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Bureaucratic discretion, legitimacy, and substantive justice

Vredenburgh, Kate (2023) Bureaucratic discretion, legitimacy, and substantive justice. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 26 (2). 251 - 259. ISSN 1369-8230

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Identification Number: 10.1080/13698230.2022.2133829


Chiara Cordelli’s book The Privatized State makes an important contribution to debates over the morality of public administration and widespread privatization. Cordelli argues that widespread privatization is a problem of legitimacy, as private actors impose their will unilaterally on others. Bureaucratic decision-making, by contrast, can be legitimate, within the correct institutional context and in accordance with a bureaucratic ethos. In this review, I argue that bureaucratic policymaking faces similar changes from the value of legitimacy that Cordelli raises against widespread privatization. First, I argue that for a polity subject to bureaucratic policymaking to be self-ruling, bureaucracies must incorporate more democracy; but, so doing goes against the rationale of their institutional form. Second, I argue that bureaucrats and private actors acting on behalf of the state do not have starkly different levels of free purposiveness, and that it is morally desirable for bureaucrats to have more free purposiveness than Cordelli allows, and private actors less.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2022 The Author
Divisions: Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
J Political Science > JC Political theory
Date Deposited: 19 Oct 2022 16:06
Last Modified: 15 Apr 2024 07:06

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