A care-centered public administration Administrative Theory & Praxis

Administrative Theory & Praxis

Federal, state, and local governments in the US and abroad are crafting laws that challenge conceptions of human dignity and erode social justice progress. Healthcare reform in 2017 at the federal level in the US, for example, was done in the shadows without transparency. In Europe, citizens voted in favor of Brexit and the dismantling of the European economic bloc. US states are passing anti-LGBTQ policies, and Muslims are being attacked simply for living their lives. Boje (2001) calls this the “carnivalesque” global spectacle. What if we moved toward a care-centered public administration? Can we change perceptions of human dignity, kindness, and empathy? This virtual special issue collects articles from Administrative Theory & Praxis that address these issues. Scholars featured herein provide thought-provoking research into an ethic of care that should ideally pervade public administration.

Burnier (2009) argues for a care-centric public administration that shifts attention toward what many street-level bureaucrats do each day – provide services to those in need. A care-centric approach opposes current market-based governing strategies that prize efficiency over people. Similarly, Shields (2006) draws on the historical roots of Jane Addams’ participatory democracy to advocate for an ethic of care in public administration theory and practice.

While it might seem difficult to shift our governing ethos, Catlaw, Rawlings and Callen (2014) argue that we should all change how we listen to and interact with each other. Listening is an active form of self-care that allows all people to empathize with one another. Passionate humility is another path forward, though Yanow and Willmott (1999) caution on the limits of such traits for administrators. Finally, Stout and Love (2014) propose integrative governance as a way that appreciates multiple voices, rather than a top-down, power-driven administration that ignores differences.