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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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Time and Progress

Time and Progress

(p.81) Chapter 12 Time and Progress
Strategies for Governing

Alasdair Roberts

Cornell University Press

This chapter explores the importance of the decision about the timeframe in the development of a new approach to research in public administration. The choice of timeframe—long or short—affects one's thinking about governing in many ways. For example, it influences assumptions about the malleability of institutions. If one takes a long view, one is more likely to be struck by substantial changes in the design of institutions. The choice of timeframe has other consequences. If one takes the long view, one is more likely to recognize those social and economic forces that only operate slowly. The long view also improves one's ability to see patterns in events, avoid surprise, and learn from experience. Similarly, by taking the long view, one recognizes that devastating pandemics are a familiar part of the human experience. The chapter then considers the problem of presentism in the discipline of public administration. It also looks at another assumption that shapes one's thinking about the evolution of states: the idea of progress—or, in other words, the expectation that governance strategies will generate continual improvement in human welfare.

Keywords:   timeframe, research, public administration, governance strategies, state institutions, institutional design, presentism, progress

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