Sunday, June 02, 2013

Sunday Morning Mind Stretching

The PATNet conference goes on.  Things end this afternoon and we'll be able to get out into the beautiful San Francisco sunshine.  But meanwhile people are still earnestly discussing how to think about public administration.  

Panel: “Self-Other Relations and Utopian Transformations”

“Progressives’ Utopia: Know Thy Enemy as Yourself”

Amy Gould, The Evergreen State College
In The Art of War, Sun Tzu stated “if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle” (ch. 3). In the 21st century Progressives aretheir own worst enemy. From the Reconstruction era to present day, Progressives create archetypes of utopian governance through bureaucratic systems of dependency on strangers rather than directed cooperation within communities of trust. Using historical and present day examples, the paper will support these arguments through theoretical comparisons of David Farmer’s To Kill the King, Mark Levin’s Ameritopia, and Paul Seabright’s The Company of Strangers. The imagination of Progressives is the site of the struggle for utopian governance.

“Accountability as an Instrument of Power: Lessons from the Louisiana BTOP”
Roy L. Heidelberg, Louisiana State University
Accountability is an essential part of the effort to construct a better world for a diverse community governed by many sovereigns. Democracy was rejected in one of the earliest
commentaries on a utopia in favor of a benevolent dictator in Republic, yet it persists today as the preferred form of governance in many societies, especially the West. To achieve a democracy requires the institution of meta-rules that guide decision making in order to guarantee answerability to the many-headed sovereign and peaceful resolution of conflict. But can we go too far in our intentional designs through accountability? In this case study I argue that the very system of controls intended to ensure answerability to the sovereign provides the edifice for obscuring actions from the sovereign. Instead of promoting transparency, a system of procedural accountability offers actors entrusted by the public the instruments to conceal their actions and intents rather than reveal them."

“Taking Things Seriously in Public Administration: Beyond the Human-Object Dichotomy”
Thomas J. Catlaw, Arizona State University (
Thomas M. Holland Arizona State University (
Thomas Holland
Does public administration think about things? This paper argues that public administration’s positivists and constructivists hold objects in generally low regard. Positivists do think much about things at all and constructivists love to police the divide between humans and things, always nervous about reification (thingification). But does it really have to be so bad to be a thing? The point of view in explored in paper is that all objects—computers, animals, plants, buildings, mountains, and languages—exist and that there is no normative hierarchy among them. To this end, we explore developments in contemporary philosophy that seek to develop a “flat ontology”  (Delanda, 2002, 2006) or a
Thomas Catlaw
“democracy of objects” (Bryant, 2011). We then to see how these ideas can help public administration reframe some tradition problems, like agency. Consistent with developments in contemporary philosophy, we call our position speculative realism (Bryant, Srnicek, & Harman, 2011) insofar as it wantonly speculative and metaphysical in its effort to consider the existence of real things and to consider them as real—not just artifacts of human consciousness, construction, and language.

Sarah Surak, "Utopian Visions of Waste/Reimagining a Closed Loop Economy."  [Sarah was added to this panel and I couldn't find an abstract and I would presume to try to write my own.]

Larry Luton (on the right of the top photo)

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