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conservative orientation in Public Administration, a concern with order, stability and continuity. I'm not sure that's all bad."
The above statement addresses one of the central concerns - and in many ways the central paradox - of public administration, both in the practice and in the study of this field. A society that is overly resistant to change stagnates. A species that does not adapt to changing environmental and competitive conditions will decline and even become extinct; this is true of societies as well. There must be change, or there will be decline and death.
But just as lack of change can be terribly damaging if not lethal to a society, too much change can also be dangerous. Societies that prosper are those that allow for change within an established structure - and both the change and the structure are important. (This does assume, of course, that the structure is fundamentally sound to begin with.)
The question then becomes from what sector of societies should the impetus for change stem from and from what sector should the tendency to protect and continue the structures of a society. There are, in fact, a number of different groups in each of these camps - both artists and cancer researchers, for example, help a society to change and evolve.
Amongst the groups that help maintain the necessary structure of a society are those that maintain the institutions of daily governance. Public administrators ensure that procedures that may seem trivial or even oppressive to members of the public are followed - thus allowing for a strong, very slowly evolving structure within which other changes may occur more quickly.
Codes of ethics are not terribly effective in the controlling of behavior of public employees."
This statement seems to me to quite misguided, for I believe that codes of ethics are in general quite effective in helping to establish and maintain norms for behavior for employees in a wide variety of settings. Furthermore, I believe that such codes of ethics are even more effective in the public arena than in the private arena.
Public employees are usually paid less well than those with comparable skills and responsibilities who work in the private sector. They are motivated to stay in the public sector not for the most obvious reasons (such as financial gain) but because of a sense of obligation to help the larger good. People who feel an obligation to help the society at large even when this entails personal sacrifice are by definition ethical people.
Most employees will rise to the ethical tone set by their bosses. Given that in the public realm those supervisors are also motivated by a desire to contribute to the public good, they should (in general - of course there may always be exceptions) prove to be capable of establishing a framework of ethical behavior that, when codified, is followed by most members of their workforce. To suggest that most people are more likely to act badly than to act well is to take too dark a view of human nature.
Essay Three few public organizations are created without some conflict and opposition."
This is most certainly true - at least assuming a certain definition of "public organization." If we are referring to organizations established within free or relatively free societies then this is true. If we are referring to institutions established within fascist or communist states, this may not be true because highly oppressive societies do not allow the open expression of conflict.
Although some people might like to believe that in some mythical past there was a society in which everyone simply agreed with each other and there was never any conflict, it seems unlikely that this was ever actually the case. People are different from each other and one of the arenas in which these differences are expressed is in ideals for the structures that they wish to create for their societies.
In addition to differences amongst people that result from what might be termed idiosyncratic differences (I say potato, you say potahto), one would expect that differences will arise because of what we might call structural differences. These result from the fact that in even small-scale societies not everyone has the same stake in the social structure. Structures (especially those that help to maintain or reify existing structures) tend to benefit older members of society over younger ones, men over women, and often the members of one ethnic, racial or religious group over the members of other groups.
It is difficult (indeed I find it impossible) to conceive of any social structure that would benefit everyone in a society equally. Even those people who on the surface might appear to occupy the same niche in a society might in fact look on the same organizational construct in very different ways: A 40-year-old white, middle-class woman who is Jewish would most likely look on a law outlawing abortion differently than would a 40-year-old white, middle-class woman who is a deeply religious Catholic.
Thus the different viewpoints that different members of a society have (whether these differences are based in a personal belief system or because of the structural position that one holds) lead to a certain amount of conflict and opposition in the development of the structures and organizations that exist to organize public life.
And it is to the benefit of all of us that they do exist. Perhaps because in the last year we have all become so cautious about the terrible costs that people with opposing viewpoints can inflict upon society that we are wary of all opposition. But opposition and conflict are not the same thing as violence. Indeed, they are at the heart of any truly democratic society.
We have, most of us, been advised at some point in our lives about the virtues of the "marketplace of ideas," and it is just this free forum of expression that tends to cause conflict. Democracies exist to allow many people to express different opinions about a range of subjects, including (especially) how public organizations should be structured. By encouraging intellectual contributions from everyone in society, we certainly experience more conflict than if we only let a few voices be heard.
However, in exchange for the psychological discomfort caused by the fact that we may often find ourselves opposed by others in our society who think differently than we do, we gain the intellectual talents and contributions of everyone in our society.
Public organizations are comprised of small formal and informal groups." Why is this important?
It should come as no surprise to us that public organizations should be composed of small formal and informal groups. If this were not the case then public organizations should be radically different from other forms of human organization, and we have no cause to believe that this should be the case.
The formal groups that exist within public organizations are generally easier to recognize because they have formal titles, specific offices and duties, usually report to the same supervisor, may have similar titles, belong to the same department. They also, at least to some degree, have common goals.
For example, all the members of the planning department in a city are bound together by the fact that they work in the same office, go to the same meetings, have authority over and responsibility for the same arena of city governance. The fact that they share these explicit attributes (because they are members of a common formal group) means that they help to contribute to the structure that is essential to the smooth running of any society (and that was discussed in the first essay above). The formal groups to which people belong help to maintain continuity.
However, informal groups are just…[continue]
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