Kevin R. Kosar Reviews Edward C. Banfield’s Government Project

Government ProjectPublic Administration Review published my retro-review of Banfield’s first book, Government Project:

A Nearly Forgotten Classic in Public Administration: Edward C. Banfield’s Government Project, Public Administration Review, September/October, 2009.

As the neo-progressive wave in politics rises higher and higher, Banfield’s Government Project provides a cautionary tale of the challenges that well-intended policymakers and public administrators face in tackling social problems.

It is an easy reading book that nearly anyone can read and enjoy. (Dry, academic treatise it most certainly is not.)

So what’s the book about? Well, it describes and analyzes the one of the federal government’s attempts to help poor farmers during the Great Depression.

But that’s not all it is about. As Banfield put it:

The most characteristic feature of modern society, perhaps, is the great and increasing role of formal organizations of all kinds. Primitive societies were (and are) held together chiefly by the nonlogical bounds of custom and tradition; in modern society the relations of individuals are to a large extent consciously and deliberately organized by the use of intelligence, and the rules of logic. . . . This attempt to organize society along rational lines is a stupendous experiment. Nothing in history promises that it will succeed. But like Faust we are bound by our bargain, and so the study of formal organization and planning—of the techniques by which control may be exerted deliberately and intelligently—is a matter of profound importance. If it is placed in the widest possible framework, then, Government Project may be regarded as a study of one of mankind’s countless recent efforts to take command of his destiny.

How’s that for a subject of import?

Citation: Kevin R. Kosar, A Nearly Forgotten Classic in Public Administration: Edward C. Banfield’s Government Project, Public Administration Review, September/October, 2009.

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