Why a new civic bureaucracy?

Matthew J Quinn has done the impossible: charted what it means to govern for genuine sustainability

– Dame Fiona Reynolds

Public bureaucracy – our systems of public administration – is locked in a downward spiral of out-of-date practice and limited resources. You’ve probably heard something like that before. And that statement will likely have been followed by calls for privatization, downsizing, increased efficiency, better targeting etc, etc…

This website offers an alternative diagnosis. A diagnosis that addresses the causes – rather than treating the symptoms – of our bureaucratic malaise. In my book, Towards a new civic bureaucracy, I set out how the real problem lies in the inherited practice and values of bureaucracy and in our underlying assumptions about the ‘proper’ role of public bureaucracy.

Our bureaucracy is tied to thinking that emerged in the 19th century. Its practice is one of technocracy, focused now almost exclusively on narrow economic efficiency and control. In an age of anti-science and democratic disaffection, what we need instead is an unbounding of the rationality of bureaucracy and an unlearning of its practice. The new model for bureaucracy would be a civic and ecological one: supporting a healthy modern democratic life, with all its social and environmental needs and complexities. This would truly be a people’s, not a populist’s, bureaucracy.

The posts and resources on this site explore some of the themes of the book and offer ideas and practical guidance as to how a new civic bureaucracy could help to save our democracies and re-vitalize lost relationships with place, nature and with one another.

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Matthew J Quinn