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Spirituality and Public Service

Authors

  • David J. Houston,

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Tennessee
      David J. Houston is an associate professor of political science at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. His research interests include public service motivation, public policy theory, and traffic safety policy. His research has been published in the Public Administration Review, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Administration & Society, and Political Research Quarterly.
      E-mail:dhouston@utk.edu.
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  • Katherine E. Cartwright

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Tennessee
      Katherine E. Cartwright is a graduate of the master of public administration program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She is employed at the law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC, in Nashville, Tennessee. Her research interests include social insurance programs (Medicare and Social Security Disability Insurance) and corporate governance.
      E-mail:kcartwright@bakerdonelson.com.
    Search for more papers by this author

David J. Houston is an associate professor of political science at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. His research interests include public service motivation, public policy theory, and traffic safety policy. His research has been published in the Public Administration Review, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Administration & Society, and Political Research Quarterly.
E-mail:dhouston@utk.edu.

Katherine E. Cartwright is a graduate of the master of public administration program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She is employed at the law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC, in Nashville, Tennessee. Her research interests include social insurance programs (Medicare and Social Security Disability Insurance) and corporate governance.
E-mail:kcartwright@bakerdonelson.com.

Abstract

The common pronouncement of a career in public service as a “calling” echoes with a decidedly spiritual chord. However, the spiritual roots of public service have been ignored in much of the public administration scholarship. This essay examines the empirical connection between individual spirituality and participation in public service occupations. Data from the 1998 General Social Survey are analyzed to determine whether those in public service occupations are more spiritual than persons in non–public service occupations. The findings indicate that individuals in public service occupations, especially government-related ones, are in fact more spiritual in their attitudes than others. Moreover, belief in the notions of transcendence and compassion for others are more pronounced in public service employees. Finally, the experience of interconnectedness and life meaning is greater for those in the public service.

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