Governance in Dark Times

Practical Philosophy for Public Service

Camilla Stivers

"Articulate, clear, engaging, and thoughtful prose. . . . Governance in Dark Times is a provocative, intellectually inspiring book."
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With the rush of calamitous events in recent years—the September 11 terror attacks, the Iraq imbroglio, and hurricanes Katrina and Rita—Americans feel themselves to be living in dark times. Trust in one another and in the government is at low ebb. People in public service face profound challenges to the meaning and efficacy of their work. Where can a public servant turn for a public philosophy to sustain practice?

Inspired by Hannah Arendt and several other philosophers, Governance in Dark Times is the first book to explore the philosophical and value underpinnings needed to guide public servants in these times. Featuring down-to-earth discussions of such issues as terrorism, torture, and homeland security, it suggests ways for people in government to think more deeply, judge more wisely, and act more meaningfully. Camilla Stivers argues that the most urgent requirement in dark times is re-kindling what Arendt called "the light of the public," and offers practical steps for public servants to create spaces for citizen dialogue and engagement in public life. Ideas like "governance of the common ground" and "public service as social hope" will spark discussion and encourage renewed dedication to the work of governing.

Grounded in the author's more than thirty years of teaching and administrative practice, Governance in Dark Times urges public servants in clear, jargon-free prose to reflect, to understand the world we live in, and to act responsibly, both individually and with fellow citizens.

Table of Contents


PART I: Thinking, Reason, and Truth: Philosophy for Public Service

1. Rethinking Reason after September 11

2. Public Administration and the Question of Torture

3. Thinking, Judging, and Public Life

PART II: Two Models of Governance

4. There's No Place Like Homeland: Security in Dark Times

5. The Social Reality of Public Space

6. Governance from Ground Up

PART III: Philosophy for Practice

7. Pragmatism in Public Service

8. Public Service Ethics in Dark Times



"Articulate, clear, engaging, and thoughtful prose. . . . Governance in Dark Times is a provocative, intellectually inspiring book."—Administrative Theory & Praxis

"A deeply thought-provoking book . . . True to its title, it is genuinely a work of 'practical philosophy for public service,' one with the potential to spark much thoughtful and productive discussion around the future of American governance."—Public Administration Review

"This short and dense volume is erudite, thought provoking, and ultimately satisfying."—International Journal of Intelligence Ethics

"A significant contribution that is rooted in administrative ethics, but transcends that field of specialization. Its treatment of recent and current events in the U.S. will be valued for its penetrating insight that pushes our thinking to deeper levels than has been typical since 9/11."—Terry L. Cooper, professor of policy, planning, and development, University of Southern California

"In these dark times, if there is light to be shed for those in the public service, it is the light of thoughtful, reflective, even philosophical engagement with our place in the world. For every public administrator who wants to know what it all means—and that's every one—Governance in Dark Times will provide not only insight but hope. Read this book!"—Robert B. Denhardt, Lincoln Professor of Leadership and Ethics, Arizona State University

"Governance in Dark Times makes an important contribution to theory that also connects to our contemporary situation. For democracy to be of much value it needs to involve the kind of thinking, judgment, and discussion that Stivers provides."—Larry S. Luton, professor of public administration, Eastern Washington University

"Stivers aim is `to evoke thought and discussion.' She succeeds admirably as she challenges the reader to contemplate the implications of the darkness of terrorism, violence, disastrous government leaders, and a lost public world."—Rosemary O'Leary, Distinguished Professor of Public Administration, Maxwell School Board of Advisors Endowed Chair, Syracuse University

"Stivers offers an intellectually powerful yet eminently practical guide for exploring how men and women together might begin to rethink the purposes of governance as we move through these dark times following 9/11. With this elegantly written book, rooted in the deep wisdom of pragmatism, Stivers is destined to become a prophet of public administration for the 21st century, just as Mary Parker Follett was a prophet of management for the 20th."—Robert Kramer, American University

"Stivers' book offers a refreshing and exhilarating approach to governance, the improvement of which rests on bridging the enormous gulf which separates the government from its people....Stivers' focus on the importance of a philosophical perspective to the public realm is both extraordinary and brilliant. This book should be required reading for all students—including faculty and practitioners—of public administration and public policy."—Norma M. Riccucci, professor, School of Public Affairs and Administration, Rutgers University


Supplemental Materials


Co-winner of the 2008 Louis Brownlow Book Award of the National Academy of Public Administration

About the Author

Camilla Stivers is Distinguished Professor of Public Administration in the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University.

176 pp., 5.5 x 8.5

Mar 2008

176 pp., 5.5 x 8.5

ISBN: 978-1-58901-197-7
Mar 2008

176 pp.

ISBN: 978-1-58901-334-6
Mar 2008

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