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“Saving” the City: Harland Bartholomew and Administrative Evil in St. Louis



City planner Harland Bartholomew rose in prominence along with the popularity of scientific city-efficient planning during the early to mid-twentieth century. In the pursuit of solutions to urban problems, Bartholomew concluded that the most efficient way to revitalize St. Louis, Missouri, was through the clearing of slums. In an attempt to solve the city’s economic and demographic problems, slum clearance destroyed and displaced Black neighborhoods whose 70,000 residents were seen as detrimental to the city’s success,. Bartholomew’s planning was in line with the public administration theoretical perspective of administrative evil, which states that technical-rational specialists sometimes commit acts of cruelty without intending to. Through his attempts to revitalize and renew the city, Harland Bartholomew did a great deal of evil to Black populations in St. Louis. This article identifies the ways that Bartholomew’s administrative evil was masked and perceived as a moral good despite its displacement of Black residents.
In the pursuit of solutions to economic and demographic problems during the early to mid-
twentieth century, St. Louis city planner Harland Bartholomew destroyed black neighborhoods,
displaced their residents without assistance, and created racial segregation (Schindler, 2015;
Rothstein, 2014; Gordon, 2014; Bartholomew, 1922; Kanovsky, 2015; Marcuse, 1997; Heathcott,
2005b; Lai, 2014). Citing concerns of public health, unfair municipal tax contributions, and
deurbanization, he was motivated to alter the built environment to secure urban growth
(Bartholomew, 1920; Bartholomew, 1937a; Bartholomew, 1935; Bartholomew, 1914-1929;
Bartholomew, 1914-1929a; Bartholomew, 1940; Bartholomew, 1937; Cooper-McCann, 2016;
Heathcott, 2005a; Brown, 2005). His concerns were rational. Many slum residences did not have
running water, adequate sunlight, reasonable living space, and were next to polluting industries
(Bolin, Grineski, & Collins, 2005; Lopez, 2012; Fischler, 1998; Bartholomew, 1920a; Fukuo,
2009; Lopez, 2009; Heathcott, 2015; Rothstein, 2014). Slums created negative externalities by
consuming more than they paid in municipal taxes (Heathcott, 2015; Lovelace, 1993;
Bartholomew, 2003; Gordon, 2014). White populations were beginning to deurbanize from the
central city into the suburbs (Sandoval, 2004). Bartholomew’s concerns were founded, his
analyses correct; but, his solutions ignored the lives of black slum populations.
This paper will argue that in the pursuit of solutions, Harland Bartholomew committed
administrative evil. This was legal, which does not diminish its status as cruelty. It was done after
analyzing the sources of urban problems, and from those analyses it made sense. Slum clearance
was considered to be the first step in urban renewal, a process that would help the city at large.
Urban renewal proved to be a process that displaced populations under the guise of progress.
This paper is no apology for the evil of slum clearance in St. Louis. Its harm cannot be justified
by any urban problem. It will explain how the demolition and displacement of black
neighborhoods was cast as good and necessary.
Urban planning was used to alter the built environment of St. Louis to the detriment of black
residents. Bartholomew’s slum clearance did not consider the effect that the program would have
on their neighborhoods. It is one thing to see a black neighborhood as blighted, or in bad shape,
but another thing to recommend destroying it without considering displaced families. This period
was one where discrimination was common, but the effects that slum clearance had go beyond
discrimination. Entire communities were destroyed and their populations were displaced. Those
who could not afford new housing in the city had little choice but to emigrate. Neighborhoods
that had spent years building strong social ties were dispersed. The displacement of black
populations in St. Louis was a policy of exodus.
Administrative Evil
Administrative evil is defined by Guy Adams and Danny Balfour (2014) as when people “engage
in acts of evil unaware that they are in fact doing anything at all wrong,” with evil defined as
“the actions of human beings that unjustly or needlessly inflict pain and suffering and death on
other human beings.” Their definition of administrative evil is adequate, but their definition of
evil is somewhat vague in its exactness of when cruelty is just or needed, and of when unethical
behavior moves into the realm of actual evil. More contemporary descriptions of evil
characterize it as existing on a spectrum, with the inconsequential lie being far before the point
that immorality becomes evil and mass murder existing past that point (Adams & Balfour, 2015;
Jurkiewicz & Grossman, 2015). Others will point out that there is an equity component to evil,
and that deeds committed within patterns of inequity carry additional weight when considering if
a deed is evil (Fredrickson, 2015). A better definition of evil describes it as between the lie-to-
mass murder spectrum, with weight added to actions that fit in with patterns of inequity.
Not all evil is administrative. People committing evil often understand what they are doing
and why they are doing it. When evil is recognized for what it is, it can be perceived as
unavoidable or enabling a greater good (Zanetti & Adams, 2000). Sometimes people committing
evil are unaware of what they are contributing to, and this is when evil becomes administrative.
The defining characteristic that separates evil from administrative evil is that it is masked to
Administrative evil is masked – administrative evil-doers do not have evil intentions.
Administrative evil may be so masked that it is impossible to recognize and is often perpetrated
by people fulfilling their professional roles in an organization (Adams & Balfour, 2007; Adams
& Balfour, 2014; Adams & Zanetti, 2000). With time and cultural distance, administrative evil
becomes easier to unmask (Barth, 2010; Adams & Balfour, 2014; Molina, 2015; Tschundi, 2008;
Adams & Zanetti, 2000). The most named mask administrative evil is technical rationality, a
phenomenon that arose from early twentieth century approaches to problem solving.
Technical rationality, an epistemology that emphasizes scientific analysis, efficiency, and
technological progress, is the most cited mask of administrative evil (Adams & Balfour, 2014;
Adams, 2011a; Adams, Balfour, & Reed, 2006). Technical-rational specialists apply their skills
in pursuit of a goal, separated from the context of its use. The specialist has little say in their
goals—there is only the expectation of science and efficiency (Dillard & Ruchala, 2005). A
specialist uses technical means to reach specified ends; in this way, it appears to professionals
that ends dictate means as being whatever is most efficient, rather than people dictating their own
means and ends (Chwastiak, 2001). Some have argued that technical rationality is not necessary
for evil to occur and that there are other explanations for evil committed by administrators
(Koven, 2011). This is true; however, technical rationality is sufficient to mask evil and has been
noted as an area of interest in public administration for decades (Adams, 2011).
Legalism has also been identified as a common mask of administrative evil. (Hoffman, Pyne,
& Gajewski, 2012). Legalism entails a perspective that the following of laws is sufficient for
fulfilling moral obligations (Shklar, 1964). Laws can justify immorality—if one knows her
auctions are legal, it is easy to see herself as doing good (Molina, 2015). In the eyes of
perpetrators, evil performed pursuant to the law becomes legitimate (Balfour, 1997). While law
often aims to be a perfect reflection of morality, that reflection can sometimes become opaque.
The law can be insufficient for defining moral action (Granfield & Koenig, 2003), immoral
governance can fall within the bounds of the law (Anechiarico, 2016), and the legal profession
has undergone moral decline (Derthick, 2015; Quill, 2014). There are times if, when the
following of a law would result in a profound evil, that the expectations of the administrator
must be to overcome immoral laws (King, 1963). Without that expectation, the legal status of an
action can mask the evil it entails.
A third mask of administrative evil is moral inversion. During moral inversion an evil, for
example the displacement and segregation of blacks, is recast as a good, for example helping the
city grow. The moral inversion is convincing and believable, it is not a rationalization that people
seek actively (Adams & Balfour, 2014; Adams & Balfour, 2008; Balf, 2016). When the
population that evil is being performed upon is defined as dangerous to a community’s economic
sustainability or physical security, evil committed to them can be recast as good for helping the
community (Bartholomew, 1922; Bartholomew, 1935; Bartholomew, 1937; Adams et al., 2006).
Believing oneself to be doing good works to mask evil. Overcoming the moral inversion may be
the most difficult aspect of avoiding administrative evil; the rejection of cruelty when faced with
victimhood can engender a sense of cynicism and misanthropy with the realization that the
cruelty of others will continue even in a society that refuses to respond in kind (Shklar, 1982).
Evil can be masked through the creation and dehumanization of surplus populations, which
are groups without substantive roles in the society they live in (Adams et al., 2006; Samier, 2008;
Dillard, Ruchala, & Yuthas, 2005; Rubenstein, 1983). In modern capitalism, surplus populations
do not contribute economically (Rubenstein, 1983). Economic surplus populations are reduced to
their quantitative attributes measured in dollars (Bauman, 1989). From the perspective of
efficiency-minded technical rationality seeking an economic end, surplus populations are
inefficient inputs. In general, economic deprivation works to define populations as less-than-
human out groups (Tschundi, 2008; Adams & Balfour, 2008). The economic problems created by
black surplus populations in St. Louis were not considered intentional, but rather a natural
characteristic of blackness (Lee, 2000; Tillotson, 2014; Stone, 2012). Slum conditions were
synonymous with black residency, they could only be alleviated by the removal of the surplus
population rather than through the improvement of their conditions—black residency was seen to
cause slums, and conditions could only be improved in their absence.
Evil can be masked using euphemisms. What is now often called slum clearance was referred
to as a step in urban renewal (Fainstein, 2005; Berry, 2005; Lipman, 2009; Kanovsky, 2015).
This euphemism shifted the actions of planners from the clearance of slum neighborhoods to the
rest of the city, which stood to benefit. Words like blight and slum were used to describe black
neighborhoods, and blacks themselves were thought to spread blight, and financial and insurance
risk (Kanovsky, 2015; Tillotson, 2014). Describing a neighborhood as risky, blighted, or slum,
was synonymous with calling it black (Lee, 2000). In St. Louis, Harland Bartholomew rarely
made references to race explicitly unless in passing, and preferred to talk about blight and slum
(Bartholomew, 2003; Riley, 1926-1964).
Evil can be masked on a spectrum. Some evil is hidden from the people committing it, some
have a vague understanding, and some people are aware of what they are doing. Evil tends to be
mostly if not entirely unmasked at executive level positions. There, evil is calculated and chosen
as supportive of a larger goal (Adams & Balfour, 2014). Organizational support roles tend to be
susceptible to masked evil (Balf, 2016; Adams et al., 2006). City planners fall within this level as
specialists—they make recommendations, to inform decision makers. Lower level practitioners
can also recognize evil around them. They may do nothing about it for fear of arousing the ire of
their bosses, or because they do not believe their personal agency appropriately extends to the
situation (Samier, 2008).
Some take issue with the descriptor of evil entirely—it has moral implications, which are
often considered to be subjective and outside of the realm of social science. Many academics
have shied away from this kind of research, opting to merely describe ethical theories or to
rename evil as something less controversial (Quill, 2014; Adams & Balfour, 2014).
Evil can be overnamed, or often used to refer to something less than evil. Overnaming
diminishes the power of the word evil, especially when it is used to describe displacement,
murder, and taking candy from a baby. Evil can also be undernamed when it is not used to refer
to something that is clearly evil. Referring to displacement as ‘bad’ could undername its severity
(Boedy, 2015). This paper takes the position that some things are accurately described as evil.
Having defined evil and administrative evil, both can be discussed in a descriptive manner.
The next section discusses Harland Bartholomew, city planner in St. Louis from 1916 to
1953. Bartholomew was an advocate for slum clearance, both in St. Louis and across the country.
First, a broad overview of Bartholomew’s work will be given. Then a more specific discussion of
Bartholomew’s planning will be presented and matched to masks of administrative evil.
Harland Bartholomew
This section relies on literature describing the life and work of Harland Bartholomew. In addition
to books and articles, it also relies on the Washington University’s Harland Bartholomew
Archives. This archive contains many of Bartholomew’s personal records. Through the idea of
slum clearance Bartholomew did a great deal of harm to the populations he displaced. Rational
city planning became popular in the early 20th century, which coincides with Bartholomew’s
entrance into the profession, and he serves as a good case study for urban planning of the period.
Bartholomew entered the city planning profession in 1912 with the firm of E.P. Goodrich as a
city planning engineer. Goodrich would later partner with the firm of George Ford to plan
Newark, New Jersey in 1913. In 1914 Ford and Goodrich left Newark to work on other projects,
leaving Bartholomew to finish the plan. The Newark plan commission hired Bartholomew as the
first full time city planner in the United States. By 1915, Bartholomew completed the United
States’ first comprehensive city plan. Later that year, at age 26, he took an offer from St. Louis to
be their director of planning. In 1947 he prepared a city plan for St. Louis highlighting
neighborhoods as slums, in danger of blight, or stable. He stayed in St. Louis until 1953 while
also managing his firm Harland Bartholomew and Associates. The firm worked across America
creating city plans. In 1953 Bartholomew sold his interests in the firm to focus on his role as the
chair of the National Planning Committee in Washington D.C., which he had participated in
since 1922. While in D.C., he became close to Dwight Eisenhower and proposed a
transportation plan that planted the seeds of the D.C. Metro train system (Heathcott, 2005;
Heathcott, 2007; Lovelace, 1993; Johnson, 1963).
Prior to the 20th century, the focus of city planning was on the beauty of the city,
monuments, public parks, and invoking a sense of awe. This planning focus was known as city
beautiful or city ascetic. This approach appeared impractical to Bartholomew; for example,
beauty is often considered subjective and the feelings that people have when viewing a city
cannot be measured well. Bartholomew’s planning prioritized function over form, entailed
formal education, focused on economic and social conditions, understood municipal finance, and
cared about automobiles. This newer style of city planning was known as city scientific
(Johnson, 1963).
Presence of Masking in Bartholomew’s Planning
As one of the first city scientific planners, Bartholomew’s planning style was steeped in technical
rationality. He considered the historical background of the city. His plans included the city’s
social and economic characteristics. He measured and analyzed demographics, land use,
transportation, and street use. He made recommendations for financing improvements. He helped
pioneer zoning, and abhorred on-the-spot zoning as the antithesis of the planned city. Within the
city scientific planning paradigm, each step of the planning process was intended to manipulate
society—transportation was to move as many people as possible as quickly as possible, parks
were to give recreation, and neighborhoods were to ensure that residents had access to civic
buildings, shopping, and workplaces. Harland Bartholomew frequently recommended slum
clearance as an efficiency-focused way of rebuilding slum neighborhoods (Lovelace, 1993;
Bartholomew, 1935; Bartholomew, 1963; Johnson, 1964; Heathcott, 2005; Fairfield, 1992).
Bartholomew’s planning divided the city into neighborhood units, based on the work of city
planner Clarence Perry. Ideal neighborhoods were city sub-units with access to schools, civic
buildings, shopping, and places of employment within walking distance. Wide streets bounded
them to direct the flow of automobile traffic past them. Internal streets were for slower traffic to
keep residents safe from cars, and to funnel them to larger streets (Bartholomew, 1951; Perry,
1951; Heathcott, 2011). Bartholomew thought so highly of the neighborhood unit concept that he
abstracted its elements to create a neighborhood quality score, which compared the degree of
conformance of real cities to cities with ideal neighborhoods. He reported that his abstraction
was good at predicting property values, but usually kept scores private to avoid publicly
offending low-scoring cities (Lovelace, 1993). Bartholomew’s planning focus was on economics
and demographics, and he tried to use his planning to secure economic and demographic ends for
the city. He worked systematically and compared reality to a pre-defined ideal. By using
technical-rational planning and focusing on quantitative outcomes, Bartholomew created
conditions to detach himself from the effects that his planning had on black neighborhoods.
Bartholomew dehumanized blacks in St. Louis as economic drains. At several points,
Bartholomew advocated for racial segregation to preserve neighborhood property values. One
source quotes him as admitting that one intent of his planning in St. Louis was to prevent the
migration into “finer residential districts…by colored people.” Another source quotes him saying
that he intended to contain blacks to prevent the spread of neighborhoods “where values have
depreciated [and] homes are either vacant or occupied by colored people or boarding houses”
and thereby prevent the migration of “our people out into the suburban districts.” In Richmond,
Virginia Bartholomew’s planning was described as having “coincided with the prevailing local
attitudes toward the proper social division in cities” and blacks “bear the brunt” of
Bartholomew’s slum clearance. In Armourdale, Kansas Bartholomew’s style was described as
“allowing for a higher degree of social segregation” (Rothstein, 2014; Gordon, 2014; Silver &
Moeser, 1995; Brown, Morris & Taylor, 2009; Heathcott, 2005a; Bartholomew, 1927).
Bartholomew was well versed in laws surrounding urban planning—he knew how planning
was legally justified, how planning could and could not be used to segregate, and for what
purposes government could use planning to acquire land (Bartholomew, 1948). He authored
Chapter 353 of the Missouri Constitution, which created urban redevelopment corporations. This
law gave corporations tax abatements when developing blighted neighborhoods as well as the
legal power to take property that had been declared blighted (Lovelace, 1963). Bartholomew
knew the laws surrounding city planning and that his was legal—as was much of the
discrimination that has taken place in the United States. The legal status of Bartholomew’s
planning does not excuse its discrimination, but it can explain one way in which it was masked.
Adams and Balfour (2014) suggest that the medical subtext of describing neighborhoods as
blighted implies the need for experts to find and remove disease and the ‘infected’ populations
causing it. Early twentieth century viewpoints saw slums and blight as an inherent problem of
blackness (Rothstein, 2014; Gordon, 2014; Lai, 2014; O’Hara, 2011; Bartholomew, 1941;
Fullilove, 2001; Stone, 2012). Furthermore, Bartholomew mostly discussed urban renewal in lieu
of slum clearance, focusing on the city at large rather than specific neighborhoods. With his
references to the need for urban renewal and his regular use of blight metaphors, masking
euphemisms were present in Bartholomew’s planning.
Despite Bartholomew’s discrimination, his legal knowledge, his use of euphemisms, and his
technical-rational methods, Bartholomew’s planning was not motivated by racial discrimination
as much as much it was motivated economics. Although discriminatory, the quantity of his
comments about race and segregation pale in comparison to his discussions of neighborhood tax
contributions (Bartholomew, 1914-1929; Bartholomew, 1914-1929a; Bartholomew, 1935:
Gordon, 2014; Lovelace, 1993; Heathcott, 2008; Heathcott, 2005). Bartholomew discussed the
bad living conditions in slums much more often than he discussed their race (Bartholomew,
1922; Bartholomew, 1920a). When Bartholomew did discuss race, it was usually in the context
of preserving neighborhoods. More than discriminating, Bartholomew tried to help St. Louis
thrive. More than trying to disadvantage blacks, Bartholomew recommended slum clearance to
gain advantage for Saint Louis. He was not motivated to fix the conditions of slums to create a
more equitable city for slum residents—he was motivated to clear slums and convert them to
more economical use to help the city at large.
As a city planner in the early to mid-twentieth century, Bartholomew’s job was to further the
social and economic needs of the city (Fairfield, 1992). He wanted the city to be financially
solvent, healthy, safe, and populated. Using technical rationality, he identified the problems of
the city as economic surplus populations. He recommended slum clearance, and convinced
others with euphemisms of urban renewal and blight. Using his legal knowledge, he devised
ways to begin slum clearance. Motivated by the moral inversion to do good, Bartholomew
created victims of slum clearance.
People committing administrative evil do not see themselves as committing evil acts—often
they see themselves as helping. Administrative evil resembles professionals doing what is
expected. By creating neighborhood maps, calculating neighborhood tax contributions, citing
public health concerns, noting population changes, and then advocating for slum clearance,
Bartholomew was doing what was expected of a city scientific planner. He concluded that the
most efficient way of improving St. Louis was destroying black neighborhoods and starting over.
The Victims of Slum Clearance
In the years following Bartholomew’s recommendations for slum clearance, St. Louis displaced
at least 70,000 mostly black residents. 16,000 of those came from the Mill Creek neighborhood;
others, from parts of the city identified as slums or deindustrialized (Gordon, 2014;
Bartholomew, 1914-1929b). The negative externalities that slum clearance policy created for
slum residents were hardly accounted for—less than a quarter received relocation assistance
(Gordon, 2014). In solving the externalities that slums created for the city, a new set of
externalities were created for slum residents that were not addressed.
After slum clearance, black communities with strong social ties disintegrated and residents
scattered (Gordon, 2014; Alkadry & Blessett, 2010). Hundreds of black businesses and religious
institutions were destroyed (Heathcott & Murphy, 2005). Bartholomew’s attitude on slums in St.
Louis stayed relevant to St. Louis urban planning into 1975. Then, planners continued the bad
treatments of slum neighborhoods by recommending that they be allowed to decline without
intervention—a policy of “benign neglect” (Cooper-McCann, 2016).
Some displaced residents were pushed into segregated communities outside of the urban core
(Rothstein, 2014; Gordon, 2014). Twelve thousand residents, because they could not afford new
housing, were forced into segregated public housing like Pruitt-Igoe (Rothstein, 2014; Aoki,
1992). That housing complex, planned for integration but segregated as a consequence of white
deurbanization, became known for crime, poverty, low quality building materials, and the death
of modernism in city planning (Grimshaw, 2011; Bristol, 1991). In 1970, the United States
Commission on Civil rights declared St. Louis’s slum clearance program nothing more than an
“evasion of responsibility” and “a race clearing program” (USCCR, 1970). Slum clearance
destroyed communities, displaced residents, and provided inadequate aid for relocation. In the
name of economy and urban renewal, black residents were made to emigrate.
Displacement seems to fall closer to evil than it does the inconsequential lie. Rubenstein
(1983) and Arendt (1963) point out that in firmly established acts of historical evil, displacement
and segregation hold places on the road to genocide. Bartholomew’s actions never amounted to
genocide nor did they aspire to, but the displacement of surplus populations certainly lends itself
to defining action as evil. Furthermore, Fredrickson’s (2015) addition of weight to equity
concerns has a place in defining Bartholomew’s actions—St. Louis’s surplus population was
black, historical victims of inequity in St. Louis and the United States. While Bartholomew’s
actions were not the greatest of all evils, it is not difficult to imagine them crossing the hazy line
that separates immorality from evil. Because Bartholomew’s recommendations were masked by
moral inversion and other factors, if his actions were evil it is not far-fetched to characterize
them as administrative evil.
Even today, municipalities assemble and clear private parcels to enable economic development
and a more efficient city. Some might argue that this is necessary for a city’s growth, that urban
development will not occur but for the assembly of large parcels, and that in modern times urban
development does not happen without this municipal participation. If that is the case, the evils of
the past must still be avoided.
City planning has a dark history. To their credit, many planning practitioners acknowledge
the past, and steps have been taken to transform the discipline. Today city planning takes a
broader approach than it once did and considers human resources development, mixed income
housing, mixed use neighborhoods, and equitable transportation. Moreover, if evil can be
avoided, development itself can be a good. But economic approaches to city planning cannot be
allowed to invert the morality of planners such that victimized populations are displaced without
assistance. Care must be taken to ensure that the allure of economy and urban renewal do not
overcome other moral considerations.
Several solutions to the problem of administrative evil have been suggested and could be
applied to city planning. Judith Shklar’s (1982) concept of “putting cruelty first” is an approach
that presumes that the public at large is willing to prevent the most extravagant instances of evil
if they are willing to accept a public ethic that prioritizes avoiding cruelty. H. George
Fredrickson (2002) points out that some cultures have selected administrators on the basis of
their conformance to moral virtues and ability to embody correct social roles.
Others point to the power of democratic deliberation to involve surplus groups whose views
might otherwise be ignored (Adams & Balfour, 2014; Stone, 2012), though such approaches do
not take into account that administrative evil is masked and may be so even during inclusive
deliberation. The results of inclusive democratic deliberation may be collective consensus, but
that consensus may still be aimed at a rationally argued for evil. Certainly, giving those that slum
clearance displaced a greater voice in the process could have alleviated their suffering—in 1973
St. Louis, public participation prevented a planning policy of ‘benign neglect’ from becoming
official policy (Cooper-McCann, 2016)—but on issues involving groups outside of the
community, collective consensus advocating for evil may still be reached.
This paper advocates that a solution for dealing with the problem of administrative evil is to
lionize ‘bureaucratic courage’ in public administration education. Some argue that historical
practitioners of administrative evil did not show courage in the face of evil (Arendt, 1963). This
paper defines bureaucratic courage as: when an administrator, during their day to day work,
consciously chooses to commit acts of heroic good. By lionizing bureaucratic courage, it can be
brought to the attention of future practitioners that even mundane bureaucratic action can have
moral consequences. Consider the case of Chiune Sugihara—during the Holocaust, this Japanese
diplomat signed thousands of visas for Jewish people trying to escape Europe. In defiance of his
superiors, Sugihara worked tirelessly signing visas between July 31 and August 28, 1940. His
visas allowed 6,000 people to escape Europe. It is estimated that their descendants number
between 40,000 and 100,000. Sugihara, through the simple act of signing papers, saved
thousands of lives (“Sugihara’s List,” 2013).
Sugihara disobeyed his government, but Rosemary O’Leary (2014) points out several other
examples of bureaucratic valor from which case studies may be drawn. In addition to
disobedience, O’Leary profiles several other archetypes of bureaucratic valor: the lawsuit
dissenter, the transparency dissenter, the media dissenter, the rule-skirting dissenter, the whistle-
blowing dissenter, the networking dissenter, the lobbying dissenter, and the ‘play dumb’
dissenter. Case studies of each type should be taught to students during public administration
education, when their actions were able to prevent evil in public administration. One pattern
among practitioners of bureaucratic valor, and especially the whistle-blower, is that dissent
harms careers when managers refuse to incorporate it. To teach in good faith, public
administration education must include the reality that preventing evil can be damaging to careers
and is still worthwhile.
Prudent solutions to administrative evil will combine these approaches. The consequences of
administrative evil can be so great that multiple approaches seem most productive. The
cultivation of a liberal society that abhors cruelty will help lessen administrative evil, as will
bureaucrats chosen for their virtue, as will inclusive and earnest democratic deliberation, as will
a focus on the study of practitioners of bureaucratic courage. Public administration must consider
many approaches to alleviate the harsh consequences of administrative evil.
Today’s administrative evil is also masked. What appears to be a professional doing his job
may only be understood as evil when divorced from time and culture. Technical rationality
cannot be put back to bed, and some aspects of it can be desirable when applied properly. The
evils that it allows must be abated. Ethics must be reinforced as a priority in public
administration education, and arguments in favor of ethical public administration must be
stronger if they can ever hope to overcome administrative evil. Arguments from morality will at
times have to overcome arguments motivated from technical rationality.
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... Law enforcement officers disproportionately subject racialized minorities, Black and Indigenous Americans in particular, to stops, searches, and violence, a legacy that dates to colonial times (Muhammad, 2019). Long documented housing discrimination and segregation through redlining (Rothstein, 2017), urban renewal (Alkadry & Blessett, 2010;Benton, 2018), and gerrymandering (Okonta, 2017) create inequality in social service availability and diminish the power of the vote. The COVID-19 pandemic made vivid the reality of state-sanctioned harm as low-income and Black neighborhoods experienced less access to public testing clinics (Sabatello et al., 2021), a reflection of long-standing health disparities in low-income communities and communities of color (Yearby, 2018). ...
... This remains true for discourses including and beyond race regarding socioeconomic class, gender, sexuality, ability, and others. Unquestioned narratives taken up and promulgated by administrators contributes to the reproduction of disparities (Zuberi & Bonilla-Silva, 2008;Bhandaru, 2013;Benton, 2018;Adams & Balfour, 2020). ...
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Doctoral students occupy a unique space in academia: as future scholars and instructors, they are both trainees and trainers, positioned to reproduce research and teaching practices as well as to disrupt and improve them. The role of the state in the social, political, and economic crises of 2020, including the COVID-19 pandemic and continuous, racialized police violence, has highlighted the need to critically interrogate public affairs’ (PA) norms and values. The “New Four E’s” (empathy, engagement, ethics, and equity) suggest a reorientation of the field’s norms and values towards social justice. As part of this field-level shift towards more just public affairs, this paper offers a reimagining of PA doctoral training by institutionalizing the socioemotional processes of reflexivity and deliberation in three key areas of doctoral training: core coursework, pedagogical training, and professional development. The argument outlined in this paper draws on literature from the fields of public administration, education, pedagogical philosophy, psychology, management, and sociology to stimulate dialogue and action among PA scholars and practitioners with the ultimate goal of embedding the New Four E’s as core field values.
... Nevertheless, the concept has been employed in a wide range of academic studies (e.g. Zanetti and Adams, 2000;Moreno-Riaño, 2001;Adams et al., 2006;Adams, 2011;Reed, 2012;Benton, 2018;Williams and Duckett, 2020;Clark and Nickels, 2021;Lilly et al., 2021;Roberts, 2021), in which stimulating new ideas have been introduced. However, from the outset, the concept of administrative evil has been placed inside the rather narrow and self-referential silo it created, diminishing the usefulness and informational value of the concept (see e.g. ...
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This article uses the tools and distinctions derived from a twofold analysis to develop and refine the perception of administrative evil. First, the general problem of evil is discussed and nuanced, and second, two case examples from the Finnish context are examined and explained – the notion of so-called old boys’ networks and the case of unethical behaviour in a psychiatric hospital. The article defines administrative evil as actions by civil servants and government employees when they do what they are expected to do to fulfil their organisational roles and responsibilities without considering or recognising that they are engaging in or contributing to evil. Based on a conceptual analysis, the article suggests that administrative evil is a middle form between moral and natural evil. This view yields a solid basis for further analysis in which the concept of the banality of evil – as introduced by Hannah Arendt – provides valuable insights. The article is based upon the conviction that the concept of administrative evil offers explanatory power to understand and describe why and how people behave badly and even unethically in organisational contexts. In doing so, the article connects the concept of administrative evil to organisational studies and links the concept with the distinction between types of evil. The paper concludes that a major problem in theorising administrative evil is that the concept (as advanced by Adams and Balfour) has remained isolated and is not an organic part of modern organisation theory.
... Others have written on administrative evil enacted across diverse domains of public policy (e.g., Ghere, 2006;Dillard & Ruchala, 2005Jurkiewicz, 2015;Benton, 2017). In criminal justice, the "War on Drugs" resulted in disproportionate arrest of African Americans and asymmetric sentencing for powder and crack cocaine. ...
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This article uses the construct of administrative evil (Adams & Balfour, 2014) to analyze available data on the current trend of killings and contemplate the role of society in masking these outcomes.
This article sets out to analyze the connections between three different but related phenomena (capitalist globalization, the Anthropocene, and the coronavirus epidemic) through the lens of iconic buildings and spaces and the cities in which they are mostly found. I argue that the transnational capitalist class uses cities as competitors in a global system of lucrative investment opportunities. Capitalist globalization is widely implicated in the Anthropocene (signifying human impacts on the Earth system, usually destructive) and together they facilitate the spread of the coronavirus. The concept of “administrative evil” is mobilized to highlight the ethical dimensions of city planning, and the increasingly “beleaguered city.”
Problem, research strategy, and findings Planning history in the United States is deeply intertwined with Black history. Yet, mainstream planning history narratives center White male planners and either ignore or present Black communities as passive victims. Inspired by the periodization defined by June Manning Thomas, this review provides a counternarrative of dominant planning history by centering Black experiences. This review reframes planning history across five periods: the Progressive era, the Great Migration, public housing after 1937 including World War II housing and postwar urban renewal, the civil rights era, and the 1970s and beyond. The authors suggest an extension of the final period to include mass incarceration and ongoing police violence. Centering Black experiences in planning history highlights the agency, power, and resiliency that Black communities have enacted despite dominant racist planning policies and practices. Takeaway for practice With an understanding of planning history from the perspective of those oppressed by traditional planning, the oppressed will no longer be dismissed as passive victims but will be understood as active players in their lives and communities. Instead, the political, social, psychological, and cultural power dynamics are acknowledged and demonstrate the ongoing determination of an oppressed group to fight for empowerment and joy. This allows for power dynamics to be reimagined for a better future of planning with, for, and by Black communities and any marginalized communities.
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Moral intelligence is considered as a newer and less studied type of intelligence than cognitive, emotional, and social intelligence, which is well known and has been the subject of many studies. Despite this, it is claimed that it has a great potential in terms of the contributions it can provide to the field of organizational behavior and work environments. "Moral Intelligence", which is fully developed by Doug Lennick and Fred Kiel (2005) in their books called "Moral Intelligence", is directly associated with values and behaviors rather than an "intelligence" type. Moral intelligence is defined as the capacity to distinguish right from wrong, to have strong ethical beliefs and to behave right and dignified according to these beliefs. Moral intelligence is the mental capacity that determines how universal human principles should be applied to our values, goals, and actions. In its simplest definition, moral intelligence and emotional intelligence, which have the ability to distinguish right from wrong, are two types of intelligence that are difficult to copy and imitate. Despite their importance and potential strength, many company leaders ignore these differentiating competencies. Because the two types of intelligence are soft skills that are difficult to measure and require investment. In this study, it is aimed to determine the ethical competencies of middle-level managers working in the public sector. Purposeful sampling method was used in the study. For this purpose, 130 middle-level managers from 46 provinces were reached from each geographical region. 110 questionnaires were returned, 3 forms that did not meet the required criteria were not included in the analysis. Ethical competence inventory developed by Lennick and Keil (2005) was used in the study. This inventory contains 40 items for 10 dimensions: A. Acting consistently with principles, values, and beliefs B. Telling the truth C. Standing up for what is right D. Keeping promises E. Taking responsibility for personal choices F. Admitting mistakes and failures G. Embracing responsibility or serving others H. Actively caring about others I. Ability to let go of one’s own mistakes J. Ability to let go of others’ mistakes Participants were asked to mark their participation status on the 5-point Likert-type scale (1-Never, 2-Rarely, 3- Sometimes, 4- Most of the time, 5-Always) to the statements in the inventory. As a result of the application, the total EYE (Ethical Competence) scores of the participants were calculated over 100, and 3 dimensions were determined in which they had the highest and lowest competencies. Accordingly, the highest and lowest competence dimensions of mid-level managers working in the public sector are shown in below; Highest Ethical Competencies C- Standing up for what is right E- Taking responsibility for personal choices H- Actively caring about others Lowest Ethical Competencies I- Ability to let go of one’s own mistakes G- Embracing responsibility or serving others J- Ability to let go of others’ mistakes Keywords: Moral Intelligence, Ethical Competence, Organizational Behavior, Public Servants, Managers
This articled reported the findings from a content analysis of two iterations of 131 Master of Public Administration (MPA) students’ essays wherein they described their ethical stance for a standalone ethics course at a northeastern university. The analysis of the first iteration revealed that 35 of the students exhibited one or more of three follower archetypes; conformist, moralist, and/or relativist. A comparative analysis with the second iteration, revealed that 16 of these students never identified the deficiencies of their unquestioning followership perspective despite the interventions of the course. The findings suggested that prevailing definitions of ethical competence ought to explicitly include one’s intentions to (a) evaluate all conduct in terms of consequences, (b) judge the virtuousness of the conduct based upon public service principles separate from organizational influence, (c) act virtuously, and (d) take full personal responsibility for all outcomes. The findings also suggested that inculcating ethical competence might be better achieved by creating cognitive dissonance with cases that demonstrate the deleterious effects of unquestioning followership. Areas for future research to understand how intent is shaped and evidenced in practice were identified.
Corruption is an existential problem that can destroy the functioning of individual organizations as well as undermine entire societies. The ethics literature within the discipline of public administration fails to address adequately the challenges posed by corruption. A three-step strategy outlined in this article develops a rational approach for reducing corruption in organizations through education and enhanced probability of punishment.
An overarching question concerns why social inequity persists despite decades of policy intervention. For instance, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 mandated that agencies must not discriminate based on race, ethnicity, or national origin to receive federal funding. Transportation agencies were particularly impacted. They have since submitted equity analyses for every bus and rail expansion and/or reduction to verify they do not disproportionately impact minority and low-income communities. This study moves beyond a momentary analysis to examine the extent to which transit development has impacted communities of color from 1970–2010. Income segregation outcomes are examined in neighborhoods across four diverse metropolitan areas: Denver, Minneapolis, Birmingham, and Orlando. A fixed effects regression analysis illustrates mixed results. This study concludes by discussing what fairness looks like in neighborhoods when taking race and ethnicity into account. It suggests further consideration of Title VI as a tool to hold administrators accountable for social equity beyond single points in time.
This article examines why U.S. healthcare professionals became involved in “enhanced interrogation,” or torture, during the War on Terror. A number of factors are identified including a desire on the part of these professionals to defend their country and fellow citizens from future attack; having their activities approved and authorized by legitimate command structures; financial incentives; and wanting to prevent serious harm from occurring to prisoners/detainees. The factors outlined here suggest that psychosocial factors can influence health professionals’ ethical decision-making.
In this paper, we argue that the practice of New Public Management (NPM) subverts democracy by undermining the social contract and substituting a market mentality with very different normative expectations. Like late modern Hobbesians, those who advocate NPM offer a vision of public service in which democratic politics and ethics become increasingly irrelevant. In this scenario, the market becomes the new leviathan, which we have no choice but to obey. The values of this sovereign-competition, exchange values, transaction costs, and survival of the fittest-have driven most remaining vestiges of democracy from the public square. Such an atmosphere leaves us disturbingly vulnerable to the practice of administrative evil.
In 1975, consultants from Team Four Inc. advised St. Louis planners to pursue a strategy of neighborhood triage: “conservation” for areas in good health, “redevelopment” for areas just starting to decline, and “depletion” for areas already in severe distress. The firm’s recommended strategy reflected the latest thinking among urban planners, but it provoked outrage among residents of the city’s predominantly black North Side, who read “depletion” as a promise of benign neglect. In this article, I explain how Team Four justified its advice, and why, four decades later, the controversy over its memo persists.
Ethics and technical communication have a long history. Much of the discussion has ignored, though, the evil in language—overnaming. We see clearest this evil in what some have called “administrative evil.” Technical communicators, like all good rhetoricians, need to understand how to respond to it. Overnaming as part of “administrative evil” is that evil which grounds all other evils. It is a certain understanding of language and what naming can do. When we overname, we try to control words to mean one thing eternally. Rhetoric is a move of renaming those words that have been overnamed. Such invention is needed as part of any rhetorical education for technical communicators.
In a recent Public Integrity commentary, Adams posited that the prevailing cultural context, with its emphasis on technical rationality, has enabled a new and dangerous form of evil. This essay, in rebuttal, questions the clarity of the constructs, such as administrative evil, popularized by Adams and Balfour. It proposes that they confuse means with ends in linking administrative behavior with the ill-defined construct of evil. It also contends that the conceptualization of administrative evil undermines the core ethos of American governance, which includes neutral professionalism and democratic accountability.
Several important episodes in the early history of mass housing in America are the subject of "In the Nature of a Clinic": The Design of Early Public Housing in St. Louis. In the late 1920s housing and reform advocates coalesced out of the strong St. Louis settlement house to push for slum clearance and large-scale home building for the working class. Their first achievement, Joseph Heathcott reports, was Neighborhood Gardens, completed in 1934 with funding from the Public Works Administration. Modern in architectural design and segregated in social plan, the project established a model for the larger undertakings inspired by the landmark 1937 Housing Act. By World War II, housing advocates and officials in St. Louis had created prototypes of a new urban form that would shape postwar activities, including the notorious Pruitt-Igoe.
In a recent edition of Society, Amitai Etzioni set out the case for a communitarian ethic (Etzioni 2013). Those familiar with Etzioni’s work will know how thoughtful and insightful he is, and how refreshing his candor with respect to the teaching of professional ethics in universities. He has long noted how ghettoized the teaching of ethics has become in professional schools. His most recent discussion of this issue turns our attention to the current methodology of ethics education, and the cultural trends of the last 20 years or so that have led to the adoption of a quasi-libertarian approach to the teaching of ethics. The result, as Etzioni points out, is a kind of moral agnosticism on the part of professor and student, with a “smorgasbord of ethical approaches” presented in much the same way that students are presented with different consumer items. Little wonder, then, that with so little commitment to the core values of a community, a crude moral relativism results and the study o ...
The prevailing cultural context in the modern age, with its emphasis on technical rationality, has enabled a new and dangerous form of evil. The Holocaust was the signal event marking the emergence of administrative evil, but the tendency toward administrative evil, as manifested in acts of dehumanization and genocide, is deeply woven into the identity of professions in public life. The common characteristic of administrative evil is that ordinary people, within their normal professional and administrative roles, can engage in acts of evil without being aware that they are doing anything wrong. Under conditions of moral inversion, people may even view their evil activity as good.