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Is There a Spirit of Governance?


  • Jonathan G. S. Koppell is dean of the College of Public Programs and director of the School of Public Affairs at Arizona State University. His research concerns the design and administration of complex organizations in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. His most recent book, World Rule: Accountability, Legitimacy and the Design of Global Governance (University of Chicago Press), was published in 2010. He also has written on public–private hybrid organizations and fi nancial regulation. E-mail:

  • Jennifer Claire Auer is a doctoral candidate in the School of Public Affairs at Arizona State University. Her research focuses on community economic development policy. She has published articles on nonprofi t mission drift and collaborative governance. Current interests include entrepreneurship and economic resilience. She earned a master's degree in public policy from the George Washington University. E-mail:


In his classic work, H. George Frederickson offers a robust call to value anew the spirit of public administration. This was offered not as an abstract treatise but as a reaction to the evolution of the practice of public administration that included institutions and approaches that stretched previous understanding of the field. Much about the constitution of the “spirit of public administration” is left abstract by Frederickson. It is something of a placeholder for the norms, values, and principles that are threatened by the ascendance of “governance.” In this article, the threat of an undermined spirit of administration in a governance era is considered with an attempt at greater specificity and concreteness than previous discussions. To the end of opening a more empirical exploration of the spirit–governance nexus, this article moves away from an either/or position and attempts to distill the highest risks of deterioration of spirit in the provision of public goods.

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