There has been a resurgence of interest in values in recent public administration research, based on two distinct arguments. For different reasons, neither approach is likely to secure a robust normative basis for public endeavours. These reasons are assessed, using an alternative body of theory rooted in contemporary social theory that we term, ‘new pragmatism’. New pragmatic ideas are deployed to critique the divorce of values from facts; the abstraction of values from concrete situations; the anthropocentric foundation to social choice; the poorly developed understanding of the process of governance, with its inherent pluralism; and the seeming reluctance to articulate principles of political discourse.