Pragmatism and the Intellectual Development of American Public Administration

Dissertation, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (1997)

Histories of public administration's early intellectual development have little to report on the influences of pragmatism as developed by philosophers such as Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, and John Dewey. This dissertation contributes to the literature of the history of public administration by documenting this "slighting" and assessing its consequences. The dissertation concludes that public administration does indeed have a heritage in pragmatism, but this heritage does not emanate directly from the philosophical pragmatism of Peirce, James, or Dewey. Rather, it is found in the disguised or silent pragmatism of Mary Parker Follett, the popularized, corrupted, and nominal pragmatisms of Charles A. Beard and Herbert Simon, and the implicit pragmatism of Dwight Waldo. The discovery of this heritage of "hidden" pragmatism carries with it significant implications for the way we think about public administration as a field of study. Most importantly, it means that we have a distorted and incomplete view of our past. Our failure to understand the heritage of pragmatism means that we cannot see pragmatism as a legitimate alternative to the positivism and behavioralism that dominate contemporary mainstream public administration
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