic administration found in postpositivist public administration—group decisionmaking, consensus, team work, deliberation, and discourse. In its most extreme form, it would favor the leaderless organization or the logic of leader rotation.
× From the feminist perspective, the images of the public administrators as guardian, hero, or high-profile leader are masculine. The application of fairness, compassion, benevolence, and civic-mindedness are thought to be more feminine. The administrator as citizen rather than leader is also associated with feminist logic.
Postmodern Theory and Imagination
× Postmodernists base their quest for greater imagination in public administration by rejecting rationality and rationalization.
× Imagination is important to postmodern public administration theory because of the view that metaphor, images, allegory, stories, and parables play a central role in how people think. Gareth Morgan refers to imaginization as the art of creative management, which resembles the standard humanist management training/interventionist menu of improving abilities to see things differently, referred to as thinking outside the box, finding new ways to organize, encouraging personal empowerment, and finding new ways to self-organize.
× A second version of the postmodern imagination perspective is associated with leadership and strategic management. This is the call for public administrators to improve their capacities to see around the corner, to have great vision, and to take risks
The Antistate Charactereristics of Postmodern Theory
× The postmodernists are most attuned to the weakness of the nation-state and to an open and direct criticism of the state. Postmodern public administration theory comes the most closest to thoughtful perspectives on one of the most important contemporary issues facing the field: the declining salience of the state.
× Postmodernists argue that in the modern world all the characteristics of the state are in play. The modern nation-state is “too remote to manage the problems of our daily life…and too constrained to confront the global problems that affect us”.
× Public administration in the postnational world will move subtly away from the logic of state or nation building and the concentration of ever more economic capacity or sovereignty toward the search for multi-institutional compatibilities, attempts to find cross-jurisdictional convergence, and, above all, searches for procedures that will aid the development of generally acceptable decision processes and rules.
× American approaches to postmodern public administration theory tend to be less bold, choosing to emphasize improved discourse and more humane and democratic administration.
× Postmodern public administration theory emphasizes teamwork and conformity.
× The postmodern condition is described as increasingly fragmented jurisdictionally, more and more small jurisdictions emerging.
Methodological Perspectives and the Contributions of Postmodern Approaches to the Field
× Postmodern approach to field research
× The methodological approach in operational naturalistic inquiry is as follows: natural setting; human interest; utilization of tacit knowledge; qualitative methods; purposive sampling; inductive data analysis; grounded theory; emergent design; negotiated outcome; case study reporting mode; ideographic interpretation; tentative application; focused-determined boundaries to the inquiry “on the basis of the emergent focus”; special criteria for trustworthiness.
× Scholars working from the postmodern public administration theory perspective have provided thoughtful and provocative analyses of the problem of administrative responsibility, trust, gender, legitimacy and a wide range of other issues in the field.
× Postmodern research and theory is highly influential among the members of the Law and Society Association.
× The postmodern methodological perspective is associated with deterriorialization, an analytic approach that seeks to break down the structural territories found in all organizations.× The postmodern methodological perspective also includes the logic of alterity, or a forthright concern for the “moral other” on the part of public admin.