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Strategies for Governing: Reinventing Public Administration for a Dangerous Century, Alasdair Roberts

Reviewed by Iuliia Shybalkina

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What should the aim of the field of public administration (PA) be? Alasdair Roberts thinks that the answer lies in the past—specifically, in the Progressive Era, when PA was instrumental in successfully adapting to large-scale societal transformations, such as inequality and immigration. Interestingly, the roots of Roberts’s argument may originate even further back in time. His views are reminiscent of Aristotle and Hegel, who believed that officials are carriers of precious knowledge who advise leaders on how to improve the human condition.

In Strategies for Governing, Roberts argues against the current emphasis of PA solely on small management problems, mainly in the areas of education, health care, welfare, other social services, and environmental protection. Instead, he suggests refocusing attention on the design and performance of government overall, as well as on national security, diplomacy, policing, and the judicial and legislative branches. The argument’s timeliness is uncanny, given the COVID-19 pandemic, police violence, and racism plaguing the nation today. The rest of the book, then, presents and defends propositions regarding this macro-level approach. The way Roberts sees it, state leaders develop strategies for governing based on their priorities and, next, build institutions to implement those strategies. Both strate

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