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Sociology Departmental Seminar

Date: 29 January 2008 Time: 4.15 - 6:00

'Without affection or enthusiasm': problems of involvement and attachment in 'responsive' public management

Contemporary political demands for responsive public management contain two emotional injunctions to public bureaucrats. The first, derived from populist doctrines of political right, requires bureaucrats to be responsive to the needs of their 'clients'. In the name of 'recognition' and the 'politics of care', for example, it is thought vital to inculcate in bureaucratic conduct a sense of 'compassion' or close identification with others feelings. Secondly, in the name of responsiveness to political superiors and the delivery of their policy objectives, bureaucrats are expected to exhibit 'ownership' of and identification with particular policies. They are required to be committed champions for and enthusiastic advocates of those policies. Both of these injunctions are deemed to be more in tune with democratic principles and the currents of contemporary ethical culture ('diversity' or 'human rights', for example) than what is represented as the unlamented Weberian world of rule-bound hierarchy. The paper seeks to question this assessment. It does so through an engagement with the 'ethics of enthusiasm' in recent programmes of public management reform in the UK, and elsewhere. The argument of the paper is that many of the political and administrative virtues associated with the development and reproduction of an ethic of bureaucratic office in public administration - in particular the capacity to act with a 'spirit of formalistic impersonality' hence 'without affection or enthusiasm, and without anger or prejudice'(Weber, 1994a) - are either unappreciated or simply ignored in contemporary programmes designed to inculcate the requisite 'enthusiasm' for 'responsiveness'. This carries with it certain dangers that earlier and now largely neglected critics of the ethics of enthusiasm in civil and administrative life were more than aware of.

Paul du Gay (Warwick Business School)

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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YD
United Kingdom

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