Be Attentive to Public Employees: They Are the Source of Mentality and Health of Public Administration

Be Attentive to Public Employees: They Are the Source of Mentality and Health of Public Administration

Mirko Pečarič (Faculty of Public Administration, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1385-9.ch001
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The present complexity cannot be grasped by endless enumeration of objective factors. Each choice reveals what a person is believed to be; each choice shapes people through the effects that it produces/fails to produce. Individual and personal characteristics thus cannot be controlled only by the law, because the latter is enforced by persons. Research should be moved to a higher level where they could be controlled and implemented through values if their basic human properties could be known that operate also within public administration. No area can be taken as final; no single conviction will always give the right answer in a new or different set of circumstances that requires a different approach and a new conviction based on it. A culture of dialogue should be hence established through whistleblowing and other adjustments, using a central perspective on situations from the highest management combined with a horizontal one to provide information. In both perspectives, public employees are the sine qua non for good administration.
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The administrative apparatus has spread across all national and transnational societies as a spider web; even in times of economic crises in which the downsizing of a government apparatus is one of the usual austerity measures, there can be paradoxically more administration and regulation, as has already been noted by Vogel (1996) and Majone (1996), while at the same time new state coercions underlie new regulations.1 Ideas about independent (continental) public agencies or other ideas about a better management of public affairs cannot show the real background of the state of affairs,2 and this cannot be objectively shown even in the presence of multiple other elements. The expansion of public tasks – with a larger degree of complexity and with the side effects of all previous reforms – automatically also brings about an increase in the importance of good management (that is shown e.g. in the notions of good administration, good governance, sound governance, co-governance) in public administration (PA). For Dworkin the representative democracy is widely thought to be the institutional structure most suited in a complex and diverse society…[but] an actual vote in an election or referendum must be taken to represent an overall preference rather than some component of the preference that a skilful, cross-examination of the individual voter, if time and expense permitted, would reveal (1978, p. 276). Are public officials those who could efficiently reveal this component of skilful preference due to citizens’ lack of time and big expenses, as it has always been assumed? Today’s de facto practices of officials show that it could be so in the majority of cases, while on the other hand the failures of their decisions in many cases show that officials may be lacking a deeper subjective understanding of their own decisions, i.e. of themselves. How can Weber’s technical knowledge and experiences in the service of public officials3 be paired with Hayek’s statements on false rationalism and the greatest danger to liberty that today apparently comes from public servants?4

Much of writing on government is, due to its public power, directed to the hierarchical subordination to the management and to the rule of law, as well as to the control of bureaucracies and officials who implement decisions. But can only a technical, normative, audit or performance review achieve accountability and legitimacy, can administrative systems be held accountable and help societies without regulatory increases (these represented a paradox in the age of New Public Management in which privatisation and deregulation were high on its agenda)? How come that science of PA should be part of the integral theory that includes all aspects of the humans and their surroundings, while people still look at public problems mainly through the regulation, control and accountability? The detection of problems and their solutions are present also outside the regulation, but in the legal state the people should ask ourselves whether at the same time the recognised problems and their solutions could be valid also in the frame of the rule of law? Is it the failure of public management in treating people as a means and not as humans per se? To address the increasingly growing and complex problems, there is a need for a strong state, but usually it turns out that the dependence of people on the state is even greater; Weber is right when he asserts that [e]very domination expresses itself and functions through administration (1978, p. 948); how could then a strong state be possible and still be dependent on people?

Key Terms in this Chapter

Bureaupathology: The psychological diseases of public administration.

Administrative Culture: The perception, analysis, and interpretation of behaviour of public servants in their relations with other public servants, people, and organisations.

“Who You Gonna Call? Ghostbusters!” Catchphrase: Indicates the moment when people in need decide to call public administration.

Good Public Administration: Incorporates new thoughts that go beyond traditions and are perceived by the public servants’ minds; it is about the constant quest for the evaluation of present experiences in the light of new possibilities for meeting human goals.

Anomalism of the Mental: Inability to explain the mental events by physical science.

Subjective Conditionality of the Public Servant: A personal judgement based on the person's knowledge, skills, and competences and his ability to connect means and ends by their signs.

Signature: Each part in the world of signs that is recognised by the human mind as relevant.

Administrative Justice: A collection of bodies and procedures that have evolved from a wide variety of origins for a variety of purposes, with blurred boundaries, a dynamic and developing nature, where public services are co-delivered by private and voluntary bodies, with the inclusion of citizens and the public administration, where each part of the public administration works in the public interest and for the people at the same time.

Human Mind: The totality of conscious and unconscious mental processes and activities.

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