Administrative statesmanship in a government of shared powers

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Virginia Tech


A normative theory of public administration grounded in the Constitution is examined in practice from individual, institutional and situational perspectives. This theory argues that public administrators should use their discretionary power in order to maintain the balance of powers among the three branches of government in support of individual rights. The role of serving multiple constitutional masters simultaneously is captured by the concept of subordinate autonomy.

The individual level of analysis describes the process by which a variety of public administrators at several levels of government have illustrated constitutional subordinate autonomy in their careers.

The institutional perspective examines how public administrators can be influenced by the agencies in which they operate, and how these factors interplay with the constitutional model.

The situational perspective presents classic dilemmas commonly faced by public administrators that are relevant to the constitutional model.

The case studies presented illustrate the usefulness and limitations of this normative theory by examining several factors which guide and restrain public administrators as they struggle with contentious issues and use their discretion to influence the direction of public policies and programs.