Conference PaperPDF Available

The emergence of administrative evil: A complexity theoretical study of Arendtian dark times

Authors:
  • The Emergency Services College

Abstract

This conceptual paper addresses two research questions. First, it explores the connections and thematic configurations between Hannah Arendt's notions on dark times and Adams and Balfour's treatise about administrative evil. As a tool of reasoning, this paper is based on theories about complex society and organizations. Second, the current study analyses the qualifiers and warrants, borrowed from Toulmin (1958), that constitute conditions to understand the role of administrative evil from the perspective of modern organization theory. The point of departure here is Adams and Balfour's influential (1998) book Unmasking Administrative Evil that draws extensively upon the work of Bauman (1989). Dark times also resonate with the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals, as-according to Rubaii et al. 2019 for instance-SDGs 1-15 focus on specific policy issues that can be viewed as perspectives to dark times and administrative evil. The paper focuses first on what is meant by dark times, as inspired by the work of Arendt in particular. Second, it discusses the main ideas related to administrative evil put forward by Adams and Balfour, and with their commentaries. Third, it focuses on the emergence of complexity from the perspective of dark times and administrative evil. Finally, paper draws together theoretical and conceptual conclusions and sets out the future research agenda around the subject. As a conclusion, this paper holds the view that administrative evil arises out of the often well-intentioned, but not publicly outspoken, dynamics in organizations. In organizational context, administrative evil is a systemic, self-reinforcing phenomenon that cannot be reduced merely to arising out of the coming together of individuals in organizations or societies.
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The$emergence$of$administrative$evil:$A$complexity$
theoretical$study$of$Arendtian$dark$times$
Petri&Virtanen&
Harri&Raisio&
Harri&Jalonen&
Alisa&Puustinen&
!
!
Abstract!
This%conceptual%paper%addresses%two%research%questions.%First,%it%explores%the%
connections%and%thematic%configurations%between%Hannah%Arendt’s%notions%on%
dark%times%and%Adams%and%Balfour’s%treatise%about%administrative%evil.%As%a%tool%
of% reasoning,% this% paper% is% based% on% theories% about% complex% society% and%
organizations.%Second,%the%current%study%analyses%the%qualifiers%and%warrants,%
borrowed%from%Toulmin%(1958),%that%constitute%conditions%to%understand%the%
role% of% administrative% evil% from% the% perspective% of% modern% organization%
theory.%The%point%of%departure%here%is%Adams%and%Balfour’s%influential%(1998)%
book%Unmasking%Administrative%Evil%that%draws%extensively%upon%the%work%of%
Bauman%(1989).%Dark%times%also%resonate%with%the%United%Nation‘s%Sustainable%
Development%Goals,%asaccording%to%Rubaii%et%al.%2019%for%instanceSDGs%1
15%focus%on%specific%policy%issues%that%can%be%viewed%as%perspectives% to%dark%
times%and%administrative%evil.%The%paper%focuses%first%on%what%is%meant%by%dark%
times,%as%inspired%by%the%work%of%Arendt%in%particular.%Second,%it%discusses%the%
main%ideas% related%to%administrative%evil%put%forward%by% Adams%and%Balfour,%
and%with%their%commentaries.%Third,%it%focuses%on%the%emergence%of%complexity%
from% the% perspective% of% dark% times% and% administrative% evil.% Finally,% paper%
draws%together%theoretical%and%conceptual%conclusions%and%sets%out%the%future%
research%agenda%around%the%subject.%As%a%conclusion,%this%paper%holds%the%view%
that% administrative% evil%arises% out% of% the% often% well-intentioned,% but% not%
publicly% outspoken,% dynamics% in% organizations.% In% organizational% context,%
administrative%evil%is%a%systemic,%self-reinforcing%phenomenon%that%cannot%be%
reduced% merely% to% arising% out% of% the% coming% together% of% individuals% in%
organizations%or%societies.%
Key words
Complexity, dark times, administrative evil
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1.!Introduction!
We%live%extraordinary%times.%The%twisted%use,%fraud%and%denialism%of%scientific%
knowledge%in%policy%making,%altering%geopolitical%landscape,%difficult%to%predict%
financial% markets% and% pervasive% climate% change% topped% with% volatile,%
uncertain,%complex%and%ambiguous%(VUCA)%-related%planning%horizons%do%not%
make%life%easy%for%political%leaders,%nor%the%top%cadres%of%public%administration.%
Building%upon%Bertolt%Brecht,%Hannah%Arendt%scrutinized%the%concept%of%dark%
times% in% her% essay% collection% Men% in% Dark% Times%(1968)%reflecting% what%
notorious%evilness%is%in%societal%terms%and%how%it%resonates%in%public%policies%
and%%as%a%matter%of%fact%%leads%into%“the%disappearance%of%public% realm”.%
Thus,%as%Arendt%also%suggests,%the%“realm”%of%this%paper%rest%on%the%sphere%of%
public%policies,%institutions,%and%organizations%in%terms%of%examples% that% are%
put%forward.%
This%paper,% theoretical% and% conceptual% by% nature,% takes% up% two% research%
questions.% First,% it% explores% connections% and% thematic% configurations% in-
between%Arendtian% notions% on% dark%times% and% Adams% and%Balfour’s% treatise%
about%administrative%evil%approached%with%scientific%reasoning%adopted%from%
complexity%thinking.%Second,%it%analyses%the%qualifiers%and%warrants%%to%echo%
Toulmin’s%(1958)%semantics% %that%constitute% conditions% to%understand%the%
role%of%administrative%evil%from%the%point%of%modern%organization%theory.%The%
point% of% departure% here% is% Adams% and% Balfour’s% influential% (1998)% book%
Unmasking%Administrative%Evil,%drawing%extensively%its%inspiration%particularly%
from%the%work%of%Bauman%(1989).%
For% Toulmin% (ibid.),% qualifiers%are% factors% that% lead% to% a% modification% of% the%
presented%assertions%(in%this%case%related%to%dark%times%and/or%administrative%
evil)% reliance% to% evidence.% Warrants,% then,% pose% fundamental% consideration%
about%the%link%between%facts%and%assertions%%i.e.%providing%the%justifying%link%
between%facts%and%assertions/claims%(see%also%Dubnick,%2000:%465).%This%paper%
presupposes%that% these% qualifiers% and% warrants% relate% to% conceiving%
organizations% (a)% as% systemic% by% nature,% (b)% consisting% of% motivational%
structures%and%communication%flows,%(c)%as%work%processes%of%human%beings,%
and% (d)% possessing% collective% consciousness.% These% definitions% relate% to% the%
definitive% remarks% put% forward% by% Adams% and% Balfour% (1998):% evil% is%
characterized%as%the%actions%of%human%beings%that%unjustly%or%needlessly%inflict%
pain%and%suffering%and%even%death%on%other%human%beings.%Noteworthy%here%is%
the%idea%that% administrative% evil% emerges% in% organizational% context% not% only%
because% of% what% individuals% do% or% do% not% do,% but% also% because% of% external%
systemic%processes%that%are%complex%by%nature.%
Perceiving%organizations% as% inherently% systemic% aligns%with% the% so-called%
paradigm% of% conscious% complexity.% Conscious% complexity% holds% that% (social)%
systems%exhibit%both%orderly%and%chaotic%behaviors,%and%that%some%phenomena%
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are% reducible% while% others% are% not.%This% leads% in% turn% to% systems% being%
unpredictable,%uncertain,%and% probabilisticthere%are%general%boundaries%to%
phenomena,% but% within% these% boundaries% precise% outcomes% are% always%
uncertain.% What% is% most% important% for% our% analysis% of% the% dark% times% and%
administrative% evil%are% emergence% and% interpretation.% Systems% exhibit%
elements%of%co-evolution,%adaptation,%and%emergence.%In%addition,%actors%in%the%
systems%are%aware%of%themselves,%the%systems,%about%its%history,%and%strive%to%
interpret%and%direct%the%systems%under%the%above%described%general%conditions%
of%conscious%complexity% (e.g.,% Geyer% &% Rihani,%2010;% Puustinen% &% Lehtimäki,%
2016.)%
Emergence%has%conventionally%been%seen%in%a%positive%light%and%has%been%used%
to% explain%how% organizations% can% increase% their% innovativeness% by% enabling%
conditions%where%diverse%actors%can%come%together%and%create%an%atmosphere%
where% surprising,% amazing% and% extraordinary%things% just% happen!(e.g.,%
Harkema%&%Baets,%2001).%In%this%paper,%we%use%the%concept%to%reveal%systemic%
distortions%which%enable%the%rise%of%evil%from%ordinary%behavior.%We%turn%our%
attention%to%the%darker%sides%of%emergence%(see%e.g.,%Bella,%2006;% Bella%et% al.,%
2003).%
This%paper%is%organized%as%follows.%It%first%examines%what%is%meant%by%the%term%
dark%times,% inspired% by%the% work% of%Hannah% Arendt% in% particular.% Second,%it%
summarizes% the% main% ideas% related% to% administrative% evil%put% forward% by%
Adams%and%Balfour.%Third,%it%focuses%on%the%emergence%of%complexity%from%the%
perspective% of% dark% times% and% administrative% evil.% Finally,% the% paper% draws%
theoretical% and% conceptual% conclusions%and% sets% out% the% future% research%
agenda%around%the%subject.%
%
2.!Arendtian!dark!times!
German%poet%Bertolt%Brecht% begins% his% famous%wartime%poem%To%Those%Who%
Follow%in%Our% Wake%(1939)%with%the%phrase%“Truly,%I%live%in%dark%times!”% The%
dark%times%in%question%refer%to%the%period%of%the%Nazi%regime%in%Germany%and%
the%accompanying%disorder%and%turmoil;%Brecht%adds%that%it%was%a%time%when%
“there% was% only% injustice% and% no% outrage.”% Hannah% Arendt% theorized% on%
Brecht’s%notion%of%dark%times%in%her%essay%collection%Men%in%Dark%Times%(1968)%
and%further%work%on%refining%the%notion%has%been%undertaken,%notably%by%Isaac%
(1994),%Stivers%(2004;%2008a;%2008b),%and%Nabatchi%et%al.%(2011)%who%wrote%of%
democracy,%governance,%and%public%administration%respectively,%in%dark%times.%
A% brief% investigation% of% the% relevant% research% literature% reveals% two% main%
versions%of%the%dark%times%concept.%The%first%version%is%more%plainly%visible%as%
it%includes%discernible%events%that%are%catastrophic%and%tragic,%such%as%terrorist%
attacks,% natural% disasters,% and%wars%(see% e.g.,% Stivers,% 2008a).% Genocide%and%
other%mass%atrocities%are% considered% as%the%epitome%of%this%kind%of%darkness%
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(Rubaii%et% al.,% 2019).% In% addition% to% these% event-based% forms% of% darkness,%
Nabatchi%et%al.%(2011)%classify%systemic%policy%failures%as%the%first%category%of%
societal%darkness.%These%include%socio-economic%inequalities,%financial%crises,%
and%climate% change.%Dark%times%also%resonate%with%the%United%Nations%SDGs,%
as%“the%first% 15%goals%focus%on%specific%policy% issues%which%correspond%to%the%
issues%of%dark%times”%(Rubaii%et%al.,%2019:%177).%
For%Arendt,%however,%dark%times,%represented%something% more%fundamental,%
that%is,%“the%disappearance%of%the%public%realm”%(Stivers,%2004:%20).%From%this%
perspective,%dark%times%are%notoriously%dark%and%also%pervasive%and%total.%This%
second% kind% of% darkness% lies% at% the% root% of% the% above-mentioned% grievous%
events% and% policy% failures% and% makes% it% more% difficult% to% begin% to% deal% with%
them.%Active%and%vibrant%public%space%is%lost%as%citizens%increasingly%operate%in%
echo%chambers%and%do%not%meet%those%who%think%differently.%More%importantly,%
emerging% problems% and% harm% are% camouflaged% by% “highly% efficient% talk% and%
double-talk%of%nearly%all%official%representatives%who,%without%interruption%and%
in% many% cases% ingenious% variations,% [explain]% away% unpleasant% facts% and%
justified%concerns.”%(Arendt,%1968:%viii;%see%also%Nabatchi%et%al.,%2011;%de%Pina-
Cabra,%2018).% Stivers% (2008a:% 13)% summarizes%the% notion% of% Arendtian% dark%
times%as%follows:%
Dark%times%are%darker%than%we%know.%They%make%us%want%to%cling%together%and%
stamp% out% disagreement% (as% when% “patriotism”% requires% refraining% from%
criticism).%Worse,%dark% times% drive% us%apart,% so% that% each%of%us% retreats% into% a%
private%world%and%bars% the% door%against%politics.%The%darkness%of%the% threat% of%
terrorism% is% immediate,% but% equally% profound% is% the% darkness% of% a% lost% public%
world.%
Dark%times%are%evidently%not%limited%to%the%mass%atrocities%committed%by%Nazi%
Germany,%but%also%apply%to%later%times.%Despite%the%flourishing%of%democracies%
and%the%end%of%the% Cold%War,%the%notion%of%dark%times%began%to%be%presented%
again%in%the%1990s%(see%Isaac,%1994;%Greene,%1997).%Arendt%(1969:%ix)%gave%an%
indication%of%this%development%in%her%writings:%“Dark%times%[…]%are%not%only%
not%new,%they%are% no% rarity% in% history.”%Isaac%(1994)%observed%how%Arendt’s%
works%speaks%in%powerful%ways%as%injustice,%corruption,%and%the%obscurantism%
and%trivialization%of%political%discourse%seems%to%persist%in%liberal%democracies.%
After%the%September%11%attacks,%Stivers%(2004;%2008a)%wrote%how%Americans%
felt%themselves%to%be%living%in%dark%times%as%never%before%in%history%(see%also%
King,%2005).%Closer%to%the%present%day,%a%growing%number%of%academic%scholars%
share%the%view%that%dark%times%are%not%merely%a%thing%of%the%past%(e.g.,%Nabatchi%
et%al.,%2011;%de%Pina-Cabra,%2018;%Curato%et%al.,%2019).Today,%Arendtian% dark%
times% are% exacerbated,% for% example,% by% disinformation,% populism,% and%
illiberalism% (Curato% &% Parry,% 2018;% Curato%et% al.,% 2019).% Moreover,% the%
mounting%complexity% of%the% problems% we% face% and% the% growing% intertwined%
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uncertainty%of%the%world%(i.e.%VUCA%-planning%horizons)%have%an%impact%on%the%
times%in%which%we%live%(Nabatchi%et%al.,%2011).%
It%should%be%noted%that%Arendt%(1968)%frequently%uses%the%term%“illumination”%
in%her%writings,%for%example,% as% in% “even% in%the%darkest%of%times%we%have%the%
right% to% expect% some% illumination”% (ibid.% ix).% Writings% on% dark% times%
particularly%emphasize%the%role%of%men%and%women%who%act%as%“lamp%holders”%
(Arnett,% 2012:% 117)% and% “through% their% active% lives% even% in% troubled% times,%
illuminate%the%world%we%all%share”%(Horst%&%Lysaker,%2019:%16).%More%broadly,%
Arendt‘s%writings%on%dark%times%and%the%importance%of%illumination%can%be%seen%
as%a%critique%of%modernity.%According%to%Arnett%(2012:%3),%Arendt%considered%
modernity’s% optimism% as% a% darkness% masked% by% “artificial% light”,% as%
modernity’s%overemphasis%on%efficiency%and%progress,%in%a%sense,%put%blinders%
on%our%eyes.%At%its%worst,%blind%commitment%to%efficiency%and%progress%lead%to%
“failure% to% ask% fundamental% questions% about% the% difference% between% what%
should% be% done%and% what% can% be% done% [emphasis% added]”% (ibid.%244).% As% an%
antidote%to% this% thoughtless%approach,% Arendt% called% for% contemplation% and%
deliberation% before,% during,% and% after% action,% that% is,% “the% [question% of]% why%
matters”%(ibid.%255;%see%also%Curato%&%Parry,%2018;%Curato%et%al.%2019).%
The%role%of%public%administration%scholars%and%practitioners% is% prominent% in%
the% literature% of% dark% times.% For% example,% Stivers% (2004:% 25)% suggests% that%
public%administration%theorists—as%individuals%with%a%deep%understanding%of%
the%administrative%state—should%speak%fearlessly%and%shine%light%on%the%public%
space%made%hazy%by%“a%rhetorical%fog”.%Similarly,%King%(2005:%565)%views%public%
administration% scholars% and% practitioners% as% having%a% responsibility% to%
illuminate%dark%times,%and%asks:%“If%not%us,%whom?%If%not%now,%when?”%Nabatchi%
et%al.%(2011)%share%these%views%but%are%skeptical%about%their%realization.%They%
consider% the% academic% study% and% professional% practice% of% public%
administration%to%be%“rendered%impotent%to%govern%in%dark%times,”%especially%
due%to%prevailing%“bureaucratic%pathology”%(ibid.%i34).%
The%argument%made%by%Nabatchi%(2010)%and%Nabatchi%et%al.%(2011)%is%that%the%
field%of%public%administration%has%a%growing%bias%toward%a%bureaucratic%ethos,%
with%its% values% of% efficiency,% expertise,% hierarchy% and% loyalty,% among% others.%
This% has% contributed% to% the% development% of% citizenship% and% democratic%
deficits,% as% the% democratic% ethos,% with% its% values% of% social% equity,% justice,%
transparency,% and% legitimacy,% has% been% overshadowed.% Similar% to% Arendt’s%
criticism% of% modernity,% Nabatchi% et% al.% (2011,% i41)% believe% that% “a% more%
democratic%public% administration% will% enable% the% field% to%better% address% the%
challenges%of%governance%in%dark%times.”%
The%role%of%teaching%has%also%been%emphasized,%at%a%general%level%and%in%relation%
to%public%administration.%Greene%(1997:%23)%considers%that%teachers,%too,%could%
contribute% to% the% illumination% described% by% Arendt.% For% Greene,% teaching% in%
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dark%times%is%“a%matter%of%awakening%and%empowering%today‘s%young%people%to%
name,% to% reflect,% to% imagine,% and% to% act% with% more% and% more% concrete%
responsibility% in% an% increasingly% multifarious% world.”% Similarly,% Rubaii% et% al.%
(2019)%highlight%the%importance%of%designing%public%affairs%programs%in%such%a%
way%that%it%would%enhance%the%preparation%of%socially%responsible%and%ethical%
leaders.%
From%the%perspective%of%social%science%and%sociology%and%political%sciences%in%
particular% it% is% in% fact% important% to% ask% how% to% approach%the% question% of%
administrative%evil.%It%seems%that%dark%times%call%for%continuous%reinvention%of%
the% partly% lost% sociological% imagination% (Mills,% 1959).% Machum% and%Clow%
(2015)% elaborate% on% the% sociological% imagination% by% calling% for% us% all,%
particularly%students% of%social%sciences,%to%commit%sociology%in%order%to%think%
critically.%Whereas%Mills%invites%us%to%analyze%where%our%society%at%any%given%
time%rests%in%the% human% history% and% how%this%affects,% and% is% affected% by,%the%
historical%period%(ibid.).%Machum%and%Clow%encourage%us%to%critically%look%at%
how%society%organizes%itself%(by%whom%and%whose%interests%prevail,%and%what%
consequences%there%are),%how%that%form%of%organizing%emerged%(by%whom%and%
whose%interests% prevailed%in%its%construction),% and%finally%who%and% what%will%
prevail% (ibid.)% All% of% these% are% important% questions% when% trying% to% unmask%
administrative%evil%and%its%perils.%
%
3.!Administrative!evil!unmasked!
Next,%we%will%turn%our%attention%to%the%idea%of%viewing%the%Arendtian%concept%
of% dark% times% from% the% perspective% of% complexity-grounded% organizational%
theory.%Dark%times%exacerbated%by%disinformation,%populism,%illiberalism,%and%
short-sighted% policy% planning% has% its% counterpart% in% the% organizational%
bastions% of% public% administration.% The% Holocaust,% the% Stanford% Prison%
experiment,%and%the%famous%Milgram%Experiments,%as%well%as%Abu%Ghraib%are%
among%those% rubrics%and%topics%which%leave%no%one%untouched%or%impassive.%
The%assertion%here%is%that%these%examples%are%not%only%examples%of%destructive%
human% behavior% but% that% they% epitomize% administrative% evil.% And% what% is%
interesting%in%addition%is%the%conclusion%that%all%of%these%examples%share%at%least%
one%common%feature:%they%take%place%in%the%domains%of% public% policy/public%
administration,%which%brings%to%mind%the%notion%Hannah%Arendt%spoke%of%dark%
times%taking%place%in%the%public%realm.%
While%the%number%of%academic%papers%around%the%topic%is%on%the%rise,%academic%
scholars% still% seldom% use% the% concept% of% evil% in% the% context% of% public%
management%and%public%sector%leadership.%This%is%not%because%there%are%not%
serious% problems,% errors,% and% mistakes% evident% in% the% actions% of% public%
institutions;% on% the% contrary,% a% plethora% of% research% evidence% exists% about%
failures% in% the% domains% of% public% policy% and% public% organizations.% King% and%
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Greve% (2013),% to% take% one% example,% have% been% outspoken% on% public% failures%
caused% by% the% governments% in% the% UK% and% go% on% to% distinguish% distinction%
between%human%errors%and%systemic%failures.%These%errors%and%failures%are%due%
to%inadequate%planning,%group%think,%prejudices,%lack%of%understanding,%panic%
caused% by% the% media,% lack% of% policy% advice,% various% operational% and%
implementation% problems% and% short-sightedness,% misplaced%and% falsely%
targeted% accountability,% and% the% asymmetry% between% competence% demands%
and%existing%organizational%competencies.%
When%it%appeared%in%the%academic%discussions%in%the%late%1990s,%administrative%
evil%was% considered% a% relatively% new% ethical% concept%originating% with%the%
publication% of% Guy% Adams% and% Danny% Balfour’s% 1998% book% Unmasking%
Administrative%Evil%(e.g.,% Adams% &% Balfour%1998;% Adams,% 2011;% Adams%et% al.,%
2006;%Reed,%2012).%According%to%Moreno-Riaño%(2001),%Adams%and%Balfours%
book%introduced%administrative% evil% as% a%serious% ethical% problem% of%modern%
organizations%and% public% policy% in% particular,% starting% from% the% assumption%
that%evil%is%part%and%parcel%of%the%human%condition,%as%manifested%primarily%in%
acts%of%dehumanization%and%genocide.%
For% Adams% (2011:% 275276),% the% common% characteristics% of% administrative%
evil%relate%to%how%people%behave,%that%is,%how%ordinary%people%within%the%limits%
of% their% professional% and% administrative% roles% “[…]% engage% in% acts% of% evil%
without%being%aware%that%they%are%doing%anything%wrong.”%Additionally,%under%
conditions% of% moral% inversion,% in% some% cases% people% even% view% their% evil%
activity%as% good% and% benevolent% toward% fellow% human% beings.% Adams% and%
Balfour%(1998)%suggested%that% evil% is% an% essential% concept% for% understanding%
the%human%condition,%action,%and%behavior%in%organizational%settings.%For%Reed%
(2012),% then,% administrative% evil%was% a% conceptual% tool% to% describe% the%
phenomenon%“[…]%whereby%otherwise%well-intentioned%individuals%participate%
in% systems% that% cause% harm% to% innocent% people.”% It% is% noteworthy% for%the%
purpose%of%this%paper%that%Reed%does%not%use%the%concept%of%organization%nor%
the%gerund%organizing%in%his%reasoning.%
Reed’s%(2012)%definition%calls%for%further%scrutiny.%At%the%outset,%human%errors%
and% failures% caused% by% the% systemic% nature% of% organizations% do% not% leave%
societal% phenomena,% public% policies,% or% public% organizations% untouched.%
Blunders% take% place,% for% various% reasons,% such% as% because% of% the% complex%
nature%of%public%policies%and%public%organizations%and%sometimes%for%obvious%
ones%(people%are%not% infallible).% However,% the%existing%research%literature%on%
administrative%evil%has%approached%the%topic%in%question%from%the%perspective%
of%societal%phenomena,%mainly%by%examining%what%happens%in%public%policies%
when%moral%inversion%takes%place.%%
It%is%important%then%to%note%the%common%characteristics%of%administrative%evil%
(e.g.,%Adams,%2011;%Dillard%&%Ruchala,%2005).%First,%there%is%the%engagement%of%
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people%in%the%acts% of% evil% without%being%aware%that%they%are%causing%harm% to%
others.%Second,%organizational%structure%matters%here:%complex%organizations%
being%approached%from%the%systemic%perspective%is%relevant% here% since% such%
organizations%diffuse%individual%responsibility%and%put%forward%the%idea%of%the%
siloed/compartmentalized% activities% of% different% professions.% Third,% moral%
inversion% takes% place%when% something% destructive% has% been% presented% as%
something%positive%and%worth%doing.%Fourth,%belief%in%technological%progress%
can%be%an%enabler%of%administrative%evil%even%though%it%is%not%the%primary%cause%
behind%the%phenomenon.% This%belief%is%based% on%a%scientific-analytic%mindset%
and% on% the%prevailing% idea%of% progress% achieved% in% productivity.% The% recent%
research%evidence%on%demand%failure% brings% along% nasty% production%deficits:%
that%is,%bureaucratic%and%badly%led%public%services%can%lose%the%grip%of%citizens%
and%service%users%and%still%feel%important%and%active%(e.g.,%Seddon%at%al.,%2019).%
Fifth,% individualism% hinders% pinpointing%and% understanding%destructive%
organizational%dynamics%that%constitute%administrative%evil,%mainly%due%to%the%
fragmentation% of% responsibility.% Sixth,% denial% and% cover%up% of% mistakes% and,%
more%profoundly,%the%moral%inversion%from%good%to%bad%are%also%part%of%human%
nature%and% the% symptoms% of% emergence% of% corruptive% and% malfunctional%
organizational% behavior% (Argyris,% 1994).% Finally,% there% is% the% accountability%
function%that%works%with%conditions%associated%with%the%abdication%of%moral%
responsibility:%these%include% authorized%violence,%organizational%routines%(cf.%
the%McDonaldization%of%society;%e.g.,%Ritzer,%1992),%and%the%dehumanization%of%
the%victim.%
The% concept% and% phenomenon% of% administrative% evil%is%not% without% its%
problems% and% its% critiques,% nor% is% it% self-explanatory.%For% instance,% Dubnick%
(2000)% harshly% criticizes% the% ideas% presented% by% Adams% and% Balfour,% for%
instance,%because% of% the%manipulation% of% language% and% the% process%of% moral%
inversion%(a%central%topic%in%the%argumentation%of%Adams%and%Balfour),%which%
makes%civil%servants%its%unknowing%and%complicitous%agents”%(Dubnick,%2000:%
465466).%Another%point%of%departure%in% Dubnicks% criticism% is% the% notion%of%
evil%as% an% autonomous% and% historical% force% emerging% from% modernity’s%
technical% rationality.% Overall,% Dubnick% (Ibid.:% 464474)% claims% that% the%
arguments% Adams% and% Balfour% use% are% to% a% great% extent% claims% not%
accompanied% by% warrants,% to% echo% Toulmin’s% (1958)% vocabulary,% which%
provide%the%justifying%link%between%facts%and%theoretical%and%empirical%claims.%
In% comparison% to% Dubnick% (ibid.),% Vickers%(2000:% 474–475)% is% more%
conciliatory%in%her%remarks%on%administrative%evil:%while%the%phenomenon%may%
not%be%a%new%issue,%it%certainly%was%newly%identified%by%Adams%and%Balfour.%
Since%its% first%edition% in% 1998,% Unmasking% Administrative% Evil% by% Adams% and%
Balfour%has%created%a%buzz%and%inspired%a%small%body%of%related%literature.%Put%
concisely,%the%concept%of%administrative%evil%exposes%how%public%organizations%
shield%the%ethical%implications%of%important%activities%from%their%members.%Given%
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the% contemporary% discourse% of% dark% times,% it% is% easy% to% assume% that% the%
phenomenon% of% administrative% and% organizational%evil% will% emerge% as% a%
relevant% concept%alongside% with% the% concepts% of% public% sector% management,%
public% sector% leadership,% and% new% public% governance.% The% strength% of%
administrative%evil%as%a%theoretical%concept%is%its%multivalent%nature,%its%ability%
to% connect% with% many% other% arguments% and% theoretical% concepts%and% with%
public% management’s% hardy% perennials,% which% Pollitt% (2005)%describes% as%
classic%public%management%concepts% such% as% bureaucracy,%power,%division%of%
labor,%network,%accountability,%decentralization,%power,%and%governance.%
Existing%research%literature%provides%a%plethora%of%evidence%on%the%strategies%
that%might%be%applied%to%overcome%administrative%evil,%but%on%quite%an%abstract%
level,%which%means%those%strategies%struggle%to%offer%concrete%mechanisms%to%
fight% this% kind% of% organizational% problem.% Then% the% interesting% theoretical,%
conceptual,% and% empirical% question% is% what% really% happens% in% public%
organizations%and% institutions% when% moral% inversion% takes% place% and% when%
good%intentions%convert%to%bad%ones.%%
Let%us%give%examples.%First,%if%the%objective%is%to%resist%administrative%evil,%then%
the% next% thing% is% to% ask%for% a% kind% of% morphological% analysis% to% pinpoint%
concrete%mechanisms%that%hinders%this%kind%of%evil.%One%of%these%mechanisms%
is% accountability-related% activity.% In% the% existing% case% examples% on% the%
existence% of% administrative% evil,% accountability% is% a%top-down% mechanism.%
However,% conventional% hierarchical% top-down% accountability% and% control%
structures%are%not%enough,%and%they%have%to%be%supplemented%by%new%ideas%to%
provide% processual% flows% of% accountability% information% and% knowledge% –%
through%reciprocal%dialogue%in-between%service%providing%organizations%and%
service-users.%In%the%case%of%public%services%for%instance,%inviting%service%users%
to% co-create% and% co-design% also% implies% inviting%service% users% a% totally% new%
value%in%the%overall%design%of%services%and%delivery%of%public%services.%From%this%
perspective,%the%service%system%(consisting%of%individual%and%collective%service%
users% and% organizations)% replaces% organizations% as% the% unit% of% analysis% for%
public%services%and%calls%for%a%new%approach%to%accountability.%Virtanen%et%al.%
(2018)% have% underlined% that% this% new% service% systems% perspective% simply%
means% that% from% the% point% of% view% of% the% service% user% and% frontline% public%
service% managers% at% the% center% of% the% service% system,% organizational%
boundaries%and%structures%reduce%in%importance%relative%to%the%service%system,%
which% autonomously% reduces%the% possibility% of% the% existence% of% emerging%
administrative% evil% as% was% reported% in% academic% discussions% around% the%
subject%inspired%by%the%work%by%Adams%and%Balfour%1520%years%ago.%From%the%
perspective%of%upgrading%traditional%accountability%reporting%(based%on%top-
down%models),%these%new%developments%challenge%the%vertical%approaches%of%
accountability.% The% challenge% is% wired% from% horizontal%accountability%
processes% in% which% mutual% learning% enters% the% accountability% picture% and%
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mutual%learning%and%co-creation%among%service%providers%and%users%enters%the%
public%service%scene.%%
Second,% another% example% of% administrative% evil%is% provided% by%globally%
emerging%cases%in%government% organizations% trying% to% remedy% the%effects%of%
the% decline% of% ISIL% (also% known% as% ISIS% or% Da’esh)% and% the% emergence% of%
administrative%evil%for%example%around%the%prison%camps%in%Syria%(e.g.,%Al-Hol)%
related% to,% for% instance,% the% children%of% ISIL% fighters% and% their% mothers.%
Administrative%evil%is%a%complex%issue%and%is%thus%evident%not%only%in%the%prison%
camps%but%also%in%government%agencies%trying%to%address%the%issues%related%to%
the%fight%against%ISIL.%%
Next,%we%detail%how%administrative%evil%emerges%in%the%organizational%context.%
This%reasoning%is%important%in%understanding%the%logic%of%moral%inversion%that%
emerges%during%the%evolution%of%administrative%evil.&
%
!
4.! The! emergence! of! administrative! evil! in! the! age! of! complex!
organizations!
Why%people%become%terrorists%is%a%question%asked%repeatedly%in%the%aftermath%
of% every% terrorist% act.% The% question% has% been% addressed% from% varied%
perspectives%including%ideologically%inspired%evildoers,%mentally%ill%individuals%
and%socio-economic,%but%we%do%not%seem% anywhere% near% a% consensus%on%the%
answer.% In% addition,% in% more% mundane% contexts,% people%and% organizations%
continuously%behave%in%a%way%where%even%good%intentions%sometimes%lead%to%
negative% outcomes.% For% example,% Jalonen% et% al.%(forthcoming)% note% that% the%
pursuit% of% the% ideal% of% co-creation% may% remain% under-realized% and% instead%
invoke%unintended%co-destruction.%Trischler%and%Scott%(2016),%Wu%(2017)%and%
Rossi%and%Tuurnas%(2019),%among%others,%have%also%identified%dynamics%where%
service%systems%target%the%co-creation%of%value%but%prompt%the%co-destruction%
of%value.%
Few%people%would%disagree%with%the%traditional%argument%that%bad%people%do%
bad% things.% While% the% evil% can% take% several% forms% such% as% discrimination% in%
organizations,%harassment%in%relationships,%and%embarrassment%in%public%life,%
the% underlying% causal% logic% is% the% same,% that% is,%bad% behavior% leads% to% bad%
consequences.% The% relation% between% the% behavior% and% the% consequence% is%
linear%in%the%sense%that%the%more%evil%one%does,%the%more%harm%is%done%to%others.%
Focusing%on%individuals’%actions%constitutes%playing%the%blame%game%with%the%
aim%of%finding%those%who%can%be%held%accountable%for%wrongdoing.%The%blame%
game%assumes%that%there%are%one%or%more%identifiable%evildoers%who%commit%
evil%either%deliberately%or%accidentally.%The%blame%game%also%induces%defensive%
behavior%among%those%who%are%accused.%Conventionally%they%try%to%mask%their%
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behavior%and%cover%up%mistakes% by%manipulating%and%distorting%information.%
Although%the%evil%can%be%detrimental%and%even%destructive%it%can,%however,%be%
remedied.% This% is% because% evil% can% be% reduced% to% instances% of% improper%
behavior%of%the%offending%individuals%(Bella%et%al.,%2003:%71).%What%is%needed%is%
procedures%through%which%violations%of%the%rules%of%the%game%can%be%revealed%
and%sanctioned%and%offenders%punished.%
In% contrast,% the% complexity% theoretical% notion% of% the% emergence% of% evil%
theorized% by% David% A.% Bella% draws% on% the% idea% that% there% is% no% need%for%
intentionally% bad% or% harmful% behavior.% That% is% to% say% that% evil% can% simply%
happen%when% ordinary% people% do% ordinary% things.% The% emergence% of% evil% is%
based% on% systemic% triggers% and% developments% and% arises% out% of% complexity,%
typically%unpredictability,%uncertainty,% feedback% loops,%and% interpretation% in%
the%system,%as%described%by%the%paradigm%of%conscious%complexity%(see%Geyer%
&%Rihani,%2010).%Counterintuitively,%good%behavior%with%decent%intentions%can%
sometimes%have%bad%consequences.%Individual%actions%have%consequences,%but%
the% emergence% of% evil% emphasizes% the% importance% of% the% context% of% actions.%
Instead%of%linear%causality,%the%emergence%of%evil%calls%for%the%understanding%of%
the% systemic% nature% of% evilness.% Information% is% not% distorted% by% individuals%
intentionally%behaving%badly,%but%it%is%enabled%by%the%context%whose%incentives%
direct% individuals% to%behave% in% a% way% that% may% lead% to% systemic% distortion.%
Systemic%distortion%emerges%even%though%“no%one%need%be%in%charge”%(Bella,%
2006:%110).%To%understand%the%dynamics%of%systemic%distortion,%the%actions%of%
individuals% must% be% “assessed% within% a% context,% a% particular% set% of%
circumstances”%(Bella,%1997:%986).%
What% can% we% say% about% the% contexts% when% the% evil% emerges% from% ordinary%
activities% and% about% how% systemic% distortion% takes% place% and% produces%
malicious—even%if%not%destructively%evilbehavior%and%why%it%is%so%difficult%to%
resist%that%kind%of%emergence?%
The%emergence% of% evil%is% a% systemic% phenomenon,% not% a% singular% event.%Bad%
people%can% behave% badly% for% many% reasons,% but% it% is% a% system% that% has% the%
potential%to% induce% bad% behavior% among% decent%people.% The% following%
quotation%from%Rosenblatt’s%(1995,%in%Bella,%1997)%study%of%tobacco%industry%
executives% describes% how% it% looks% when% the% system% dominates% individuals:%
“none%of%these%executives%think%of%themselves%as%morally%bankrupt%and%I%do%not%
think% of% them% individually% in% that% way% either…I% felt% the% presence% of% the%
company% within% them…I% felt% that% I% was% speaking% with% more% company% than%
person,% or% perhaps% a% person% who% could% no% longer% distinguish% between% the%
two.”%Rosenblatt% describes% a% situation% where% “people% in% the% system%become%
people%of%the%system”%(Bella,%1997:%994)% and% where% evil% can% emerge% when% a%
vehicle%to%goodness%becomes%overextended% until% it% becomes% a% substitute%for%
goodness%itself%(Tillich,%1963%in% Bella,% 2006).% It% may%well%be%argued%that%this%
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was%also%the%logic%behind%the%evil%societal%phenomena%that%lead%Hannah%Arendt%
in%her%time%to%introduce%the%concept%of%dark%times.%
Focusing% on% systems% is,% then,% a% ground-breaking% research% activity% in%
understanding%administrative% evil%in% an% organizational%context.% As% it% stands,%
systems% can% be% defined% in% several% ways.% In% this% paper,% we% build% upon%
complexity-related% literature% (e.g.,% Cilliers,% 1998,% Byrne% &% Callaghan,% 2014),%
which% stresses% that% while% a% system% is% a% whole% composed% of% parts,% it% is%
qualitatively% something% other% than% the% sum% of% its% parts.% Being% qualitatively%
different% means% that% systems% manifest% emergent% behavior% which% cannot% be%
reduced%to%the%intentions,%designs,%and%plans%of%its%members%(Bella,%1997;%also,%
Geyer%&%Rihani,%2010,%Cilliers,%1998).%Complex%systems%“exist%in%behaviors%that%
have% reasons% and% consequences% rather% than% strict,% linear% cause% and% effect%
relationships”% (Friedman% et% al.,% 2007:% 20),% which% can% go% “far% beyond% the%
deliberate%management%abilities%of%individuals”%(Bella,%1997:%978).%
Nonlinearity%and% feedback% loops%and% interpretation% make% it% impossible% to%
precisely% predict% the% behavior% of% a% complex% system,% however,% there% are%
identifiable%attractors%within%systems.%Attractors%are%like%magnets%that%attract%
some%activities%and%behaviors%and%repel%others%(Bella,%1997).%While%actions%and%
behaviors%might%seem% to%be%happening%randomly,%they% are%in%fact%reinforced%
and% sustained%in% feedback% loops% by%attractors.% The% concept% of% an% attractor%
helps% understand% why% complex% systems% often% suffer% a% distorting% tendency,%
which,% in% turn,% itself% opens%the% door%to% the% emergence% of% evil.% A% distortion%
tendency% can% take% several% forms,% although% at% its% heart% is% individuals’%
information%behavior%and%interpretation%within,%and%of,%the%system%(e.g.,%King%
et%al.,%2002).%
There% are% reasons% for% individuals’% information-related% behavior% in% the%
organizational% context%and% it% also% has% consequences.% Reasons% and%
consequences%not%only%show% why%individuals%do%what%they%do,%but%they% also%
explain%why%it%is%difficult%to%change%the%course% of% actions.% According% to% Bella%
(2006:% 106)% “behaviors%continue% because% they% have% continuing% reason% that%
make%sense%from%the%perspective%of%those%acting%out%the%behaviors.”%The%self-
sustaining% dynamic% of% systemic% information% distortion% resembles,% albeit%
remotely,%Arendt’s%ideas%on%the%banality%of%evil.%In%both%cases,%what%is%required%
are% individuals% who% become% preoccupied% with% behaviors%and% activities%
reinforced%by%systemic%feedback%loops.%While%information%has%the%capacity%to%
either%provoke%and%stimulate%or%dampen%and%inhibit%processes%within%systems,%
Bella%(1997:%987)%suggests%that%organizational%systems’%tendency%toward%“less%
disruptive%arrangements”%means%that%“information%would%be%shaped%to%sustain%
rather% than% disrupt% the% self-reinforcing% patterns% of% systems.”% (ibid.)% The%
argument%is%also%in%line%with%the%ideas%of%organizational%learning,%where%the%
theories%actors%espouse%(the%way%we%say%we%behave)%contradict%actual%theories%
in%use% (the% behavior% we% actually% display),% triggering%actions% leaning%toward%
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sustaining% the% status% quo,% in% order% not% to% blame% anyone% or% distort% the%
organizational% practices% (Argyris,% 1999,% 179).% This% kind% of% organizational%
behavior%may% eventually% lead% to% supra-individual”% systems% that% are% indeed%
created% by% individuals,% but% once% created% they% become% self-maintaining% and%
resistant%to%change%(ibid.:%422).%
Enduring%systemic%information%distortion%is%an%organizational%malaise%that%is%
difficult% to% overcome.% Changing% the% status% quo% requires% more% energy% than%
sustaining% it.%King% et% al.%(2002)% found% three% reasons%that% could% explain% the%
difficulty%of%resisting%systemic%information%distortion.%First,%there%is%a%problem%
of% not% knowing% how%to.% The% historical% dominance% of% deductive% logic% has%
promoted%a%rigorous%chain%of%reasoning;%the%problem%is%that%the%metaphor%of%a%
chain% implicitly% includes% the% idea% of% causal% relationships% between% the%cause%
and%its%consequences,%which%leads%to%the%characterization%of%systems%as%whole%
entities%that%can%be%reduced%into%parts%and%inhibits%seeing%the%possibility%that%
there% can% be% negative% outcomes% even% if% there% is% nothing% to% fault% in%the%
performance%of%each%part.%
Secondly,%there%is%the%challenge%of%not%wanting%to.%Adapting%Weick%(1979)%and%
Senge%(1990)%Bella%et%al.%(2003:%166167)%suggest%that%“people%with%low%self-
esteem% or% a% high% need% for% control% prefer% blaming% others”% are% prone% to%
defensive% behavior% because% they% feel% insecure% with% the% central% message% of%
systems%thinking%which%is%that%our%actions%create%our%reality.%This%is%also%in%line%
with% the% work% of% Argyris% (1994:% 77–78)% that%argues% that% we% are% prone% to%
defend%ourselves,%whenever%we%are%“challenged%to%reflect%on%our%own%work%and%
behavior.”%In%the%same%manner,%we%also%tend%to%defend,%or%find%excuses%for,%the%
behavior%of%other%members%of%our%organization,%in% order%to%prevent%shaming%
anyone.%Third,%a%difficulty%found%particularly%on%the%organizational%level%is%that%
of%not%being%able%to.%This%notion%refers%to%the%tools%that%are%accepted%in%a%given%
system%and%how%individuals%can%find%it%impossible%to%breach%boundaries%set%by%
and% reinforced% in% various% organizational% information% rituals%(Feldman% &%
March,% 1981).% In% the% words% of% Argyris% (1994)% “organizational% defensive%
routines”%may%prevent%individuals%from%being%able%to%engage%in%double-loop%
learning”%and%open%the%way%for%organizations%to%become%systematically%stupid%
(Feldman%&%March,%1981:%174).%
The%inconsistency%between%our% theories%in%use% and% the%espoused%theories%of%
actions% in% turn% leads% to% the% systemic% information% distortion% so% elegantly%
illustrated%by%King%et%al.%(2002).%Enduring%systemic%information%distortion%can%
be%challenged%through%credible%disorders%which%“involve%concerns%that%people%
find% compelling% (trustworthy,% significant,% motivating)% and% contrary% to%
established%systems% (patterns,% arrangements,% forms% of% order)”% (Bella,%1997:%
994).% Argyris% (1999)% encourages% actors% in% organizations% to% unmask% their%
theories-in-use,%in%order%to% find% underlying% assumptions% and%interpretations%
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that%actually%often%go%against%the%espoused%theories%of%the%reasons%we%give%for%
our%actions.%
%
5.!Discussion!
Arendtian%dark%times%are%not%merely%a%thing%of%the%past.%Instead,%echoes%of%the%
past%are%heard%here%and%now%as%the%dark%times%become%increasingly%tangible%
and%striking.%Examples%of%event-based%forms%of%darkness%and%related%systemic%
policy%failures% are%not% difficult% to% find.% Think% for% example% of% the% conflicts% in%
Syria% and% Ukraine,% the% Rohingya% crisis% in% Myanmar,% and% concerns% over% the%
treatment%of%the%Uighur%minority%in%China,%the%UKs%Brexit,%and%global%climate%
change,%to%name%just%a%few.%These%all%are%connected%to%dark%times%in%the%sense%
that% Arendt% originally% meant% the% concept,% that% is,% the% disappearance% of% the%
public%realm.%This%is%manifested,%for%example,%as%hollowing%out%of%democracies,%
rising%populism%and%disinformation,%and%increased%political%polarization.%
This% paper%explored% the% connections% and% thematic% configurations% between%
dark%times%and%administrative%evil.%Although%Arendt%also%referred%to%the%role%
of%public%administration%as%part% of%the%birth% and%development%of%her%concept%
of% dark% times,% the% more% recent% notions% of% administrative% evil% and% the%
emergence%of%evil%have%brought%depth%to%the%concept%of%dark%times,%especially%
from%the%perspective%of%public%administration.%
The%emergence%of%administrative% evil%in% the%organizational%context%is%itself%a%
systemic%phenomenon,%which%cannot%merely%be%reduced%to%individual%actions%
and% manifestations% occurring%in% an% organizational% context.%This% is% because%
administrative% evil% emerges% in% an% organizational% frame% constructed% by%
collective% motivation% structures% and% communication% flows;% and% through%
various%mechanisms%of%collective%consciousness.%
More%specifically,%administrative%evil%arises%out%of%the%often%well-intentioned,%
but%not%publicly%outspoken,% dynamics% in% organizations.%It%is% a% systemic,% self-
reinforcing%phenomenon%that%cannot%be%reduced%merely%to%arising%out%of%the%
coming%together%of%individuals%in%organizations%or%societies.%It%rests%not%in%the%
individuals,% but% in% the% relations% and% feedback% loops% of% behavior% and%
interpretation,% and% thus% through% organizational% sensemaking.% Once% the%
systemic%distortion%of%information,%the%supra-individual%system,%has%emerged,%
it%becomes%resistant%to%change.%
Breaking% the% systemic% distortion% of% information% or% reducing% organizational%
ignorance% (Harvey% et% al.,% 2001)% is% difficult% at% least% for% two% reasons;% one%is%
individual%and%the%other%organizational.%First,%our%cognitive%systems%are%rooted%
in%linear%thinking%and%biased%in%favor%of%linear%hypotheses% (Brehmer,% 1976).%
Consequently,% we%prefer%stability% over% change%and% continuity% over%
discontinuity.% Brehmer% (1986:% 711–712)% argues% that% most% of% us% “prefer% to%
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assume% that% there% is% a% rule,% rather% than% there% is% no% rule,% that% this% rule% is%
deterministic,%rather%than%probabilistic,%that%the% values% to% be% predicted% from%
the%cue%values%do%in%fact%depend%on%these%cue%values,%rather%than%other%aspects%
such%as%trial%number,%that%the%rule%is%functional,%rather%than%nonfunctional,%and%
that%the%rule%is%a% positive% linear% function%rather%than%any%other%function.”%As%
most%people%are%not%familiar%with%the%use%of%nonlinear%thinking,%there%is%a%risk%
that%people,%ignorant%of%their%ignorance%persistently%stick%with%their%domestic%
mindsets% and% refuse% to% think% differently% (Harvey% et% al.,% 2001;% see% also% King,%
Down%&%Bella,%2002).%Paradoxically,%the%knowledge%that%has%provided%success%
in%the%past%may%increase%the%ignorance%of%the%possibilities%in%the%future.%
Second,% organizations% are% complex% systems% that%operate% through% decisions%
based% on% observations.%Decisions% are% acts% to% absorb% uncertainty% (Luhmann,%
1995)%where%the%role%observations%play%is%to%draw%a%distinction%between%that%
which%an%organization%decides,%and%everything%else%(Seild,%2007).%Observation%
is% never% free% from% presumptions.% Instead,% all% organizations% must% make%
selections% on% what% possibilities% to% pursue%and%therefore% which% to% leave%
unpursued.%Building%upon%Luhmann%(1995),%Seidl%(2007)%suggests%uncertainty%
is%absorbed%in%a%succession%of%decisions.%The%problem%is%not%uncertainty%itself,%
but% the% process% of% how% decisions% are% communicated.% Seidl%argues% that% the%
uncertainty%involved%in%a%decision%is%not%communicated,%which%consequently%
makes% organizations% unaware% of% the% possibilities% flowing% from% observation%
that% have% disappeared.%Seidl% (2007:)% summarizes% his% argument% as% follows:%
“Organizations%create%their%knowledge%in%the%form%of%decision%premises,%which%
make%decision-making%possible% by%limiting%the% number%of%possible%decisions.%
In%other%words,%organizational%knowledge%makes%observations%possible,%but%at%
the% same% time% it% implies% nonknowledge,% which% means% unobservability.%
Regarding% organizational% observations,% this% means% that% they% are% at% least% as%
much% based% on% nonknowledge% as% they% are% on% knowledge.”% Organizations’%
ability% to% disregard% other% opportunities% for% observation% possibilities% of%
observation%(Seidl,% 2007)% increases% the% odds% that% ignorance% becomes%
embedded% in% the% organization’s% interpretative% framework% (Harvey% et% al.,%
2001).%
During,%the%1980s%and%1990s,%a%number%of%frontline%sociologists%(e.g.,%Anthony%
Giddens,%Ulrich%Beck,%and%Pierre%Bourdieu)%introduced%partly%in%the%wake%of%
environmental%disasters%that%took%place,%such%as%the%Chernobyl%nuclear%power%
plant% disasterthe% concept% of% the% risk% society%to%epitomize% modern% society.%
The% notion% of% the% risk% society% was% about% how% modern% societies% organize% in%
response%to%risk.%Among%the%most%eminent%scholars%writing%on%the%subject%was%
Ulrich% Beck% whose% magnum% opus% Risikogeschellshaft%(Beck,% 1986)% attracted%
immense%attention%globally.%In%the% light% of% emerging% administrative%evil,%this%
paper% suggests% that% there% is% new% evidence% supporting% the%case% to% re-
conceptualize%the%next%version%of%the%risk%society,%which%holds%the%view%of%how%
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public%institutions%and%public%organizations% develop% counter-mechanisms% to%
resist% administrative% evil.% The% risk% society% is% no%longer% only% based% on%
environmental% concerns,% despite% them% remaining% critical% (and% the% effects% of%
climate% change% are% undeniable).% A% new% version% of% the% concept% of% the% risk%
society% is% needed% because% at% this% point% in% time% the% effects% of% emerging%
administrative%evil%concern%humanity%and% the%manner%of%existence%of%human%
beings%in%terms%of%how%public%organizations%function%and%how%that%affects%the%
democratic%systems%of%society%(e.g.,%Eisenhower%1961%in%Bella,%1997:%994).%We%
do%not%so%much%need%to%reinvent%the%sociological%imagination,%but%it%is%certainly%
time% to% start% to% reapply% the% concept% and% method% both% in% research% and% in%
administration%(see%Mills,%1959;%Machum%&%Clow,%2015).%
%
6.!Conclusions!
Despite% the% active% and% lengthy% academic% discussions% on% administrative% evil%
over% the% last% 20% years%and% particularly% in% the% period% 19982005the%
implications% of% this% topic% remain% far% from% fully% explored.% There% is% still%
considerable%potential% in% research% focusing%on% administrative% evil% from% the%
point%of%view%of%the%evolution%of%organizational%theory%over%the%last%couple%of%
decades.%Seeing%organizations%as%complex%systems%(e.g.,%Friedman%et%al.,%2007),%
connected%with%service%users/citizens%(e.g.,%Seddon% et% al.,% 2019),% and% linking%
these% organizational% phenomena% with% organizational% motivation% structures,%
communication%flows,%strategic%insight,%collective%consciousness%(e.g.,%Doz%et%
al.,% 2018),% opens% up% new% and% fresh% thematic% options% for%approaching%the%
question%of%administrative%evil.%Those%thematic%options%relate%to,%for%instance,%
modern% process% theory% concerning% organizations% (e.g.,% Langley% &% Tsoukas,%
2017),% organizational% learning% and% design% in% turbulent% operational%
environments%(e.g.,%Cousins,%2018),%organizational%citizenship% (e.g.,% Bogler% &%
Somech,%2019),%the%use% of% scientific% knowledge%in%decision-making% in% public%
institutions% (e.g.,% McIntyre,% 2019),%co-production% and% co-creation% in% public%
services%(e.g.,%Brandsen%et%al.,%2018),%value%co-creation%and%public%service%logic%
(e.g.,%Osborne,% 2018),% and% the%presumed% intelligence% of% public%organizations%
(e.g.,%Stenvall%&%Virtanen,%2017).%
This%paper%sets%out%a%number%of%possibilities%for%future%research.%These%include%
a%more%detailed%empirical%cultivation%of%the%role%of%administrative%evil%from%the%
perspective%of% modern%organization%theory%and%coupling%the%concept%of%dark%
times% and% administrative% evil%together% in% analyzing% the% role% of% emerging%
complexity% in% the% form% of% analytical% case% studies.% Moreover,% further%
elaboration% on% theoretical%and% conceptual% analysis% would% be% warranted% in%
analyzing%the%moral%inversion%from%the%perspective%of%leadership%in%particular.%
Such%analysis%would%necessarily%involve%investigating%what%processes%trigger%
the% emergence% of% administrative% evil%in% a% public% organization,% when% such%
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processes% are% viewed% from% the% leadership% and% modern% organizational%
perspective,%which%requires%a%change%in%focus%from%one%on%single%organizations%
to% one% able% to% encompass% more% network-based% constellations%(e.g.,% Laloux,%
2014).% Other% important% research% topics% relate% to% organizational% meta-skills,%
strategic%sensitivity%in%organizations,%and%ethical%frames%that%could%be%seen%as%
counter-poison%(to%adopt%the%semantics%of%Beck,%1986)%in%alleviating%the%effects%
of%organizational%malevolence%(e.g.,%Virtanen%&%Tammeaid,%2020).%In%addition,%
studying% the% role% of% the% dark% side% of% knowledge/knowing% (e.g.,% Seild,% 2007;%
Letiche,% 2009)% in% the% emergence% of% administrative% evil% merits% empirical%
research.%Of%particular%interest%should%be%the%question%of%which%organizational%
arrangements% (if% any)% might% make% it% possible% to% tackle% different% forms% of%
organizational% ignorance%(i.e.,% the% pluralistic,% populistic,% probabilistic,% and%
pragmatic%forms)%as%suggested%by%Harvey%et%al.%(2001).%
One% topical% issue% that% should%be% addressed%is% the%study%of%the% relationship%
between%the%digitalization%of%everything%and%the%emergence%of%administrative%
evil.% While%digitalization% has% increased% societal% transparency,% it% has%
simultaneously%introduced%new%black%boxes%that%produce%results%based%on%the%
use%of% assumptions%that% are% not% explicit.% Digital% technology% has%empowered%
citizens,%but%it%has%also%affected%their%conduct%and,%in%many%ways,%objectivized%
and% subordinated% them% (e.g.,% Cheney-Lippold,% 2017;% Papacharissi,% 2019;%
Zuboff,%2019).%A%lot%of%that%which%George%Orwell%envisioned%in%his%novel%1984%
will%become%technologically%possible%in%the%near%future.%
Also,%deliberative%democratic%theory%explored%by%Curato%and%Parry%(2018),%in%
the%context%of%dark%times,%could%provide%one%possible%path%to%illuminate%these%
dark% times% we% live% in% and%thus% form%an% important% research% theme.% Curato,%
Hammond,%and%Min%(2019:%163)%suggest,%“Deliberative%forums%and%institutions%
may%be%imperfect,%but%they%do%have%something%to%offer.&Deliberative%democracy%
in%dark%times,%to%borrow%a%Gramscian% phrase,%lives%without%illusions%without%
being% disillusioned.”% This% resonates% strongly% with% Arendt’s% critique% of%
modernity%and%the%grave%dangers%of%thoughtlessness%she%highlighted.%To%put%it%
simply,%we%should%not%forget%to%ask%the%question%why%(see%Arnett,%2012).%This%
is%also%highlighted%in%the%ongoing%struggle%between%the%bureaucratic%ethos%and%
the&democratic%ethos,%described%by%Nabatchi%et%al.%(2011).%It%would%seem%to%be%
a% good% time% to% recall% the% suggestion% of% King% et% al.%(2003)% made% almost% two%
decades%ago%that% we% should%learn% to%think% in% circles% instead%of% linear% causal%
chains.%
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This piece reflects on the on the legacies of democratic deliberation, particularly mini-publics in responding to issues of disinformation, bigotry and nativism that has entered the political mainstream today. It aims to provoke conversations about the limitations of mini-publics in promoting democratic renewal and reconsider the functions of these forums in democracy's 'dark times.' Author Biography Nicole Curato is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance at the University of Canberra. She holds the Australian Research Council's Discovery Early Career Research Fellowship for her work on democratic innovations in sensitive political contexts. Lucy J Parry is a Research Associate at the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance at the University of Canberra. She currently works at Webster Private University in Vienna. She also works closely with Participedia to document and analyse democratic innovations around the world and has been involved in the organisation of deliberative processes in the UK and Australia. Her research has been published in Environmental Values, Agricultural Systems and British Politics. © 2019 International Association for Public Participation. All rights reserved.
Article
Despite repeated calls to temper the bureaucratic ethos and its associated process-oriented pathologies with more of a democratic ethos grounded in normative values and the public interest, the practice, research, and teaching of public administration continues to largely perpetuate the former. In this paper we build upon the work of Camila Stivers’ book Governance in Dark Times and Nabatchi and colleagues’ subsequent call to search for opportunities to better address issues of war, terrorism, climate change, economic calamity, refugee crises, and other atrocities which characterize dark times. We focus our attention on one specific issue within this realm, that of genocides and mass atrocities, as a way to illustrate that public servants—from street-level bureaucrats through high-level policy makers—may be part of the problem or part of the solution. We assert the responsibility of public affairs educators to ensure that their students are prepared to administer prevention or we risk that traditional administrative pathologies may lead them to inadvertently engage in administering atrocities. We position our overarching proposal in the context of fundamental public service values as well as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 16. We also align our more specific recommendations with the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration’s universal competencies and the core content domains of the Atlas for Public Management.
Book
Every new technology invites its own sets of hopes and fears, and raises as many questions as it answers revolving around the same theme: Will technology fundamentally alter the essence of what it means to be human? This volume draws inspiration from the work of the many luminaries who approach augmented, alternative forms of intelligence and consciousness. Scholars contribute their thoughts on how human augmentic technologies and artificial or sentient forms of intelligence can be used to enable, reimagine, and reorganize how we understand our selves, how we conceive the meaning of "human", and how we define meaning in our lives.