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Whenever Two or More Are Gathered, Whenever Two or More Are Gathered, 0817317295, 0-8173-1729-5, 978-0-8173-1729-4, 9780817317294, , , Whenever Two or More Are Gathered, 0817385363, 0-8173-8536-3, 978-0-8173-8536-1, 9780817385361,

Whenever Two or More Are Gathered
Relationship as the Heart of Ethical Discourse

Trade Cloth
2011. 272 pp.
3 tables
978-0-8173-1729-4
Price:  $39.95 s
E Book
2011. 272 pp.
2 Tables
978-0-8173-8536-1
Price:  $39.95 d

This study of the critical role of ethics and moral responsibility in the field of public administration, Michael M. Harmon and O. C. McSwite posit that administrative ethics, as presently conceived and practiced, is largely a failure, incapable of delivering on its original promise of effectively regulating official conduct in order to promote the public interest. They argue that administrative ethics is compromised at its very foundations by two core assumptions: that human beings act rationally and that language is capable of conveying clear, stable, and unambiguous principles of ethical conduct.
 
The result is the illusion that values, principles, and rules of ethical conduct can be specified in workably clear ways, in particular, through their formalization in official codes of ethics; that people are capable of comprehending and responding to them as they are intended; and that the rewards and punishments attached to them will be effective in structuring daily behavior.
 
In a series of essays that draw on both fiction and film, as well as the disciplines of pragmatism, organizational theory, psychoanalysis, structural linguistics, and economics, Harmon and McSwite make their case for human relationship as the proper foundation of administrative ethics. “Exercising responsible ethical practice requires attaining a special kind of relationship with other people. Relationship is how the pure freedom that resides in the human psyche—for ethical choice, creativity, or original action of any type—can be brought into the structured world of human social relations without damaging or destroying it.” Furthermore, they make the case for dropping the term “ethics” in favor of the term “responsibility,” as “responsibility accentuates the social [relational] nature of moral action.”

Michael M. Harmon is a professor emeritus of public administration at George Washington University and author of Responsibility as Paradox: A Critique of Rational Discourse on Government.
 
O. C. McSwite is a pseudonym for Cynthia J. McSwain, professor emeritus at George Washington University, and Orion F. White, professor emeritus at Virginia Tech University. Their most recent books are Legitimacy in Public Administration: A Discourse Analysis and Invitation to Public Administration.

"This is a strange book. It is a collection of essays written by three persons--Michael Harmon (emer., George Washington Univ.), Cynthia J. McSwain (emer., George Washington Univ.), and Orion F. White (emer., Virginia Tech Univ.)--although only two are credited: Harmon and the fictitious O. C. McSwite, the pseudonym of McSwain and White when they cowrite. The aim of the book is to make the case for human relationship (sic) to be the foundation of administrative ethics by rejecting the ideas that the human mind can be consciously rational, and that language can carry stable meaning. First, no coherent case is presented, for this collection of essays was written over almost 25 years. Second, their discussions of the implications of advances in cognitive science, molecular biology, and the "postmodernist critique of language," for the ideas that they have earlier rejected, takes place without any engagement with the extensive philosophical discussion of the relationship between these advances and ethical theory. Summing Up: Not recommended."
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