The Administrative Third:

Complexity and democracy



                                          Linda Dennard, Ph.D.





…in a palace there is no place for intimacy


We must look for simplicity in houses with many rooms.

                                                Bachelard, 1964 p. 29

Managerial Democracy and the Administrative Third

The evolution of civic space.


In the first days of teaching at a university I would take an art print and tape it to the barren walls of the classroom -- in particular a room that was tiered like a medical school arena -- cold and clinical like an operating theatre. Overtime, the paintings served to generate dialogue which could then be related to the course’s topic, although that had not been the original intent. More, the picture broke the boredom and sterility of the classroom; remembering as I rolled out the scotch tape, that John Dewey deplored the artificial space of the American classroom. Indeed, Dewey made a connection between developing the capacity for self-governance and the existence of complex learning space filled with the provocative effects of nature and art. Like his contemporary Frank Lloyd Wright, who refused to build the Marin County prison because it offended his democratic principles (Green, 1990), Dewey felt American schools were too much like bureaucratized, efficient prisons to be proper space for learning from the experience of democracy (Dewey, 2005, p. 21).

            To finish the story - - each night after class, the janitor would take down the print; replacing it with a sign that said ‘no posting.’ Next class, the students would put up another print, but leave the janitor’s sign in place. This went on until all the prints were gone and the walls were papered with ‘no posting’ signs. The students were amused with the determination of the maintenance staff to stay in control of the situation, as I realized that the janitor had been a helpful, if unwitting, participant in an object lesson on the adaptive dynamics of regulatory government. The lesson?  Overtime, the administration of democracy endures even at the cost of emerging elements of a social system that may actually transform the conditions that limit the evolution of democracy.

            The ‘sign’ story, therefore, begins this manuscript because it illustrates two ideas that are central to the arguments here about the nature of democratic civic space and correspondingly democratic public administration. First, it is argued that civic space does not pre-exist the relationships of individuals. Rather civic space is the pattern of relationship that emerges from the interaction in time among two or more individuals. Additionally, these interactions occur in the presence of a ‘third’-- in the case of the opening story, for example, art and, in particular art in the context of bureaucracy. From the theory in development here, therefore, democratic culture is not merely constructed in empty space as a manipulation of citizen behavior or the inculcation of abstract values, but rather emerges as a co-adaptation of social relationships within the conditions in which they occur. Indeed, over time, space ceases to exist only as a place or a container, but rather is identified by a specific pattern of relationships that is the result of the co-evolution of individuals within the context of the ‘third.’ These relationships create (self-organize) the regulating social dynamics (here civic architecture) by which society transforms and sustains itself.

            Secondly, the story illustrates the intimate connection between aesthetics and democracy. However,  aesthetics is concerned here, not with how the Arts or music convey certain values or political ideas, rather it is concerned with the emotional/sensory nature of aesthetics, those which draw an individual toward an interaction with another (Adorno, p. 160).  These attractors may indeed be art or music, but for the purposes here the attractor is human relationship which, like art and music, has a destabilizing effect on habitual patterns of thought - - a liberating pre-condition of human learning and which therefore is a foundational element of equalitarian democracy. (Dewey 1980, p 21, 41)

These citizen aesthetics can be problematic for administrators who see their responsibility only as the implementation or reform of the rule of law without regard to what is already emerging in the adaptive dynamics of social relationships. Whether public administration is able to act on the positive potential of this ‘self-organization’ depends on whether administrators perceive democracy as it is happening or whether they simply, like the janitor, see non-compliance. 

In this sense, the term architecture of civic space is used with a specific intent to describe both the opportunities( those bounded by initial conditions) to transcend existing sociopolitical states through aesthetic interactions and the subsequent democratic pattern of relationship that emerges from those attractions - - an architecture that public administration is already a powerful component of, if not a very self-conscious one.  Further, the draw of relationship that attracts/ provokes interactions is seen as the means by which stable, inclusive, patterns of relationships may emerge. These aesthetics can be illustrated with principles from the emerging sciences of complex adaptive systems as well as the philosophical tradition of phenomenology, American political philosophy and Anti-Federalist sentiments. 

Relational space

            In explaining evolutionary change, complexity science is concerned with the dynamics among adaptive relationships overtime rather than a means-end analysis of historical social behavior. Here, for example, ‘relational space,’ refers to the opportunity for citizens to interact and so co-create and sustain irreducible and emergent patterns of interaction. The complexity term emergent describes the tendency of system dynamics at certain degrees of criticality to create states that are, to use the colloquial, ‘more than the sum of the parts.’  That is to say, that what is created could not have been sustained in the pattern of relationships that pre-existed the emergent change - - therefore its ‘parts’ cannot be disassembled to a prior state (Hornstein, p. 916-920). This is significant to democracy and the value of equality because this unique, new emergent/emerging state can be inclusive of all participant elements if the initial adaptive conditions are such that inclusion ‘fits’ the evolving landscape. In other words, if democratic equality is truly the initial, organizing principle of the social landscape then inclusion is evolutionarily appropriate. Further, this inclusivity makes the emergent state interdependent with the individuals who have co-created the new pattern. Therefore, it cannot be logically said that one element of a new pattern is more important than another because the democratic identity of the emergent weave of relationship exists only in the composite of its co-evolved elements, not in one element more than another.

Civic space, as such an emergent pattern of relationship, therefore derives from the aesthetics of relationships - - those provided by opportunity and a dynamic attractor whether that be art, relationship, or coercion. Art and relationship may be more likely to create the conditions of democracy than coercion - - which by definition cannot be organized by the condition of equality, but rather organizes from the assumption of unequal power. Both equality and inequality can potentially be dispersed over the behavior of a larger social landscape through subsequent interaction. Here the concern is for describing how this patterning of behavior is organized by democratic rather than managerial principles.  Indeed, here, self-organized (unmanaged) interaction defines the character of democratic civic space. Therefore freedom of association is also a defining organizing principle of the architecture of democratic civic space (Arendt, 1998; Kakathas, 2007). In complexity terms, self-organization refers to the tendency of complex systems to organize according to initial internal conditions rather than because of outside pressure (Hornstein).  However, the initial conditions of other systems can distort the trajectory of that self-organization by introducing new ‘information’ to the adaptive landscape.  In war, for example, social systems that may have an emerging internal order, one, for example, that is moving towards social inclusion, can be forced to subvert that emergent order so that it is more adaptive to the conditions of war. Citizens aesthetics then are not strictly ‘rational’ in this sense, but rather respond to fear, love, longing, hate… That is, the system is not necessarily adapting to the intent of the violence (e.g. liberation or democracy) but more to the resultant social, economic or cultural landscape created by the ‘Third’ of  violent conditions (Hornstein; Kauffman,1993).

The Third

From the complexity perspective employed here, citizen interactions organize within an evolving framework of ideas and association in what is called an ‘adaptive landscape’ in the biological sciences of complexity (Kauffman). Here these conditions are referred to as the ‘Third.’ The ancient Greeks used the term ‘related opposites’ to describe a similar tripartite relationship (Lefebre, 2000). Two opposing forces, for example, are acting with/on each other, not in a void or empty space, but rather within the same field of influence as the larger system of which they are a part. Indeed their relationship comes into being and is sustained by the organization of this third factor or set of factors; the same initial conditions from which each of the opposites emerge. This third might be an ambiguous idea such as the ‘common good.’ However, in the administrative settings that increasingly control public space, the third is more likely to be a specific method or approach to problem solving, such as distributive justice, one that embodies and disperses the philosophy/ontology behind the method.

Distributive justice, for example, embodies the assumption that a finite number of resources can be fairly divided among distinct individuals through administrative practice (Rawls, 1971).  This ‘fix’ for problems of equality in a free market, however, might be  understood as less of an democratic solution to the ‘problem’ of inequality than as a co-evolution of democratic principles, administrative realities, and the uncertainty produced by individual difference. Rawls’ ‘Locheian ‘contractarianism’ embodied the liberal tradition of democracy as justice within the rule of law, rather than freedom (Kakathus, p. 6-8).   Further, the powerful and often coercive epistemological assumptions of distributive justice, are variations of an Enlightenment disposition that both assumes and then organizes civic relationships based on their conflicted interests rather than democratic values; those interests that also appear to operate in virtually empty space - - that is the conflict is perceived as being purely transactional, rational, and essentially competitive, nor does the transaction seem to affect any more than the individuals involved in the conflict (Buchannan, J. & Tullock, G. 1994; Farber & Frickey, 1991).  From the perspective here, however, the perceived inevitability of self-interested conflict patterns across the entire society through the co-adaptation of public administration and citizens to the management principles meant to regulate that conflict - - making it seem so real that not to abandon more altruistic efforts would seem to be folly. Therefore the simple administration of justice is not so simple, as it also creates the boundaries within which citizens adapt to each other overtime. Democratic society is therefore not necessarily organized by initial conditions that are democratic, but rather by management principles that are often coercive (Gray, 1992).

Ironically perhaps, the fall of the Soviet Union provides another example of the “Third’ in operation. In the 1950s, economic philosopher Bertrand De Jouvenel predicted that socialism would fail in Eastern Europe because of the ‘internal paradox’ operating in the belief system. The peace and equality that were the stated objectives of socialism have been realized successfully over history in religious communes or tribal structures, Jouvenel argued, so they are not merely utopian daydreams. However, he wrote, the ‘initial conditions’ of these societies were either faith or a non-materialism. However, the socialism of the Soviet State was organized not by these conditions but rather by a belief in market production - - the goods of which were to be instrumentally redistributed among workers as the implementation of socialistic ideals .(de Jouvenal, 1952, p.).

 Yet what organizes the State, also organizes the individual. From the perspective here, the fall of the Soviet Union was perhaps less of a ‘religious’ conversion to the free market as it was the emergence of a new cohesion between State principles and those of individuals forced to neglect the higher ideals of socialism by the need to adapt to the organizing principles of the State - - especially a State with a narrow view of equality, the importance of difference and free choice. De Jouvenel’s perspective raises an uncomfortable question as to whether the American State, operating predominately through the managerial models of public administration, can effectively create the conditions of global democracy or, also only those conditions that support the market. If one considers China, for example, democracy seems to be taking a far back seat to the growth of American style economics, increasingly managed with exported Western models of administration. (      ).  It is perhaps not surprising that politicians and administrators alike try to intellectually reconcile this ‘internal paradox’ in the American practice of democracy by simply attributing the emergence of democracy to market principles rather than to the free relationships of citizens. (de Jassay, 1997 p. )

Clearly, the market creates the opportunity of association but the boundaries within which individuals act are flavored with Madison’s fear of citizen conflict.  Competition may have stabilized relationships around market interactions but it has not produced with equality or freedom. Again, a different understanding of what is happening in citizen relationships in needed if the idea of democracy is not to dead-end with Modernism.

The constitutional order

The elements of civic space (at least two individuals and a third organizing principle) are  not only interdependent, but rather each contains/reflects something of the other as each element is an iteration of the initial third (Holland, 1995).  John Rohr’s approach to the construction of the Separation of Powers doctrine of the United States Constitution helps to illustrate the emergent nature of social interactions. The does not so much prescribe competition and checks and balances among competitive branches of government he argued, but rather it provides a structure (here understood as ‘relational architecture’) for cooperation. From this cooperation further cooperative relationships are generated -- in particular the complex and variant networks of administrative agencies. In the framework presented here, one might say that public administration emerged as the creative and functional evolutionary iteration of the constructed cooperation Rohr describes. Additionally, it is critical to Rohr’s argument that public administration is not merely accidental, but rather emerged/emerges from the specific organizing principles of the Constitution (1986). This social architecture might be termed the ‘constitutional order’ - - order being the pattern of relationships that emerge in relation to a third set of initial conditions.

Therefore, from the theory being developed here, the emergence of public administration is also seen as an aesthetic co-evolution, one that embodies the complex nature of administrative realities in the context of felt constitutional values. The challenge, however, is to understand these aesthetics in terms of the even more complex realities of democratic social relationships.  A ‘refounding of public administration’ (Wamsley et al, 1991) as prescribed by the Blacksburg Manifesto (of which John Rohr is a collaborator), for example, might be restated from only the revelation of the constitutional legitimacy of public administration vis a´ vis the State, but rather also as ‘going back’ to the original vision of public administration to renew/re-organize the field in relationship with basic, organizing, constitutional values and in relation to broader democratic aspirations that did not seem to ‘fit’ the federalist nature of the Founding.   Stated otherwise, this ‘going back’ to create the evolutionary conditions of a new iteration of democratic public administration and its purposes involves first learning to recognize the adaptive aesthetics between citizens and government (the excitable geometry of democracy as Thomas Jefferson termed it) and acting consciously in civic space as the democratic organizing Third of the associative conditions of democracy, rather than only being the regulator of its largely economic problems.

 This is likely to mean stepping back and allowing citizens to self-organize in ways they can sustain in the conditions of their relationships. This suggests a different paradigm for administrative action, one less concerned with ‘fixing’ social deficits and more concerned with co-creating the conditions that support citizen action. Operating at the borderlands of the State as the most recent iteration of the constitutional system, public administration is in a unique, front-line, position to recalibrate the organizing principles of society by encouraging the outward looking experimentation and social interaction needed to both enliven and stabilize democracy through the continuing creative accommodation of difference. This broadened perspective could create the potential for a democratic legitimacy in a world increasingly concerned with the relationship between the State and democracy. The legitimacy of public administration, however, cannot be the new organizing principle if more democratic conditions are the ‘goal.’  Rather democratic legitimacy is more likely to be an emergent quality of the State organized by and practicing democratic principles.

Democracy, legitimacy, & the Administrative Third

            As Rohr has argued, American public administration emerged from the relationship among the three branches of government, a relationship organized and fostered by the constitutional blending of powers (Rohr, 1986). Perhaps because of the continued intellectual uncertainty surrounding the normative founding of public administration, what has emerged, however, in two-plus centuries of administrative behavior is not a democracy in which citizens necessarily practice their values, but rather a less grand variation of democracy; one organized by the principles of management that supported the legitimacy needs of the State (Duncan, p. ).     

For purposes here, this, regulating Administrative Third, also organizes the structure (architecture) of social relationships among those individuals who interact with government. This organization is not problematic because of administrative efficiencies by themselves, but rather because the reductive assumptions that spawn a management perspective, also create the relational architecture of civic space -- those opportunities in which citizens interact, adapt, and learn and these management principles do so on an increasingly global scale (Singer, 2002).  From one perspective this organization has been ‘constitutive’ - - that is it has embodied the State and the constitution through administrative action (Cook, 1996). The perspective here accepts this argument, but contends that what constitutes a democracy is slightly different than what constitutes a State.  For example, of equal concern here to the how the Administrative Third organizes society through self-referential behavior (perhaps ‘auto-narcosis’ as James Carrier has coined phenomenon that produces ‘dead space’) but also how this self-reference makes it difficult to observe or legitimate other social phenomenon happening in the same social system. 

Yet, because American Federalism seemed the only adaptive answer to the impracticality of direct democracy in a potentially vast nation, one quickly exceeding the more ‘manageable’ populations of the democratic ideal of the Greek city state, a necessary fusion between administrative efficiencies and democratic potential has always been assumed. This fusion makes it hard to recognize the reality (to paraphrase Tip O’Neill) that ‘all democracy is local.’ That is democracy grows in the conditions in which individuals find themselves (Kakuthas, 2007, p. 4 ).  

Indeed, it is not so much democracy that is being exported to the rest of the world by America, but rather the administration of democracy. In the way of British colonialism, what may remain in the aftermath of the worldwide marketing of the American value-system may be only the commodities of democratic values - - elections, interest group lobbies, the media and political economies, and increasingly the economy of security -- all expertly managed and sustained within enduring administrative structures, within the social boundaries created by the demands of management practice and by regulations that are referential to the administrative agency rather than to the actual cultural environment of the citizen (Ruhl, 2003; Huntingdon, 2002, Woodruff,  ). In this regard the legitimizing institutions of managerial democracy may ironically extend colonialism (Spencer, p. 4). Again, the Administrative Third describes these self-referential actions of public administration which organize and recreate social relationships according to its own management parameters, rather than to the less measurable phenomena of democratic culture. Further, public administration does so from a deep sense of responsibility for sustaining the liberal State as the only space in which democracy is seen to be possible (McSwite).

Yet, the expert management of democracy by American public administration is intimately associated with how the Federalist State has sustained its legitimacy. As Rohr chronicled, administration is mentioned significantly more in the Federalist Papers than is Congress. (Rohr, p.  Duncan, p.) Self-referential management habits serve the accountability needs of the State as conventionally defined in American liberal democracy -- accountability for resource management, service delivery and policy outcomes - - all indicators that the State has an ongoing purpose in the lives of citizens. Seldom, however, is public administration held accountable for more than pleasant and helpful customer service as its conscious contribution to democratic culture. This may be true because the organizing effects of the Administrative Third are not widely recognized as more than a temporary and often necessary programmatic side-effect despite the wide-spread evidence to the contrary of imbedded administrative cultures in the Welfare State, in education, in the prison system, in the media and increasingly in global NGO development (Cook, Singer).

            Yet, it would be wrong to simply portray public administration, acting from this deep historical sense of responsibility to the legitimacy of the State, as the evil architects of a stunted democracy. Instead, the purpose here is first to appreciate that sense of responsibility as a good thing and then to suggest a way to carry that positive sense forward from the different perceptual model afforded by complexity theory, other philosophical traditions and Anti-Federalist arguments - - traditions different than the one that made it appear plausible and ethical to merely manage democracy. 

For one, the American experiment in democracy has been noteworthy because it has transcended the boundaries of the State conceived at the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.  That treaty marked the beginnings of the international State system, but its focus was on ensuring the sovereignty of the State, not securing a particular form of governance (Nathan). With its initial concerns for individual rights, the United States as a ‘found’ state has been unique. This uniqueness as a new nation of immigrants seeking freedom from other States allowed and even demanded a clear definition of the responsibilities of those who governed individuals - - in particular it demanded accountability to citizens and as such was a new iteration of the idea of the State - -  one in which the average individual had a say. Yet, the evolution of the democratic State, one concerned with freedom, was limited by the need of the new American experiment to assert its legitimacy both nationally and internationally and by the perceived need to maintain boundaries between government and the people despite (or perhaps because of) the dynamics and evolutionary interactions of individuals that ironically both Hamilton and Jefferson imagined (            ).  These boundaries have been created, maintained and indeed thickened as public administration and its complex regulatory environment emerged (Ruhl,     ).

This initial distancing between two aspects of the same emergent system reflected the Founders anxiety about the State’s ability to weather the creative dynamics of a free people. For example, the evolutionary dynamics described in the emerging sciences of complexity seem to guarantee that robust social interaction will eventually exceed the capacity of the State to manage it - - which may signal less of a ‘revolution’ by citizens as they need for an ‘evolution’ of the State with citizens. Indeed in this sense, perhaps the Founders understood adaptive non-linear dynamics, though not as social evolution, but rather as the potential of violence against the State ever present among unregulated individuals; violence which could be ameliorated only if regular pathways were created by which the population could ratify and re-ratify the State’s existence. Likewise, the new State’s legitimacy seemed to depend on maintaining the distance of a superior authority, one with regulatory powers and better knowledge (Duncan, p. ).

From a complexity theory perspective, however, the American experiment might be understood as a dynamic co-evolution among the need to justify the State, the philosophical traditions of the Enlightenment, and the visionary aspirations of a free people. Yet, this historical phenomenon is not seen here as a mere compromise among competing factions, but rather as the co-evolution of conflicting principles from which emerged the managerial form of American democracy with its strong economic character. Madison’s belief, for example, that the economy would serve the role of mediating social conflict intimately tied the evolution of the American market to the State’s fundamental anxiety about the ability of individuals to self-govern (Wood,   p. ). Further, the evolution was ‘selective’ in that the Founders ultimately chose to largely ignore the more process oriented aspects of the Anti-Federalist arguments, settling instead on the seemingly manageable idea of individual rights, another idea that allowed the State to demonstrate its purpose (McSwite).

Yet the economic/managerial nature of American democracy was always only one of the evolutionary paths possible given the enormity of opportunities present at the Founding. Other regimes were always possible. (Spencer, p. ) However, the paradox of social aesthetics is that they derive from the initial organizing principles that are deterministic of the pattern of social organization overtime (Hornstein, p. ). Yet, they are also not infinitely deterministic, but rather produce variations of those initial organizing principles in changing conditions (p.   ).  Therefore managerial democracy can, to a degree, recreate the past by forcing social adaptation to the framework of problems and their administrative solutions as well as to the elite frameworks of knowledge that support those solutions. The viability of the Nation-State is sustained by the pure ‘weight’ of political/administrative actions that weave a stable pattern of social relationships sustained by administrative boundaries - - all ultimately referential and organized by the State and its imperatives.

Yet, the managerial State still does not define the whole of reality, especially as it exists in potential (Kalkuthus, p. 8). New attractors and their new landscapes are emerging in the present that may have little connection to the problems of the past, at the same time new solutions for social problems may emerge within extant social relationships rather than through the backward-looking correction or punishment of ‘causes.’ (Hornstein, p.  ). Further, these solutions may allow for more hopeful expressions of future democratic aspirations, rather than tying new generations to the correction of past mistakes, those whose organizing context has long since disappeared.

Complexity and the Anti-Federalists

 An Anti-Federalist farmer, quoted by Herbert Storing, questioned the Federalist argument that the State would gain acceptance by being well administered by saying: “even totalitarian governments are well-administered,” (Duncan, p.     ).  Anti-Federalists valued their relationships with other citizens, and also saw the constitutional ‘pursuit of happiness’ as being intimately entwined with those relationships rather than in being ‘free’ from them in order to pursue market goals. Public happiness, Anti-Federalist scholar Christopher Duncan wrote “is the feeling one can only gain in conjunction with well-received and even respected public activities before one’s peers (p. 394).”

To clarify, the goal here is not to wistfully project what might have been if the Anti-Federalists had been understood, but rather to broaden the potential landscape of civic space in the present -- going back in the sense of picking up the Anti-Federalists sentiments and, with the help of a different vein of philosophy and new complexity science, translating those concerns into a theory of democratic responsibility for public administration in the 21st century. In complexity terminology, this would mean increasing the phase space for both citizens and government - - that is broadening the field of potential ideas with which they can interact. The first such idea is that democracy is not necessarily contained within the trajectories of institutions.

            The aristocratic understanding of social dynamics in the 17th century - - those that organize both management and the market - - sustain the belief that economic institutionalism is the mainstay of democratic stability worldwide (Huntington, 1991 p. ) - - this despite the incongruity between democratic ideals and that, and that now archaic understanding.  Yet, there is no direct, empirical or rational link between the legitimacy of the State and the realization of democratic culture as something greater than the regular use and manipulation of institutions, institutions that are technically democratic only because they act on policy produced by democratically elected legislators.

Indeed, the evolution of managerial democracy encourages another view of the politics/administration dichotomy. That there is no real dichotomy in these two arenas perhaps reflects the fact that administrative environments are political in nature, but also reflects the co-evolutionary phenomenon that political environments are increasingly concerned with the management of problems, rather than with sustaining the conditions of freedom. (Shapiro, p. ).  There remains, however, a perceptual dichotomy between government and citizens, one produced when it is legitimate for public administrators to ignore the effects of administrative practice on the nature of democratic culture because such oblivion seems necessary to addressing accountability in other, more managerial and political, arenas. That ‘abstraction of the political from the cultural’ remains largely unchallenged globally -- partly because administrators still cannot see that cultures and individuals are producing change in relationships other than political and administrative. (Spencer, p. 4).

For example, in a study of American Indian drug and alcohol programs, it was observed that public counselors in those programs tended to ignore individual change-rates within the Twelve Step recovery program - - the model used by the agency to measure program success -- but not necessarily client success. The recidivism rates were consistently high among the clientele, but the agency still refused to question its methodology or to recognize that some individuals were ready to leave the facility at the ‘fourth’ step or the ‘sixth’ step.  It was difficult for both administrators and counselors to recognize that individuals do not all start from the same initial conditions or that alcoholism was symptomatic of different behavioral issues with different clients - - some of which could be addressed more effectively with less control, rather than more control. Yet, the agency was protecting a ‘reality’ that was shared by the funding agencies who measured accountability by the numbers of clients who ‘successfully’ completed all twelve steps. Indeed, after more than 30 years of operation in the community, one agency had successfully created the image that its approach to healing was ‘traditional,’ rather than merely bureaucratic, because that was the only approach that had been used with three generations of clients.  Not only was their a failure to legitimate individual and community change, but democratic values were largely ignored even as those inclusive values would have gone far in healing individuals and the communities they came from (Dennard, 2000;            ).  

For example, despite several decades of intellectual protestation otherwise (Waldo, 1948; Wamsley, el al, 1983)) public administration is still largely defined by administrators, politicians and citizens as merely the ‘way things get done,’ and its management apparatus is put forth by institutionalists and process theorists alike as the cure for the instability of emerging democracies in state-less regimes with rogue leadership and underdeveloped economies. Institutions may be important as a way to give democracy a face and structural pathways for citizen interaction. However, with only a management perspective to guide them; administrators are in over their heads in the global quest to secure democracy, especially in a world increasingly ambivalent towards the boundaries of the conventional Nation State. Although rapidly exporting itself through universities, think tanks and NGOs, American public administration has not yet evolved into a democratic form. Still, much of the world’s population is now subject to the powerful organization of its management imperatives nonetheless.

Complexity and citizenship: Individuals as founders.          

Much has been written, for example, about the limits that interest group liberalism (as mediated by the complex public policy process) places on citizenship in a free society - - especially that it seems to nurture the competitive and power-seeking relationships that diminish the more communitarian potential of social relationships (Etzioni). Yet the reform of politics and the policy-making process from which these ‘dysfunctional’ social relationships emerge is most often limited to how to involve more people in that same corrupt political process including teaching them how to successfully win the games of power politics as practical behavior. In other words, competitive social behavior is less dysfunctional than it is adaptive (Guttman, 1988).  Likewise, communitarinism looks to the inculcation of classical western values and certain political habits which, in conventional views, have been the source of social stability and responsible citizenship (Bellah). For example, the discourse of values is currently gravitating to the idea of trust as a precondition to stable democratic/economic relationships (Putman, 2000). From the perspective here, trust is not a precondition to democracy, but rather an emergent characteristic of social interactions. That is, trust (especially of government) is not another necessary manageable commodity of democracy conceived in the economic transactions of ‘social capital.’ Indeed, distrust is as important as trust in generating the dissonance needed to disrupt fixed patterns of thought and therefore create the adaptive conditions in which difference can be meaningfully accommodated. In a similar vein, social cohesion as it is used below, is interdependent with non-cohesive states that produce/accommodate difference. Individual behavior is a concern here, but it is believed that the individual grows in identity and democratic purpose in relationships with others, rather than only in the acquisition of personal habits of social compliance or in the efficient use of institutions, but in their free, perhaps challenging, interactions with other citizens (Arendt,  p. ).

For example, the democratic aesthetics imagined here for the renewal of public administration are more opportunistic than predictable so that the administrators must be more observant of their environments and what is emerging within in them as opportunities arise for ‘legitimating’ interactions rather than merely controlling their outcomes. “Gazing wide-eyed” as Jonathan Spencer calls it would result in the ‘empirical dissolution of some kinds of modern inquiry in the unexpectedness of actually existing politics.” (Spencer, p.15).I

Among the most profound of complexity principles, for example, is that, in the exponential change that marks aesthetic environments, prediction becomes an inexact science and the quest for certainty is a bankrupt aspiration (Hornstein, p. ). However, the uncertainty of the potential outcomes of these interactions is as important as any clarity in sustaining the conditions by which the democratic inclusion of difference results in a new, emergent and more stable state of democracy. A certain ambiguity, especially around the maintenance of boundaries, increases the kinds and numbers of democratic interactions that are possible without resistance (Dennard, 2007. Public Voices).  By contrast, both regulation and inculcation of values begin from the premise that the social environment is inadequate to the task of self-governance without an imposed process or value structure. The State therefore establishes the initial parameters of inequality by its own disdain for citizens as ‘less than’ those who govern.

 The Anti-Federalist argument concerning citizen knowledge is instructive in this regard. As a ‘Friend of the Republic’ wrote, “honest affection for the general good and common qualifications are sufficient - - administration has always been best managed, and the public best secured, when plain honesty and common sense alone governed public affairs (Duncan, p.  412).”  Have ‘common sense’ and expert knowledge co-evolved in a manner that has included citizen knowledge as a key weave in the pattern of democratic culture? In the complexity sense, the practice of inequality in administrative circles occurs in the self-selection of only that knowledge that ‘fits’ administrative models and administrative perceptions (Stivers, et al). That is to say that public administration has served to decide what knowledge survives and which is left behind - - a powerful practice in establishing and sustaining the boundaries of civic space and the realization of the controlled and protected niches for the managers and scientists of the human project first imagined by Francis Bacon (    ). Yet, it is also a practice that limits the possibility of emergent knowledge by reducing the robustness of social interaction - - including that which may produce innovative solutions to extant problems (Bankes, 2007).

This initial condition of inequality practiced by the State through public administration is further woven into the operating logic of the American system by a one-size-fits all approach, not just of social program models, but as to how those programs are implemented and what constitutes the narrowest interpretation of program compliance -- an approach that denies not only individual uniqueness, but also the self-organized realities of communities (       ).  Further, even if there is truth to the long-standing claim that citizens do not have the capacity to self-govern, the development of that capacity through a conscious increase in the number and kinds of non-mediated interactions has been largely left to the market, partly because the mythology remains that the market does not regulate the lives of citizens - - despite deepening inequalities and despite the subjection of all citizens to the increasingly avarice practices of credit, corporate tax structures, and the structured inequalities of low-paying service jobs. Likewise, the belief remains that the market is not highly regulated by government as does the more powerful corollary belief that government should not regulate the market. Rather, the mythology persists that it is a ‘free market’ and therefore intrinsically democratic. Yet without a practiced awareness of the self- organizing nature of the economic/management episteme by those administrators who maintain the parameters of citizen interaction, citizen incapacity simply becomes self-sustaining reality overtime and the perceived inequality between reformers and citizens is sustained. More often than not, for example, citizen interaction with government begins from the perception that all that is happening in a citizen interaction is conflict and further all that can happen in public space is the amelioration of that conflict or the violence that is likely if it is not ameliorated. This Lockeian perception, however, does not necessarily reduce the potential of violence, but rather sustains the life of conflict by making it a continued organizing principle of the evolving social system through regulatory adaptation. (Dennard; ). Little attention then is given to what else besides conflict might be adapted to in the same citizen encounters with more awareness of the complex relational dynamics of civic space. Recognizing this other potential would mean that administrators look beyond the State for the sources of freedom.

Is Democracy possible without the State?

Democracy as a form of government is not seen here as an absolute pre-condition to the appearance of democratic civic space. Rather democratic government is more likely to emerge from the interactions of individuals. Democracy, then, cannot be imposed externally on a pre-existing order of relationships as a completed project. Rather, it emerges with and within interactive civic space - - whether that space is necessarily even the direct descendent of a ‘democratic’ government. The constitutional history of the United States is perhaps testament to this -- what equality was in 1776 was not what it was by 1970. That is to say that the vision of American democracy has always been emergent rather than fixed - - depending on the evolution of social consciousness first to dictate political and administrative responses.

 Further, democratic encounters need not be limited to a particular type of ‘legitimate’ interaction such as voting. Instead, almost any action/inaction adds to the knowledge base and capacity of the corporate democratic body. The true pre-condition is the opportunity for relationship supported by the attraction to the Other - - often understood as the freedom of association. The caveat is that, like democratic civic space, democratic government co-evolves with citizens, rather than being only the well-administered institutions that contain social relationships within a conflicted, managerial, vision of the democratic project.

 For example, ‘civic’ is used here rather than ‘public’ to describe this emergent social architecture, of which citizens and government are co-evolving aspects, and to distinguish it from conventional perceptions that public space is somehow opposite of private space within the same social system and to further distinguish it from the sense that government operates in a separate social system than citizens do. Rather, the distinction is re-organized so that ‘private’ is one variation of ‘public’ rather than its polar opposite, in the way that the economy might be thought of as one adaptive response to a republican system rather than the strangely co-dependent, powerful opposite of government. Further, in a democracy of free associations, citizens are not simply one in an aggregated system of agreement, but rather the primary actors in that system. That is, the initial organizing condition of democracy is the individual, rather than the State.  Indeed individuals are the auctors (latin) -- the source, the instigators and the architects of the social system (de jouvenal, 1957, p. 21).  In this inversion of the idea of the ‘founding,’ citizens, as founders, are responsible for co-creating/sustaining the democratic project in their continued interactions rather than the State.

Public administration at the evolutionary edge of the State

If the role of the regulatory State is becoming unclear in the global social transition now occurring, what then is the niche of public administration in this evolutionary landscape? Perhaps that can only be answered by defining ‘hierarchy’ from a complexity perspective rather than the control perspective that seems implicit in the modern understanding of the arrangement of a federalist system. That is, public administration may emerge from the federalist system, but it is simply a more recent form of social organization and therefore not necessarily evolutionarily superior to the founding auctors or even inferior to the State. Rather, public administration may serve the corporate body (in the manner that the human brain serves the body) from which it emerges and with which it co-evolves. This inversion suggests an intimate, organic, relationship between citizens and public administration - - one is which there is a more egalitarian relationship between the founders (and re-founders) and government.

However, the prevalent belief in the dichotomies between public and private, citizens and government, makes observation of the more intimate interactions of the full system of social relationships difficult. Further, it makes it seems that one part of the system is invading the other rather than co-evolving; or one is superior to the other despite the fact that all have evolved within the same social system according to the same initial conditions to form an extant reality dependent on each.

For example, ‘Civic Space’ also is used here rather than ‘public space’ to revive a notion of political space favored by Hannah Arendt -- that it is not merely public institutions where wants and needs are mediated, but rather the space in which citizens act, not merely on narrow interests, but in order to make themselves known and to meaningfully contribute to the co-creation of their society (Arendt, p.  ). Within this broader, perhaps Anti-Federalist view, an infinite number of actions/interactions in an equal number of opportunities are legitimated. 

For purposes here, for example, one might edit Descartes’ theme of Cognito Ergo Sum and brandish instead J’agis donc je suis. (I act/interact, therefore I am.) Descartes linear philosophy produced subsequent management models of right behavior being imposed ‘objectively’ on citizens in order to produce desired regulatory outcomes and compliance (Taylor, 1989.) The interactive dynamics of democracy, however, would seem to demand a different, less self-referential, relationship between government and citizens. Action/interaction implies relationship -- in a way that ‘thinking’ does not since it cannot occur without the Other.

 Further, these dynamic, adaptive interactions can produce a multiplicity of different relationship forms that are conventionally perceived as democratic if they are ‘good’ and not democratic if they are ‘bad.’ However, the democratic process described here is adaptive rather than merely selective. That is, relationship forms emerge through interaction within the conditions in which individuals find themselves. The form of relationship is therefore an adaptive response to what is possible in a given social landscape; especially to what allows for the inclusion of all member ‘variables’ to produce system cohesion (Kauffmann p.   ). Complexity science and new evolutionary theory, for example, reorganize a mainstay of Modernist thought by reframing the deeply held belief in survival of the fittest through natural selection. Evolutionary systems make more empirical sense when it is recognized that what survives is not the most powerful or strongest, but rather what ‘fits’ the evolving pattern of relationships organized by the same initial conditions (Holland).

 Therefore, if, the adaptive cohesion produced by citizens is less than administratively ideal because of the initial conditions, it cannot then be categorically dismissed as a phenomenon without meaning. Nor can it be said to have emerged in an undemocratic manner simply because the administrative ideal has not been achieved. The adaptive ideal is the relationship form that achieves a creative cohesion among differences within its landscape (de Jouvenal, p. 28). If certain conventional democratic behaviors are not included, they are perhaps dysfunctional in the given landscape -- either not useful or they may threaten the relationships themselves.  The phenomenon of  the ‘survival of what fits’ brings into question much of the critical nature of administrative policy implementation aimed at curing ‘deficits’ among specific populations without first recognizing what conditions the population is already adapting to or what adaptive conditions administrative programs are creating.

 Yet allowing for unscripted interactions introduces an uncomfortable level of uncertainty for administrators - - fully a third of whom at the federal level are hired to evaluate the outcomes produced by the other two-thirds (Light, 1991). Yet, ambiguity is a necessary condition of the emergence of civic space in time. That is to say, that because the free civic space imagined here is emergent rather than fixed, temporally bound prescriptive judgments as to the quality or appropriateness of certain relationship patterns are either premature or simply potentially wrong. Therefore, ambiguity is a condition of the evolving architecture of democratic civic space because it is the condition of inclusivity. If public administrators accept a broader, more self-aware responsibility in the democratic project, they therefore must challenge their own measures of accountability, including those imposed by Congress. This process begins with recognizing the phenomenon of social learning and also with a more exact understanding of ‘cohesion’ as distinct from ‘consensus,’ equilibrium, unity, or even compliance.

Emergent democracy: Inclusive co-evolution through learning

The complexity concept of ‘cohesion’ is distinct from ‘equilibrium’ in that it expresses the dynamic weaving nature of citizen interaction -- one indivisible from the unique characteristics of its members and the self-organizing aesthetics of relationship. Equilibrium implies a certain state of those relationships at a particular point in time that seems conflict free, but which is difficult to maintain in diverse environments without coercion or exclusion. (Parsons, p. ).  

For example, the stability of emergent relationship patterns may depend on their continuing capacity to adapt/learn through the creative accommodation of difference, rather than through the maintenance of boundaries.  At the same time, destabilization (e.g. the dissipation of or challenge to an old model of thought) does not necessarily threaten an emergent social system as much as it provides another profound opportunity for society to learn and increase its democratic capacity (Arendt, p.    , Dennard, 2001 ). Yet learning is a distinctly different process than managing and begins with the observation that difference is not a problem to overcome in realizing stable democratic cultures, rather it is essential to that stability.

For example, the contemporary phenomenologist Emmanuel Levinas describes the importance of social difference that cannot be reduced to the similarities with the Self. Encounters with the Other, he said, cannot meaningfully be reduced to something as symmetrical as a transaction.  Rather, difference is viable only if it brings the Same into question (i.e. it disrupts the symmetry of a transaction and the old mindset of the individual). This questioning is the basis for social learning and the creation of new knowledge that makes difference a meaningful part of the evolving whole. It is this process of destabilizing old patterns, learning, and the co-creation of knowledge - - rather than merely the instrumental transfer of expert knowledge -- that provides the process structure of a stable and ethical society. (Levinas, 1988, p. ). In other words, for the evolving relational architecture of democracy to achieve (and re-achieve) a democratic cohesion in changing social circumstances, it cannot exclude those who are not on ‘common ground’ with each other. Levinas maintained, for example, that the greater differences are within society, the greater the opportunity for learning. Further, this responsiveness to difference is the basis of true freedom -- the co-creation of that space where individuals continue to create a meaningful identity for themselves within the context of the evolving whole (p.   ).

So what would be a ‘bad’ democratic relationship, given the opportunities for true learning that the Other who is not the Same can afford a citizen?  The conditions for the continuing evolution of a stable democratic pattern of relationship would suggest that even ‘bad’ encounters have utility. What is perhaps of least value are those encounters that merely reaffirm rather than transcend old assumptions about individuals - - which, unfortunately is the relationship citizens often have with government operating from profiles and outcome expectations which make it difficult for administrators, not only to recognize individuals, but also to recognize change when it happens. Further, social learning, as understood here, is transformational rather than transactional and this phenomenon is an intensely practical aspect of democratic societies. The more a society learns the more it is capable of learning from an evolutionary perspective. The greater the leaps; the more resilient is the social architecture (Kauffman.). Indeed to leap with the Other, according to Levinas, is to be implicated and responsible to the Other (p.  ). Therefore, from the view being developed here, social stability and social responsibility depend, not on Sameness, but on the continual encounter of Not the Same in civic space.

 The phenomenology of Levinas also is important here, in that it supports the uncritical observation of an emerging, ‘self-organized’ social order as a viable practice of governance. This observation varies from an administrative problem solving approach which depletes the emerging order of everything except the measurable problem, its apparent effects, and its historical explanations. Rather it allows administrators to engage social reality democratically - - as it is, rather than merely only as they think it should be. To be a viable experience for individuals, for example, democracy must mean more than the administration of the population’s problems, the solutions to which citizens are simply allowed to ratify.  Indeed, the legitimized co-evolution of citizens in democratic interactions produces a more diverse knowledge base for problem-solving and also opportunities for citizens to act, to exercise the Self, and to create and recreate society as a reflection of their contributions rather than only their acquiescence to the correction of their deficits as individuals (Steiner, 2006). The nature of democratic civic space is therefore not reducible to a single description, or to specific institutions, in that its exact meaning or potential outcome is not static, but rather is emergent in specific relationships overtime. Still, the initial organizing principles are identifiable in each interaction -- the most important ones being freedom of association and self-organizing aesthetics that are recognized as legitimate by public leaders.

So what about power?

            The emergence of civic space, ironically perhaps given the concern here for equality, does and has occurred through self-organization within the conditions of power.  Citizens self-organize to wrestle power from other citizens and learn from each other.  Politicians seek and retain power by dividing up public goods among competing interests and learn how to beat the system for the benefit of their constituents. As with all social interactions, however, the framework of power is a self-defining, self-renewing pattern of relationships. However, a system organized on the basis of inequality of power is not categorically ‘true’ in that it does not express the potential of yet to be realized or marginalized patterns of human interaction. For purposes of a theory of civic architecture for example, power is not a mere commodity. Rather, again echoing the philosophy of Hannah Arendt, power does not pre-exist relationship. Instead, it emerges in relationship and therefore has no measurable form or strictly definable identity (Arendt,   ).

            Yet, because we are used to thinking of power as merely a commodity owned by some and not by others, it is perhaps more useful here to use meaning as a metaphor for the individual outcomes of social interactions in civic space. For example, from a complexity perspective, the human neo-cortex does not merely store and analyze information, but rather places new sensory and emotional cues within an evolving architecture of personal meaning (Freeman, 1991). Likewise, relational space (that opportunity for interaction afforded through the freedom of association) produces both individual and social meaning as a creation of individuals actively co-learning from difference, rather than merely passively storing information and analyzing behavior. In turn, this learning destabilizes prior perceptions, while the new knowledge that results from learning re-organizes the architecture of relationships to include, the learning, the creative new knowledge of co-learning and the difference that provoked the learning. The emergent reality then exists only as the new configuration of relationships as the old, exclusive order of relationships no longer exists at that new point of time. Therefore each individual is equally necessary to the maintenance of the character of the newly emergent relationship pattern. In other words, the relationship does not derive only from the mechanical redistribution of power and the mediation of the conflict such redistribution fosters, but rather self-organizes through the co-creation of meaning (Bergson, 2005, p. ). 

            Again, this is not to say that conventional power relationships do not exist in emergent civic space. Rather, it is suggested here that such relationships are variants, rather than the only possible or practical understanding of what is happening in such dynamic, self-organizing, and opportunistic space. The act of broader observation (especially by administrators who often control the boundaries of free association without recognizing that they do) is critical. Inequitable and power mongering relationships can always be found. They can be spotted a mile a way because both administrators and critics know what they are looking for. An emergent system, however, may not reveal the expected. A less critical observation may suggest instead where the system is going in time and in potential rather than only where it has been. In other words, the State cannot expect citizens to behave democratically if it is organized by and forces adaptation to less than democratic conditions, however ‘real’ these conditions may appear. Administrative praxis, therefore, takes the meaning here of cohesion between the organizing principles of individual freedom to act and associate and the organizing principles of the State. Yet, the caveat is added that this praxis must be achieved consciously to effect a democratic cohesion, rather than merely the managerial one. 

For example, Ian Shapiro defines the role of democratic government as “the means of managing power relations so as to minimize domination,” (2006, p. 3); this as distinct from the liberal tradition of seeking the common good. However, ‘management’ of power relationships still requires citizen manipulation and a level of adaptation to coercion ( de Jassay, p.  ). Dominating relationships are actually sustained therefore (rather than transcended by practicing democratic relationships) because they ‘fit’ the political ecology (architecture). For example, although regulations may be important for establishing the initial trajectories of democratic values, they are less effective at higher levels of organization or regulatory accretion where they produce thick self-referential boundaries, again rather than creating new pathways for change through citizen interaction (Ruhl, ).  However, Shapiro makes a corresponding argument that is useful here -- that government should create and monitor the normative standards for democracy rather than simply fine-tune social regulations. Courts, for example, should be examining the health of the state of democracy, he says, rather than merely interpreting laws, often on the basis of political affiliations (p.   ).    

Summary: The State of democracy

Democracy cannot be reduced to one or another form of government, but exists instead in the process of creatively accommodating difference inherent in the self-organization of citizens. Therefore, the ‘state’ of democracy is the emerging phenomena of civic space - - not strictly historical or predictable, but rather in a constant condition of adjusting for and creating from difference. Yet, as Shapiro notes, citizen interactions can easily become subject to coercion either from the State or other citizens. What is the role of public administration in mediating this condition given that managerial democracy tends not to foster democracy as much as it regulates/sustains power?  Indeed, managerial democracy is threatened by the movements of other systems that are more openly adaptive (as opposed to merely strategically adaptive) and further its learning curve may not be adequate to the needs of adaptation as they exist now rather than in the past. Further, managerial democracy cannot be inclusively democratic when most concerned with forcing social equilibrium with a single economic/managerial model  - - one that creates the conditions of competition and conflict --  even if it is not the State’s intent to recreate the assumptions of inequitable power implicit in that model.  A simple first strategy for a democratic public administration is to recognize what the profession is adapting to and also what aesthetic attractors it then creates for citizens.



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