Public value and political astuteness in the work of public managers: the art of the possible

Hartley, Jean; Alford, John; Hughes, Owen and Yates, Sophie (2015). Public value and political astuteness in the work of public managers: the art of the possible. Public Administration, 93(1) pp. 195–211.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/padm.12125

Abstract

The public value framework, with its call for more entrepreneurial activities by public managers, has attracted concern and criticism about its implicit breaching of the politics/administration dichotomy. This paper explores the role of political astuteness not only in discerning and creating public value, but also in enabling public managers to be sensitive to the dichotomy. We employ a conceptual framework to identify the skills of political astuteness, and then articulate these in relation to identifying and generating public value. Drawing on a survey of 1012 public managers in Australia, New Zealand and the UK, and depth interviews with 42 of them, we examine the perceptions and capabilities of public managers in producing value for the public while traversing the line (or zone) between politics and administration. We conclude that political astuteness is essential to both creating value and maintaining allegiance to democratic principles.

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