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Public Administration's Final Exam, Public Administration's Final Exam, 081731539X, 0-8173-1539-X, 978-0-8173-1539-9, 9780817315399, , , Public Administration's Final Exam, 081738135X, 0-8173-8135-X, 978-0-8173-8135-6, 9780817381356, , , Public Administration's Final Exam, 0817358706, 0-8173-5870-6, 978-0-8173-5870-9, 9780817358709,

Public Administration's Final Exam
A Pragmatist Restructuring of the Profession and the Discipline
Michael M. Harmon

Trade Cloth
2006. 206 pp.
Price:  $39.95 s
E Book
2008. 206 pp.
Price:  $39.95 d

Examines why public administration’s literature has failed to justify the profession’s legitimacy as an instrument of governance.
 Michael Harmon employs the literary conceit of a Final Exam, first “written” in the early 1930s, in a critique of the field’s answers to the legitimacy question. Because the assumptions that underwrite the question preclude the possibility of a coherent answer, the exam should be canceled and its question rewritten. Envisaging a public administration no longer hostage to the legitimacy question, Harmon explains how the study and practice of public administration might proceed from adolescence to maturity. 
Drawing chiefly from pragmatist philosophy, he argues that despite the universal rejection of the “politics/administration” dichotomy on factual grounds, the pseudo-problem of legitimacy nonetheless persists in the guise of four related conceptual dualisms: 1) values and facts, 2) thinking and doing, 3) ends and means, and 4) theory and practice. Collectively, these dualisms demand an impossible answer to the practical question of how we might live, and govern, together in a world of radical uncertainty and interdependence. Only by dissolving them can the legitimacy question (Woodrow Wilson’s ghost) finally be banished, clearing away the theoretical debris that obscures a more vital and useful conception of governance.

Michael M. Harmon is Professor of Public Administration at The George Washington University and author of Action Theory for Public Administration.

"Harmon, a veteran professor of public administration at George Washington University, holds that the politics/administration dichotomy continues to trouble students of public administration. He finds this dichotomy linked to four related conceptual dualisms: (1) values and facts, (2) thinking and doing, (3) ends and means, and (4) theory and practice. This politics/administration dichotomy, charmingly termed 'Woodrow Wilson's ghost,' still haunts much public administration research, thereby diverting attention from important practical problems of politics. The author's solution to the dilemmas facing academics teaching public administration requires additional treatment. He offers John Dewey's pragmatism as an attractive central motive for public administration research---which suggests he would encourage public managers to participate fully in pluralist political decision-making, as described by Robert Dahl. The pragmatic or pluralist approach to political action requires specification as to what goals are appropriate. For teachers of public administration, Harmon implicitly offers only a limited agenda focused largely on applied policy analysis. The volume is well written and presents a provocative commentary on public administration research. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students, faculty and practitioners."

This is a very important book—one that I wish would be read by every academic and reflective practitioner in public administration and assigned in every doctoral-level public administration theory course [ . . .] [this] book is one of the most provocative I have read in years.”
Public Administration Review


“For the work of serious philiosophy that it is, Public Administration’s Final Exam is actually a very straightforward and readable text, owing not only to Harmon’s well-ordered and rather systematic expositional style, but also to the dry humor he weaves into his narrative. [ . . .] I highly recommend this book.
Administrative Theory and Praxis

“Harmon presents an important argument that our field needs to hear and the argument is stated with elegance and wit.”
—Michael W. Spicer, author of The Founders, the Constitution, and Public Administration

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