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Moral Dimensions of Statecraft: A Plea for an Administrative Theology*

  • O. P. Dwivedi (a1)

The issue of moral dimensions of the state and its statecraft is the focus of this article. The issue is premised on two questions: how do we secure moral responsibility of the state and its functionaries; and what can be done to enhance the sense of mission, dedication and service which used to be the hallmarks of the public service? The concept of “administrative theology” is suggested as a possible answer in our search for a moral government and statecraft. Particular emphasis is placed on the concept of service and the doctrine of vocation. The author concludes by pleading the case of administrative theology as a possible source for a moral government and its statecraft.

Cet article porte sur les dimensions morales de l'État et de sa politique, à partir des deux questions suivantes: comment peut-on garantir la responsabilité morale de l'État et de ses fonctionnaires et que peut-on faire pour rehausser le sens de la mission, du dévouement et du service qui a autrefois caractérisé nos services publiques? À cette fin, l'auteur présente la notion de « théologie de l'administration » comme étant une réponse possible à notre quête d'un gouvernement se dotant d'une morale politique. En particulier, l'auteur insiste sur la notion de service et sur la doctrine de la vocation et il termine en plaidant en faveur de la théologie de l'administration comme étant un moyen d'acquérir un gouvernement moral, y compris au niveau de ses politiques effectives.

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1 Wilson, Woodrow, “The Study of Administration,” Political Science Quarterly 2 (1887), 210.

2 It was not that no one questioned the exclusion of morality from administration. For example, Robert Dahl, writing in 1947, said: “No science of public administration is possible unless…the place of normative values is made clear.” See Dahl, Robert, “The Science of Public Administration,” Public Administration Review 7 (1947), 11. Even by 1954, when the fourth edition of L. D. White's textbook came out, a remarkable change could be noticed where a section on “public ethics and codes” was added. Actually, in the 1950s several studies dealt with the question of morality in government. But soon, matters of economic growth and prosperity overshadowed questions of morality.

3 See, for example, Worthley, John A., “Ethics and Public Management: Education and Training,” Public Personnel Management 10 (1981), 4147; Dwivedi, O. P. and Engelbert, E. A., “Education and Training for Values and Ethics in the Public Service: An International Perspective,” Public Personnel Management 10 (1981), 140–45; and Dwivedi, O. P., “Ethics, the Public Service and Public Policy: Some Comparative Reflections,” International Journal of Public Administration 10 (1987), 2150.

4 For the impact of the administrative state, see Dwivedi, O. P. (ed.), The Administrative State in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982); Redford, Emmette S., Democracy in the Administrative Slate (New York: Oxford, 1969; and two classics by Waldo, Dwight, The Administrative State (New York: Ronald Press, 1948); and by Marx, Fritz Morstein, The Administrative State: An Introduction to Bureaucracy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957).

5 For a good analysis of the concept of loyal agent, see Michalos, Alex C., “The Loyal Agent's Argument,” in Beauchamp, T. L. and Bowie, Norman E. (eds.), Ethical Theory and Business (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1979), 338–48. Also, see Downie, R. S., Government Action and Morality (London: Macmillan, 1964).

6 Thompson, Dennis F., “The Possibility of Administrative Ethics,” Public Administration Review 45 (1985), 555.

7 Calvin, John, Institutes of the Christian Religion, vol. 1, bk. 3 (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Christian Education, n.d.), 790.

8 Bhagavad Gita, chap. 3, verse 20.

9 For further elaboration, see Frederickson, H. George and Hart, David K., “The Public Service and the Patriotism of Benevolence,” Public Administration Review 45 (1985), 547.

10 Hannah Arendt has very aptly demonstrated the absence of any moral qualm among those public servants of the Third Reich who knew about the transportation and murder of Jews. See On Violence (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1969).

11 For further elaboration, see Williamson, Rene de Visme, Politics and Protestant Theology (Baton Rouge: Louisana State University Press, 1976), 147.

12 Thompson, Kenneth W., The Moral Issue in Statecraft (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1966), 48. See also, Horwitz, Robert H. (ed.), The Moral Foundations of the American Republic (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1979).

* Presidential address to the Canadian Political Science Association, Hamilton, June 1987.

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Canadian Journal of Political Science/Revue canadienne de science politique
  • ISSN: 0008-4239
  • EISSN: 1744-9324
  • URL: /core/journals/canadian-journal-of-political-science-revue-canadienne-de-science-politique
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