The Public Service of the Future


James L. Perry is Distinguished Professor, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University, Bloomington, and Department of Public Administration, Yonsei University, Seoul, South Korea. He is coeditor of Motivation in Public Management: The Call of Public Service (Oxford University Press, 2008) and editor of the Jossey-Bass Reader on Nonprofit and Public Leadership (2010). His current research interests include public service motivation, collaboration, and shared leadership.,

Neal D. Buckwalter is a doctoral candidate in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University, Bloomington. His research interests include the role of transparency in government administration, state and local government structure, and fiscal capacity. Concurrent interests include public service structures and the potential to strengthen capacity through effective mentoring efforts.


This article seeks to identify the status and infrastructure of public service in 2020. It first examines Leonard White’s early effort at predicting a future search for public service, written in 1942, but with an eye toward the 1950s and 1960s. The authors assess the subsequent structural and ideological development of public service to lay a framework for their own projection of the public service of the future. They anticipate important foundational shifts that will lead to a revaluing of public service and opportunities to reinvigorate public work. The authors conclude with a list of six specific public service infrastructure changes that they anticipate will become manifest by 2020.

Guest editors’ note: In 1942, the University of Chicago Press published a book edited by Leonard D. White titled The Future of Government in the United States. Each chapter in the book presents predictions concerning the future of U.S. public administration. In this article, James L. Perry and Neal D. Buckwalter examine White’s predictions for the future of public service published in that book, comment on whether White’s predictions were correct, and look to the future to examine public administration in 2020.