The Attack on the Administrative State and the Politics of Chaos

Nancy L. Rosenblum, Russell Muirhead

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Princeton University Press img Link Publisher

Sozialwissenschaften, Recht, Wirtschaft / Politikwissenschaft


How a concentrated attack on political institutions threatens to disable the essential workings of government

In this unsettling book, Russell Muirhead and Nancy Rosenblum trace how ungoverning—the deliberate effort to dismantle the capacity of government to do its work—has become a malignant part of politics. Democracy depends on a government that can govern, and that requires what’s called administration. The administrative state is made up of the vast array of departments and agencies that conduct the essential business of government, from national defense and disaster response to implementing and enforcing public policies of every kind. Ungoverning chronicles the reactionary movement that demands dismantling the administrative state. The demand is not for goals that can be met with policies or programs. When this demand is frustrated, as it must be, the result is an invitation to violence.

Muirhead and Rosenblum unpack the idea of ungoverning through many examples of the politics of destruction. They show how ungoverning disables capacities that took generations to build—including the administration of free and fair elections. They detail the challenges faced by officials who are entrusted with running the government and who now face threats and intimidation from those who would rather bring it crashing down—and replace the regular processes of governing with chaotic personal rule.

The unfamiliar phenomenon of ungoverning threatens us all regardless of partisanship or ideological leaning. Ungoverning will not be limited to Donald Trump’s moment on the political stage. To resist this threat requires that we first recognize what ungoverning is and what it portends.

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