Governance, Citizenship, and the New Sciences: Lessons From Dewey and Follett on Realizing Democratic Administration
Evans, Karen Gilliland
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Administrative reform as we have known it has been constrained by the ontological and epistemological premises and assumptions of Newtonian physics and the positivism of the early behavioral sciences, leaving constructs vital to a democratic polity impoverished and problematized by power inequities and distorted communication. If public administration could be liberated from those ontological limits through adoption of concepts from the new sciences - quantum theory, chaos theory, complexity theory, and today's ecological sciences - it might be possible to restore to the practices of citizenship and governance appropriate institutional structures which will preserve and nurture them. This dissertation develops lessons and activities pertinent to the practices of citizenship and governance drawn from the life work of John Dewey and Mary Parker Follett - lessons clarified by the premises and assumptions of the new sciences and activities congruent with those lessons. This dissertation is comprised of four broad components: a history of administrative reform as told through the literatures of the fields of public administration and public space philosophy; a history of science in two parts - the development of classical science and the development of the new sciences - from which defining ontological and epistemological characteristics of each are abstracted; case studies from American history that demonstrate the influence of classical science on political and social thought and action; and lessons and activities for public administration and its practitioners, framed in the context of the new sciences, drawn from the life work of John Dewey and Mary Parker Follett. The argument this dissertation makes is twofold. First, it is argued that, given the pervasiveness of the influence of modern thought in American society, it is unlikely that early reformers could have conceptualized administrative structure differently than they did. The modern worldview still dominates our thinking, despite the new understandings of how the world works that are available to us now. The second argument is that it is possible, if we choose to do so, to overcome the modern worldview and the structure it imposes on how we think and act, and that this could lead to alternative practices for public administration. The lessons that are our heritage from Dewey and Follett, and from the traditionalists of our own field, if viewed through the lens of the new sciences, resonate with the ontological perspectives of those sciences and provide a starting point for a reconceptualization of democratic administrative practice.
- Doctoral Dissertations