From Clerks to Bureaucrats: White Supremacy and the Roots of Public Administration

Brian Sargent, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Although significant scholarship on the intellectual roots of public administration already exists, it has not addressed a critical aspect of the motivation, justification, and political power of the field’s creation. Leveraging critical race theory, science and technology studies, and the sociology of professions, this paper examines how Lost Cause-style assessments of the so-called failure of Post-Civil War Reconstruction served as the impetus for the professionalization of the governmental apparatus. The assessment of Progressive Era reformists was that Black people, in particular, were incapable of self-governance and in need of an expert hand that was also ethically unencumbered by corruptive influences. This paper connects this assessment to the intellectual roots of public administration and reflects on some of its contemporary consequences.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 123. Racializing Political Power