The Innovation Journal: The Public Sector Innovation Journal, 2(2), 1997, article 2.



Toward a Definition of Political Health and Pathology PDF


Howard A. Doughty



Discussion of innovation seldom considers its political purpose. The question is often begged: Innovation for what? This article identifies innovation as a species of pragmatism. It provides an historical example of how some high-minded Western academics and governments sought and failed to promote innovation in the developing nations (most dramatically in Viet-Nam). It then considers the more recent crisis-based rationale for innovation and argues its vulnerability to elitist use as an artificial justification for the plutocratic agenda. It then offers a therapeutic justification for innovation based on a medical model of public policy. Acknowledging the philosophical and political problems associated with naturalistic theories, it nonetheless encourages an exploration of the concept of a healthy polity as an alternative to the ultimately murderous moralism of the quest for "modernization" and the amoral manipulation of debate on the "burning platform."

Let me first say that if I have put down anything of merit here, it was already captured far more elegantly and concisely in, of all things, a paper delivered at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association in Washington, D.C. in September, 1968, by my old mentor (though he—wary of disciples—would surely disclaim the title), Henry S. Kariel of the University of Hawaii. His contribution was entitled, "The Pluralistic Personality as a Political Goal." It was a modestly subversive paper. It called into question the tendency "to defer to what is" as the premise for political analysis and practice. My aim in this article is to apply some of the thoughts that he and others have had over the years to the particular issue of innovation in the Canadian public sector.

Much of the theory and practice of public sector innovation can properly be viewed as a species of pragmatism. (endnote 1) Pragmatists place emphasis upon solving immediate, concrete and measurable problems. Innovators do the same but distinctively with methods that depart from existing practice. As Eleanor Glor recently defined the term with respect to the public sector: "Innovation is the conception and implementation of significant new services, ideas or ways of doing things as government policy in order to improve or reform them, and involves taking risks." (endnote 2)
This definition, like many others, is silent on establishing what are the criteria for deciding what is or is not an improvement, what is or is not a reform. This silence is important for change, absent standards for evaluation of its direction, is not self-justifying despite all the contemporary assurance from neophiliacs of its eventual benefits. Questions of purpose must be asked openly lest they will be answered furtively and in the absence of public awareness and debate.

Dating back to the late nineteenth century, pragmatism has had a singular history in Western and especially American philosophy. Pragmatists consciously eschewed the absolutist and metaphysical language used by other philosophies. They thought that such language merely obfuscated what were basically practical matters, and so they turned their attention to answerable questions and sought the practical means to incorporate those answers into real life. If Platonic definitions of justice and equity are unattainable, so be it; Aristotelian answers to questions such as how to redress a civil wrong, how to feed and shelter flood victims, and so on, are not. Procedures for conflict resolution through tort law and disaster relief programs are down-to-earth goals that need rational decision and positive action, not metaphysical speculation. Pragmatism won wide acceptance in North America and has lately even been adapted to European circumstances and made popular in, for example, the work of German philosopher Jürgen Habermas and his associates. (endnote 3) Pragmatism, of course, has not been without its critics, and criticisms have come from two quite different perspectives.

Conservative thinkers have lamented pragmatism's alleged indifference to morality. It is one thing to speak about solving practical problems but, they ask, who gets to decide what is a problem and what is not? In the absence of criteria about what we truly need and what we ought to desire, pragmatism simply furnishes advice on tactics for people to get whatever they want and to the victors go the prizes: drunks may pragmatically get their next drinks; polluters may pragmatically get de-regulation. Unwilling or unable to identify the content of such terms as good and evil (thus making it theoretically impossible conscientiously to support the first and to oppose the second), pragmatists have been subjected to the same sort of criticism that has been levelled at liberals from Jeremy Bentham on. Lacking a defined morality, pragmatism appears to leave private choices to unfettered desires and public ones to the vagaries of the marketplace. Say traditionalists: lust is one thing, virtue is quite another.

In the alternative, radicals have insisted that—however much they may deny it—pragmatists do hold certain assumptions that are every bit as ideological as those of the metaphysicians they try to escape. Liberalism, rationalism, individualism and utilitarianism are among the philosophical sources of pragmatism. They combine to affirm the advantage of social change and the strategic benefits of innovation. They meld into a materialist attitude toward history and society that assumes the inevitability of progress through adaptation, modification, permutation and occasionally revolution. Such origins and assumptions amount to nothing if not an ideology and, some would say, today's dominant ideology.

Critics from both the right and the left are, however, conjoined on one matter: pragmatism tends to discount custom, tradition and historical context. Committed to the belief that rational people can solve immediate problems by overcoming the passions and prejudices of history and ideology, pragmatists are often caught up short by the sullen resistence of those whose ethical or political commitments are undiluted by tolerance and generosity, who have firm attachments to principles, or who just see things differently.


One dramatic example of the problems encountered by pragmatic policy managers occurred some twenty-five and more years ago. Then, also, people talked seriously about bureaucratic innovation and, when they did—in, say, the mid-fifties to the mid-sixties—the talk focused on innovation in the so-called developing nations. Academic theorists and field advisors to governments in Africa, Asia, and Latin America spoke hopefully of modernization and of nation-building. Epitomized by John F. Kennedy's bright young men (whether in the Peace Corps, the Central Intelligence Agency, or somewhere in between), they promoted an economically capitalistic, socially pluralistic, and politically democratic march toward modernity. The prime enemy of progress in the emerging nations was said to be traditionalism. Among other things, it militated against a fluid socio-economic stratification system, a rational-legal bureaucratic system, a market economy and the infrastructural prerequisites of a democratic polity (including improved educational levels, national print and broadcast media, and so on). As well, traditionalism inhibited such statistical benchmarks of modernity as urbanization, industrialization, and mass literacy. Parochialism, tribalism and traditional authoritarianism had, accordingly, to be swept away were poor nations ever to be transformed.

During the 1960s, dozens of books—notably those produced in series on comparative government in paperback by Little Brown & Co. and in hard cover by Princeton University—gave voice to the need for progressive change. Political scientists such as David E. Apter devoted dense volumes to the production of comprehensive theories of modernization in which the key strategic result would always be a nurturing climate for economic, social and political innovation. (endnote 4) At times, the language of such theories became a little obscure. Fred W. Riggs, for example, identified no less than fourteen different kinds of "tonic" polities in his classification system for modernizing regimes (endnote 5); nonetheless, despite occasional linguistic lapses, it was plain that, absent some fundamental obstacle, the paths to freedom were many and varied but the goal of what Almond and Verba famously called "the civic culture" was held as confidently as a Kantian imperative. Left unchallenged, as JFK beamed about the "Alliance for Progress," the prospects for success were high. (endnote 6)

The fundamental obstacle, of course, eventually claimed centre stage (having, indeed, been in the wings all along); the challenge was dutifully confronted. Pragmatism (and the rational-legal themes that underscored it) went to war in South-East Asia. The best and the brightest of an optimistic generation took pragmatism in the then-favoured bureaucratic form of PPBS (Planning-Programming-Budgeting System) to Viet-Nam; there, "passion" and "prejudice" would defeat it for, as Aaron Wildavsky, one of America's leading authorities on public sector budgeting, declared: "PPBS has failed everywhere and at all times." (endnote 7) So disastrous was the myth of rational decision making in the absence of consideration of extant cultural traditions and potent ideological choices that both the U.S. peace activists and much of the U.S. military leadership used the same arguments about PPBS and about the futility of the war long before the detached planners in Washington did: as Henry Mintzberg shrewdly observed, "planning proved to be an impediment to effective strategic thinking and action, whether one favored hawkish military strategies or dovish political ones."8 The rest, as they say, is history.

Theorists and practitioners of bureaucratic innovation in those days (let us give them their due) were clear about three things:

  1. innovation was intended to foster social change and to bring backward societies into line with the imperatives of modernity;

  2. on balance, modernity was better than backwardness;

  3. contrary views could be defined as either "traditional" and therefore unprogressive or "ideological" (i.e., communist) and therefore a distortion of authentic progress.

Confident of the righteousness of their aims, modernization theorists felt free either to condemn or simply to conjure away their opponents. The positive evaluation of capitalism, pluralism and democracy and the negative evaluation of both traditionalism and alternative ideological visions of modernity were not, of course, deemed ideological, much less metaphysical. As S. M. Lipset put it (with absolutely no inkling of irony): "democracy is not only or even primarily a means through which different groups can ¼ seek the good society; it is the good society itself in operation."9

Political philosophy was thus considered obsolete; it was necessary only for the West to bring other nations into the light. I, for one, am prepared to believe that the motive of many of those who planned for social change in the developing nations was not merely one of hysterical anti-communism filtered through the prism of neo-Weberian language and sent forth to illuminate the American empire. I have met, liked and admired several middling members of that innovative elite. Much of their work was done with selflessness and extraordinary cultural sensitivity in what they truly believed to be the best interests of the underprivileged nations and their peoples. They wanted to make the world safe for pragmatism and thus make the safest possible world. The best of them were certainly no Rudyard Kiplings; but then, Queen Victoria didn't have napalm.

My point? A quarter-century and more ago, bureaucratic innovation was tied to concepts of political purpose. That purpose was not, its advocates supposed, an irrational ideological objective (had not Daniel Bell long since declared "the end of ideology"? (endnote 10) nor was it always a cynical mask for an otherwise blatant imperialism.

For many, the political purpose truly was to open up the world to free choice, progressive change and opportunities for personal, private and public development. Serious thought was given to how that purpose might be achieved. There was much support for the idea that innovation ought not to be a practical instrument of manipulation or coercion for local powers who could be counted upon to serve narrow Western economic and military interests; on the contrary, it was genuinely believed that increased modernization would lead to increased innovation and that the particular choices to be made would be made autonomously in the interest of improving the quality of life of the people. Freedom, in the words of Lord Buckley, "would spread like a magic garden." What is more, while radicals were certainly on to something when they demystified (later, deconstructed) the rhetoric of modernization and revealed its implicit teleological precepts, it is also true that modernization was seen by its more enlightened proponents much more as an open-ended process than as a final political product. Modernization as a goal entailed very little in the way of specific social structures or political institutions; rather, it meant no more (though certainly no less) than the building of national cultures in which innovation in all aspects of social life would be encouraged.

The tragedy of U.S. diplomatic and military policy was, at least in part, founded upon the naïveté rather than the malignity of some of its principal practitioners whose enthusiasm for pragmatic problem solving discounted the strength of various oppositions in the political contexts within which they operated. (endnote 11) To the innovators, it was inconceivable that some people, given the choice, would not choose "freedom" (the even greater intellectual challenge of understanding why other people would prefer religious fundamentalism over Western secularism was still some years away). Nonetheless, people did opt for alternatives to Western ideals with the result that, much chastened, the zeal for reform has been diminished in many circles. Restraint, sometimes bordering on isolationism, and a proclivity for business advantage over a crusade for human rights has become the hallmark of much European and North American foreign policy.

We have, then, an example of pragmatism defeated, at least in the short run and insofar as it entailed the search for practical policies which would promote liberal democracies, market economies and culturally tolerant societies elsewhere. Does that mean that the forces of putative irrationalism and alleged ideology are destined for ultimate victory? Probably not, for ultimates—victorious or otherwise—belong in neo-Hegelian discourse and seem to have remarkably little to do with the quirky twists and turns of actual human history. More "pragmatically," it might be asked: does this brief recollection of a specific failure in political theory and governmental practice have anything of significance to tell us about the process of innovation in Canada today? We have—despite what some fellow citizens might say in heated moments—no Ho Chi Minhs and no Ayatollah Khomeinis afoot in this land. Why, then, urge reflection on matters so apparently distant in time, space and substantive relevance? The answer is that liberal pragmatism, aggressively and unsuccessfully pursued in places such as Viet-Nam and Iran, retreated both politically (first into the domestic and further into the private sphere) and philosophically (as it embraced ever more the spirit of cultural relativism). To suggest a reclamation of Western politics, let me regress once more but in another direction.


Debate about innovation today seems eerily derivative from the discussion witnessed, again about thirty years ago, when neo-pragmatic philosophers concerned with the study of ethics began a small transformation in education. Stimulated by such popular volumes as Situation Ethics (endnote 12), they successfully injected into the curricula of schools, colleges and universities a consideration of moral questions that was detached from venerable concepts of right and wrong, to say nothing of the religious notion of sin. Often this transformation was presented in terms of an exercise in "values clarification," a process that effectively cut ethical decisions off from traditional beliefs and located them, instead, in the domain of personal preferences and individual interests. Sin was superceded by solipsism; indeed, the very change in language from morals and ethics to mere "values"—the ideas, actions or things to which any person may or may not attach "value" in any circumstance quite in the absence of any cultural, much less transcendental, criteria or sanction —particularized and thereby trivialized the discussion. Instead of considering actions (now known as "behaviour") in terms of eternal verities and universal principles, ethics was recast as rational decision making on an economistic model.

The primacy of self-interest was nowhere more clearly elucidated than in the "learning activity" known as "lifeboat ethics." (endnote 13) This mental experiment in ethical (pseudo-ethical?) thinking—imagining oneself in an overcrowded lifeboat with few rations and no immediate hope of rescue—assumed a hostile environment, scarce resources, overpopulation, unrestrained competition and the implied threat of violence. Students were urged to take seriously this Hobbesian-cum-Malthusian model as a miniature of existing society and to work out ethical principles (survival strategies?) appropriate to the situation. If some chose to jump overboard, it would be unsurprising to learn that they would do so not as a selfless act intended to save others but as a desperate lemmingesque attempt to escape the indignities of such unpleasantness.

Some innovation advocates seem now to have raised this philosophical simulation game to the next level of generalization. Borrowing from the language of deep-sea oil rig disasters, they invite us to contemplate strategies for innovation premised on the assumptions of the "burning platform." Given the choice between probable death by fire and probable death by water, we are asked to think up strategies for survival not just for a few souls in a boat but for an entire floating organization.

In both cases, the mighty forces of nature are seen as a malevolent environment in which puny humans must make "tough choices." The environment—political, economic and social—in which we live is presumed to be both menacing and unalterable. It is not said to be the product of human action and therefore of human choice. So, politicians are allowed to say (and to get away with saying): "The reality is " when the impact of their proposals is the privatization of a vital public service, the reduction of budget for a valuable public program, or the reduction of citizen involvement in a formerly participative process. Accountability can thus be sloughed off merely by appealing to the allegedly suprahuman imperatives of an alleged reality.

With almost messianic certainty, we are told that such ponderables as globalization, international competition, high technology, the information society and the influence of almost anything that can have the prefix "cyber-" or "hyper-" "post-" attached to it are the metal of the "iron cage" about which Max Weber warned us nearly a century ago. (endnote 14) Such politicians have either let stupidity go to their heads, or else they are lying. The "reality" is what we make it or, rather, what the powerful among us make it, subject to whatever modifications we (as Ed Broadbent so supercilliously described us) "ordinary Canadians" can manufacture. Wishing alone never makes it so; but there is an alternative to Arthur Jensen, the character cinematically portrayed by Ned Beatty in Paddy Chayefsky's Network, who anticipated the latter-day Alvin Toffler, Newt Gingrich, Bill Gates, Dr. Tomorrow, and all the current futuristic chatterers by bellowing: "There are no nations! There are no peoples! ¼ There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multi-variate, multinational dominion of dollars! It is the international system of currency that determines the totality of life on this planet! That is the natural order of things today! We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies ¼ The world is a collage of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable bylaws of business. The world is a business ¼ It has been that way since man crawled out of the slime" (endnote 15)

Rather than speaking of human political and economic creations in the language of destiny, it is necessary to recognize that the problems we face are of our own making. Only then is it possible to imagine goals to which we might aspire, and not just fixate on crises we must avoid. To do so, however, means that we must contemplate a political future more generous and expansive than the one put forward by those who are content to defer to what is and to reify artificial constructions as though they were natural absolutes.


Threats from an environment that is indifferent to our collective fate is one base upon which to build a strategy for innovation. The available opportunities in a leaking lifeboat or on a burning platform are surely limited; desperate measures may well be called for. But what if we select a different metaphor upon which to build the case for innovation? Metaphors that constrict are not, nor should they be, the only weapons in our poetic arsenal (or, to do, I hope, no permanent injury to Browning: "a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a 'meta' for?").

At about the same time as Robert MacNamara was creating the "reality" of Viet-Nam (for which he would later offer a self-serving and half-hearted apology), and at about the same time as we were encouraged to decide who could most ethically be chucked out of the lifeboat, an alternative was being offered by a most humane writer, Christian Bay, a formidable political theorist then at the University of Alberta and soon to be at the University of Toronto.

In such publications as his widely circulated essays, "The Cheerful Science of Dismal Politics," and "Needs, Wants and Political Legitimacy," he began to explore a theory of the healthy polity. (endnote 16)
Drawing upon an organic model of political society that dates back to John of Salisbury's twelfth century treatise Policraticus and before, he compared political studies to medicine, imagining that the body politic was analogous to the human body writ large and that there were ways to define well-being and pathology in both. Once secure in the definitions of these things, innovation could once again be made subject to political purpose but put in the service of good health. Like medical technology that allows us to remove a diseased appendix or splint a broken arm, bureaucratic innovations could be set to the purpose of fixing problems in accordance with agreed upon standards of therapy; like preventative medicine that encourages us to avoid smoking and to get our fair share of vitamins, bureaucratic innovation could even be proactive in the general quest for the good society. Who knows? Perhaps it would eventually be possible to develop a Hippocratic oath for politicians and public servants. Enthusiasm for such a naturalistic approach to public philosophy is limited, however, by three immediate objections: one I will call logical; one I will call moral; one I will call empirical.

First, any sophomore student of philosophy should be able to identify the "naturalistic fallacy." Put simply, it is the recognition that logic denies the possibility of deriving an "ought" from an "is." G. E. Moore and his followers were especially influential in arguing that ethical conclusions cannot be derived from non-ethical premises because of the form of the statements involved. Scientific statements about the nature of the world (including medical knowledge about human bodies) are, they insisted, of a different kind than ethical statements which are intuitive, non-natural and certainly not subject to objective testing and measurement. (endnote 17)

Second, a variation upon this theme is the recognition that nature is itself amoral. For centuries metaphysicians and theologians attempted to win from nature assurance of God's beneficence and of a divine plan. The famous argument from design for the existence of God (i.e., the fact that nature is composed and subject to laws seemed to imply a composer and a law-giver) relied on the apparent orderliness and predictability of natural phenomena themselves. Likewise, what people took to be the harmony or balance of nature also appeared to suggest a creator whose benevolence might not be apparent in the short run (e.g., when animals eat one another alive or bacteria take the life of a child) but whose ultimate wisdom was not to be doubted. (endnote 18) Such a charming mingling of faith and naturalism has, however, been given the boot by contemporary work in such diverse fields as cosmology, paleontology, particle physics and biology. It is, it seems, not just that we cannot make a logical leap from natural things to ethical precepts but that nature has nothing whatever to tell us. (endnote 19) Despite the apparent obedience of the universe to what are called the laws of physics, the evolution of life on earth has been a matter of utter contingency; nature is prfoundly amoral. (endnote 20)

The third objection derives partly from the first two. It is that political health is an essentially contested concept. The conditions of essential contestedness were identified by W. B. Gallie: the concept must be: (1) appraisive; (2) internally complex; (3) initially ambiguous. (endnote 21) Essentially contested concepts (e.g., democracy, justice, beauty, good and evil) are those about which people argue because important consequences flow from the result of battles over which among two or several definitions may become commonly accepted. are those about which people argue because important consequences flow from the result of battles over which among two or several definitions may become commonly accepted.

A general theory of political health would assume the fundamental similarity of all people, a common human nature. That is as may be, but in society, basic similarities are quickly fragmented by cultural variables of almost infinite number. What is tonic for a socialist is toxic for a capitalist. What promotes social well-being for the censorious is virulent to the libertarian. How, if at all, is it possible to generate a consensus on what a healthy society would be? And, if that consensus were generated, would not the consensus itself reveal itself to be pathological, for it would imply a unanimity of opinion that would stifle any future debate?. Commentators from the aforementioned John of Salisbury through Sir Francis Bond Head (the staunch opponent of democracy in Upper Canada) to contemporary advocates of multiculturalism have all urged the importance of difference (whether of function, wealth or custom) for, to use a somewhat broader biological analogy, if all were the same, society would resemble not a complex system but an amoeba. Giving substance to a theory of political health based on excessive presumptions of human similarity would, appealing again to biology, deny the cultural equivalent of biodiversity. In explicit political terms, it would smack of totalitarianism.

By employing these metaphors, I am conscious that I am subverting the previous arguments. Nature may not have moral lessons to teach us, nor any insights for us about the specific policies we ought to adopt. Still, nature does display a few organizing principles that we may wish to consider. Admittedly, they may, if followed, result only in procedural preferences for, perhaps, the rule of law (cells that grow uncontrolled are called cancer) or some variation of John Rawls' well-known theory of justice (all cells must get at least some oxygen). (endnote 22) But the rule of law and minimal standards of equity are no small things. Moreover, Christian Bay did well, I think, by proposing a perspective that would at least admit of this similarity between the purposes of politics and medicine: to reduce suffering and postpone death. Bay wrote that political science "should aim at prescribing organizational innovations, including measures for social experimentation, for its competence is or ought to be in the study of social institutions: how they affect human well-being, and how they are and can be affected by government policy." (endnote 23) The problems of such a therapeutic perspective being granted, Henry S. Kariel acknowledged that "even though one man's misery, as Dostoevsky has pointed out, may be another man's joy, to formulate our condition and prospects in bio-psychological terms can at least give us testable, empirical propositions." However complex the task of defining human needs empirically, we will have said something if we have said that those needs involve "any tendency—latent or manifest—whose continual suppression leads to pathology, and by regarding as pathological anything which is not life-facilitating, norms do become accessible to empirical inquiry—without at the same time being reduced to nothing but our immediate wants and desires." (endnote 24)

It is the next step that is the difficult one. To pass from homilies using phrases such as "well-being" and "life-enhancing" to recommendations that would lead to specific consequences in fields as diverse as aboriginal self-government and federal taxation policy are extraordinarily hard as intellectual exercises and much harder as a matters of practical political activity. The task, I think, must nonetheless be attempted for, in the absence of some credible ethical criteria according to which we may judge public policies, the alternative is an amoral pragmatics in which the narrow interests of the plutocracy will almost inevitably triumph and, worse, the triumph will be justified on the basis of an alleged practical necessity.

As a first step in the process of defining political health and pathology, I would like to offer a point of departure so obvious as to seem tautological, but which is nevertheless now under serious attack. It is that, just as in order to have a healthy body it is necessary to have a body, so in order to have a healthy body politic, it is necessary to have a body politic. Public policy, process and procedures require a public both in fact and in understanding. Our society, like most other advanced (post-?) industrial societies, is being inundated by arguments that attack the concept of the public from below and above.

From below, affirmations of the rights of individuals against the state have taken an odd turn. Disaffection with political institutions and leadership has not turned into any kind of spontaneous outburst of communally-based mutual aid (despite the growth of the so-called "social" or "service" sector, as distinguished from the "private corporations" and "government"). Rather, it has retreated into personal pursuits often funded by a resources that are amassed with indifference to legalities (e.g., the so-called "underground economy") and in strident defiance of official taxation regulations. Despite lip-service to the "sacred trust" of education and medicare, the prevailing norm seems considerably bent toward selfishness if only because people have been cowed into resignation that we have come to the end of universality in social programs, general improvement in our standard of living and, for that matter, the possibility of employment for our children in the future.

Such attitudes are a product of the victory of an image, the image of the social side of the corporate agenda. While it is astonishing that citizens and the media have bought into that image, there is consolation in the fact that both the image and the "reality" it represents are conscious human constructions. As such, they can be changed but only if they are countered with an equally persuasive image and the political will to effect that change.

This is where a minimal definition of political health—an explicit standard of political pathology and at least a metaphorical commitment to the well-being of the body politic and therefore of its constituent parts—may be useful. Gary Teeple, among others, has warned us of the pertinent effect of privatizing public goods. Privatization, he wrote, betokens the initiation of "tyranny—an economic regime of unaccountable rules, a totalitarianism not of the political sphere but of the economic." (endnote 25)

Critical awareness of the importance and potency of tradition, ideology and the actual problems of political and economic inequity in the "Third World" might have permitted past pragmatists to choose different means to promote innovation therein (and thus to have been successful). (endnote 26) Critical assessment of our own situation and a refusal to acquiesce in the self-destructive trend toward reducing or eliminating the public debt, the public sphere and public goods might at least provide the opportunity for regeneration. As a friend of mine who now sits as a Vice-President of Bell Canada once remarked: "There must be a strategy more ennobling than a preemptive cringe."

About The Author

Howard A. Doughty teaches in the Faculty of Applied Arts and Health Sciences at Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology, King City, Ontario, L7B 1B3.


1 . Perhaps the most accessible account of the meaning of pragmatism can be found in William James' 1907 lectures on the subject (especially the first two in the series). See: William James, Pragmatism and Other Essays (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1963).

2 . Eleanor D. Glor, Policy Innovation in the Saskatchewan Public Sector, 1971-1982 (Toronto: Captus Press, 1996), p. 4.

3 . See, for example, Jürgen Habermas, "What Is Universal Pragmatics?" in Communication and the Evolution of Society (Boston: Beacon, 1979), pp. 1-68.

4 . David E. Apter, The Politics of Modernization (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965). Other representative works in the vast developmental literature include Gabriel A. Almond and James S. Coleman, eds., Politics in Developing Areas (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1960), Gabriel Almond and G. Bingham Powell, Comparative Politics: A Developmental Approach (Boston: Little Brown, 1966), Joseph LaPalombara, ed., Bureaucracy and Political Development (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963), Lucian W. Pye, Aspects of Political Development (Boston: Little Brown, 1965), Fred W. Riggs, Administration in Developing Countries: The Theory of Prismatic Society (Boston: Houghton Mifflin 1964), Edward Shils, Political Development in the New States (The Hague: Mouton, 1965), and Fred R. von der Mehden, Politics of the Developing Nations (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1964).

5 . See: Fred W. Riggs, "The Structure of Government and Administrative Reform," in Ralph Braibanti, ed., Political and Administrative Development (Durham: Duke University Press, 1969), p. 314.

6 . Gabriel A. Almond and Sidney Verba, The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes in Five Countries (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963).

7 . Aaron Wildavsky, The Politics of the Budgetary Process 2nd ed. (Boston: Little Brown, 1974), p. 205.

8 . Henry Mintzberg, The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning: Reconceiving Roles for Planning, Plans, Planners (New York: Free Press, 1994), p. 120.

9 . Seymour Martin Lipset, Political Man: The Social Bases of Politics (New York: Doubleday, 1960), p. 403.

10 . See Daniel Bell, The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties, revised edition (New York: Free Press, 1962)

11 . None of this is, of course, to set aside the recognition that from the highest to the lowest levels, imperialism, racism and a tendency to genocide were absent from Western foreign policy (I say Western rather than American partly because, for example, Australia's participation and Canada's complicity in the Viet-Nam conflict is, after all, no secret); it is merely to say that certain well-meaning segments of the imperialist vortex must be understood as following a genuinely humane dream. All these roads to hell ¼

12 . Joseph Fletcher, Situation Ethics: The New Morality (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1966). See also Harvey Cox, ed., The Situation Ethics Debate (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1968).

13 . The inspiration for this activity is generally agreed to be the case of U.S. v. Holmes, 26 Fed. Cas. No. 360, a case in which a member of the crew of the ship William Brown was tried for murder in the deaths of a number of passengers whom he forced out of a lifeboat that was badly overcrowded and foundering in heavy seas. See William A. Rutter, Criminal Law (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976) §§ 213-218.

14 . Weber, our foremost theorist of bureaucracy offered this prescient and powerful prediction of the circumstances of our lives when he wrote in 1904: "For of the last stage of cultural development, it might well truly be said: 'Specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved.'" See: The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1958), p. 182.

15 . Paddy Chayefsky (novelization by Sam Hedrin), Network (New York: Pocket Books, 1976), pp. 130-131.

16 . Christian Bay, "The Cheerful Science of Dismal Politics," in Theodore Roszak, ed., The Dissenting Academy (New York: Random House, 1968): "Needs, Wants, and Political Legitimacy," Canadian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 1, No. 3 (September, 1968).

17 . See G. E. Moore, Principia Ethica (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1929). Like almost anything else in philosophy, the naturalistic fallacy is by no means universally accepted. See, for example, P. H. Nowell-Smith, Ethics (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1954), especially chs. 3, 4, 5 and 12.

18 . Of relevance here are historian Carl Berger's 1982 Joanne Goodman lectures published as Science, God and Nature in Victorian Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1983).

19 . Popular science writers such as Stephen Jay Gould have addressed this issue in a serious yet accessible way. See, for example, his "Nonmoral Nature," in Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes: Further Reflections in Natural History (New York: W. W. Norton, 1983), pp. 32-45; and for a cold shower in the waters of contingency, see his Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History (New York: W. W. Norton, 1989).

20 . Had, after all, a significant hunk of random extraterrestrial rubbish not slammed into the Yucatan peninsula about 60 million years ago, dinosaurs (which had been cheerfully dominating the planet for about 160 million years) would probably still be in charge and mammals would still be cowering under small shrubs and bushes. What an accident! Lucky us!

21 .See W. B. Gallie, "Essentially Contested Concepts," in Max Black, ed., The Importance of Language (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1962).

22 . John Rawls' A Theory of Justice (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971) has set off a lengthy, continuing, and generally fruitful debate about justice, especially as it relates to economic equity.

23 . "The Cheerful Science of Dismal Politics," pp. 225-226.

24 . Henry S. Kariel, "The Pluralistic Personality as a Political Goal," a paper presented to the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, DC, September, 1968, p. 5.

25 . Gary Teeple, Globalization and the Decline of Social Reform (Toronto: Garamond, 1995), p. 151.

26 . Supporting Juan Bosch in the Dominican Republic in 1965 rather than sending in the marines seems a relevant example; after all, almost without exception Western powers favoured military dictators (Pinochet in Chile) to popular movements of a nationalist or social democratic (Allende) bent leaving the field open to what they feared most—"communist subversion." ?

Published May 24, 1997

Revised August 11, 2001

Last updated: October 10 2013