Pragmatism and Compromise

In Richard A. Couto (ed.), Political and Civic Leadership: A Reference Handbook. Los Angeles: Sage Publications. pp. 734-741 (2010)
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An extensive literature on pragmatism and compromise, as well as their relationship to civic and political leadership, can be found in the field of Public Administration (hereafter PA). PA is broadly defined as that discipline of study addressing the development, institutionalization and reconstruction of bureaucratic-governmental organizations as well as the policies they are tasked to implement—or more “[s]imply stated . . . the management of government agencies." However, the literature is not limited to the works of PA scholars and practitioners. It also encompass the writings of philosophers, and specifically philosophical pragmatists, who can contribute “a kind of methodological sophistication that either sharpens the issues at point in public controversy or discloses the absence of real or genuine issues, thus clarifying the options open for decision." In this literature, questions arise as to how unelected leaders in governmental bureaucracies are guided by pragmatism or pragmatic ideas to (i) negotiate with stakeholders to fashion appropriate compromise agreements, (ii) solve policy problems within a zone of legally mandated authority, (iii) clearly articulate the scope and content of that body of knowledge considered PA scholarship, (iv) understand the origins of PA as a distinct discipline and (v) bridge between the abstract principles offered by PA theorists and the concrete practices of bureaucratic-governmental organizations and public administrators. Classified thematically, these issues fit into four areas: first, controversy over whether administrative action is legitimate (i and ii); second, the PA’s identity crisis as a discipline (iii and iv); third, the gap between theory and practice (v); and fourth, the difficulty of integrating pragmatism and PA (i through v).
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