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Title: The 'Administered World' and the Political
Subtitle: The Contemporary Relevance of a Critical Concept of Bureaucracy
Author(s): BARBI, Guido Niccolò
Journal: Ethical Perspectives
Volume: 27    Issue: 4   Date: 2020   
Pages: 329-358
DOI: 10.2143/EP.27.4.3289449

Abstract :
In recent years, various authors have commented on the need to pay renewed attention to the phenomenon of bureaucracy and bureaucratization in its entirety. This marks a shift after a prolonged disregard for a broad concept of bureaucracy in political philosophy, which reacted against a restraining conception of bureaucracy as expression of a monolithic rationality. During this period, attention to specific bureaucracies risked dissolving the overarching concept by overspecification. This diversified attention has led to a better comprehension of how bureaucracies relate to ‘politics’, i.e. to their given social and institutional framework. However, it has made it harder to theorize about bureaucracy’s influence on the sphere of the ‘political’, i.e. those kinds of activities geared towards envisaging and deciding upon possible horizons of change. Owing to this, I argue that we need to recover a strong concept of bureaucracy in political theory by reconstructing classical Critical Theory’s broad notion of the ‘administered world’ and the reasons for its critique in Habermas. Finally, I argue that a recuperation of a broad concept of bureaucracy is possible without having to commit to a monolithic notion of rationality and that only such a broad concept shows how bureaucracy always has a limiting relationship to the political.

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