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Book Review

The Black Hole of Public Administration

The Black Hole of Public Administration

par Ruth Hubbard and Gilles Paquet

A provocative reimagining of the Canadian public service.

Public administration in Canada needs to change. A handful of scholars across Canada have been sounding the alarm for years but to no avail. Talented young bureaucrats have been joining the public service with fresh ideas capable of creating real change, but the black hole consumes all.

In The Black Hole of Public Administration, experienced public servant Ruth Hubbard and public administration iconoclast Gilles Paquet sound a wake-up call to the federal public service. They lament the lack of “serious play” going on in Canada’s public administration today and map some possible escape plans. They look to a more participatory governance model – ‘open source’ governing or ‘small g’ governance – as a way to liberate our public service from antiquated styles and systems of governing.

In their recognizably rebellious style, Hubbard and Paquet demand that public administration scholars and senior level bureaucrats pull their heads out of the sand and confront the problems of the current system and develop a new system that can address the needs of Canada today.

Ruth Hubbard, a former federal deputy minister, is senior fellow at the Centre on Governance at the University of Ottawa. She is the author of Profession: Public Servant (Invenire Books, 2009).

Gilles Paquet is professor emeritus and senior research fellow at the Centre on Governance at the University of Ottawa. He has authored or edited 40 books, including The New Geo-Governance (University of Ottawa Press, 2005).

Table of contents

Preface Public Administration in Distress
Introduction From ‘Big G’ Government to ‘small g’ governance
Part IThe Dynamics of the Broader Context
Chapter 1 The Clerk as Révélateur
Chapter 2 Toward an Autopoietic Federalism
Part II Pathologies of Governance Illustrated
Chapter 3 Forty-Four Forums on Some Twenty-Four Wicked Problems
Chapter 4 Quantophrenia
Chapter 5 Disloyalty
Chapter 6 The Neurotic State
Chapter 7 Fiscal Imbalance as Governance Failure
Part III Repairs in Many Dimensions
Chapter 8 Alternative Service Delivery: The Thin Edge of the Wedge
Chapter 9 P3 and The “Porcupine Problem”
Chapter 10 The Myth of the Public Service as a Lump of Labour
Chapter 11 Design Challenges For The Strategic State: Bricolage and Sabotage
Chapter 12 Ombuds as Producers of Governance
Conclusion Governance and Beyond
Postface The Sabotage of Harms

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