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Strategies for GoverningReinventing Public Administration for a Dangerous Century$
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Alasdair Roberts

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501714405

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501714405.001.0001

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The Struggle for Mastery

The Struggle for Mastery

(p.72) Chapter 10 The Struggle for Mastery
Strategies for Governing

Alasdair Roberts

Cornell University Press

This chapter highlights how the field of public administration was invented to achieve the goal of leaders to gain control, to establish mastery over their circumstances, so that the potential of American democracy could be realized. For leaders, the first aspect of mastery consists of knowing the territory over which sovereignty is claimed. The next step toward mastery is gaining a deeper understanding of the environment in which states operate. However, mastery requires more than information and understanding. Leaders need tools to influence the dynamics of systems; or, in other words, to influence circumstances. People outside the state apparatus need to be induced to change their behavior, whether by persuasion, material inducement, or threat of punishment. Whatever the preferred method of influence, leaders must have the administrative capacity to apply it: they must establish their own bureaucracies or delegate responsibilities to other public or private organizations. The chapter then explains that the extent of control enjoyed by leaders today is vastly greater than it was a century ago. For example, advances in information technology are producing ever-larger amounts of data about the behavior of governed populations. Indeed, the obstacle to mastery may no longer be a dearth of information. Today, the obstacle might be a tsunami of information that overwhelms the capacity of leaders to make sense of it and respond appropriately.

Keywords:   public administration, territory, sovereignty, information, bureaucracies, organizations, information technology, governed populations

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