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5 Books for Students Obtaining a Master’s Degree in Public Administration

Over the past 15 years, the United States government and public policy have undergone substantial change due to shifts in structure and cultural ideologies. For many theorists and practitioners in the field, the foundation of democratic ideals is immensely important to help build successful and lasting institutions. Many feel these ideals are being threatened by changes in society and a collective propensity toward bureaucracy and institutionalism. In the following books, scholars in the public administration field attempt to clarify these issues and offer strategies toward effective public administration.

Utopia of Rules by David Graeber

In Utopia of Rules, David Graeber examines the bureaucratic nature of contemporary institutions around the world, noting its oppressive temperament and limitations on public creativity. In particular, Graeber explores an interesting contradiction between our cultural distaste for bureaucracy and an underlying attachment many of us have to the comfort it provides. Graeber encourages public administration professionals to realize that there is much to be gained from breaking out of the comforts of bureaucracy and focusing on the greater potential to evolve beyond these societal norms. He also delves into the economic implications of the bureaucratic machine, suggesting that there are those positioned to gain from the system at the expense of others. As a whole, Utopia of Rules seeks to caution public administration professionals to consider the pitfalls of bureaucratic designs in government.

Democratic Governance by Mark Bevir

Democratic Governance delves into the history of democracy, discussing the various ways Mark Bevir feels it has devolved over the last century. In the book, Bevir argues that the growing trend of bureaucracy has altered the shape of democratic governance to the detriment of society. In accordance with traditional ideals of the concept, democracy thrived on the participation of a citizenry engaged in public politics. Contrarily, today’s democracies have discouraged this type of public involvement through the prominence of bureaucratic institutions. Bevir’s ideas are thought-provoking and can provide public administration professionals with valuable guidance to decision making for governance and policy reform.

The Essential Public Manager by Christopher Pollitt

Providing a unique approach to the study of public administration, The Essential Public Manager offers public administrators a bit of humor as it utilizes primary research to make a surprisingly entertaining read. Christopher Pollitt is able to cover a range of topics in the field, including changes in ethics and politics and how they impact today’s government organizations. The book includes a chapter on measuring success and covers collaborative trends, as well as similar topics related to the information age. These concepts are especially applicable for today’s public administration professionals who have access to software for statistical analysis, online databases, and other technology and informational sources.

The Collaborative Public Manager by Rosemary O’Leary & Lisa Blomgren Bingham

Collaboration across organizations is characteristic of today’s interconnected world, and The Collaborative Public Manager notes that public administration professionals must be able to collaborate effectively. As those in the field know, organizations have different goals, missions and agendas, which can sometimes result in conflict between organizations. This book offers research on successful collaborative relationships between public organizations and discusses the benefits of collaboration across multiple institutions. Rosemary O’Leary and Lisa Blomgren Amsler explore the work of scholars in the field of public administration on topics such as networking and building strong working relationships across organizations. These ideas are critical for public administrators faced with an increasing responsibility to develop strategies of collaboration in government.

Who Governs?: Democracy and Power In an American City by Robert A. Dahl

Robert A. Dahl’s 1961 book, published by Yale University Press, offers an interesting perspective on the local government in New Haven, Connecticut in the 1960s. The book hones in on the interplay of power in New Haven’s political administration and challenges the idea of elitist groups having unlimited power. Dahl also observed the role government plays at the center of this power struggle, noting that while decision-making, policy creation and governance rest in the hands of a small group representing the collective citizenry, competition between players impose important constraints on these groups to the benefit of those they serve. This has been a point of debate among political theorists and is important for administrators to understand even today. An updated 2005 edition of the book contains a new preface by Dahl and a foreword by Douglas W. Rae.

Past and current research in public administration and management offers a wealth of knowledge for present and future professionals working in government. Successful governance and management of public institutions today requires a dedication to learning and understanding the implications of all government undertakings. The books outlined above are a great resource for public administration professionals looking to increase awareness of effective approaches to social and political strategies and to become more effective leaders.

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As the nation’s oldest private military college, Norwich University has been a leader in innovative education since 1819. Through its online programs, Norwich delivers relevant and applicable curricula that allow its students to make a positive impact on their places of work and their communities.

Norwich University’s online Master of Public Administration program is a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary program that helps produce graduates with the skills needed to effectively manage a demanding and evolving industry. Our rigorous curriculum helps provide you with an all-inclusive study of organizational management concepts, decision-making processes, strategic planning, and fiscal management.


The Utopia of Rules, Melville House

Democratic Governance, Questia

The Essential Public Manager, AbeBooks

Rosemary O’Leary and Lisa Blomgren Bingham, The Collaborative Public Manager: New Ideas for the Twenty First Century, Taylor & Francis Online

Who Governs?, Yale University Press

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