Unmasking Administrative Evil: 4th Edition (Paperback) book cover

Unmasking Administrative Evil

4th Edition

By Danny L. Balfour, Guy Adams, Ashley Nickels


248 pages

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pub: 2014-09-30
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The modern age with its emphasis on technical rationality has enabled a new and dangerous form of evil--administrative evil. Unmasking Administrative Evil discusses the overlooked relationship between evil and public affairs, as well as other fields and professions in public life. The authors argue that the tendency toward administrative evil, as manifested in acts of dehumanization and genocide, is deeply woven into the identity of public affairs. The common characteristic of administrative evil is that ordinary people within their normal professional and administrative roles can engage in acts of evil without being aware that they are doing anything wrong. Under conditions of moral inversion, people may even view their evil activity as good. In the face of what is now a clear and present danger in the United States, this book seeks to lay the groundwork for a more ethical and democratic public life; one that recognizes its potential for evil, and thereby creates greater possibilities for avoiding the hidden pathways that lead to state-sponsored dehumanization and destruction. What's new in the Fourth Edition of Unmasking Administrative Evil:

  • UAE is updated and revised with new scholarship on administrative ethics, evil, and contemporary politics.
  • The authors include new cases on the dangers of market-based governance, contracting out, and deregulation.
  • There is an enhanced focus on the potential for administrative evil in the private sector.
  • The authors have written a new Afterword on administrative approaches to the aftermath of evil, with the potential for expiation, healing, and reparations.


"Broad ranging in its scholarship, this book offers insights about how to think organizationally as well as individually about ethics and the ever-present possibility of evil manifesting itself in public life. Guy Adams and Danny Balfour throw new light on numerous examples of administrative evil, from the administration of the Holocaust in Nazi Germany to the post-war U.S. space program and the development of a bureaucratic culture that contributed to the Challenger explosion." -- Bruce Jennings, Director of Bioethics, Center for Humans & Nature

"This is not a safe nor a comfortable book, but it is a difficult one to ignore or neglect. The authors provide nothing less than moral and intellectual coherence for a series of powerful, but disparate, critiques of the field of public administration. They accomplish this feat with vivid writing and great economy, while also leading the reader to grapple with a credible alternative approach to today's dominant models of how government does and should work." -- William M. Sullivan, Wabash College

"Unmasking Administrative Evil is a troubling book, but a very important one that is essential reading. Using the Holocaust as "the signal event in human history that unmasks the reality of administrative evil," the authors illuminate the very real problem of how contemporary administrative arrangements can and do mask evil. Guy Adams and Danny Balfour are to be congratulated for this pathbreaking, fascinating, highly readable, and convincing study. We will all be much better off if the public administration community takes it to heart." -- David H. Rosenbloom, American University

"Adams and Balfour have proved a well-crafted study on the 'other side' of administrative ethics. Scholars have been so preoccupied with trying to understand what 'good' we are trying to motivate that we have often forgotten what evil we are trying to prevent. Looking at the underside of ethics, the authors provide us with a far richer and more meaningful understanding of why the study of public administration ethics is so important." -- Stuart C. Gilman, Global Integrity Group

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments Introduction and Overview 1. The Dynamics of Evil and Administrative Evil 2. Compliance, Technical Rationality, and Administrative Evil 3. Administrative Evil Unmasked: The Holocaust and Public Service 4. Administrative Evil Masked: From Mittelbau-Dora and Peenemunde to the Marshall Space Flight Center 5. Organizational Dynamics and Administrative Evil: The Marshall Space Flight Center, NASA, and the Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia 6. Public Policy and Administrative Evil 7. Administrative Evil in the Twenty-First Century: Abu Ghraib, Moral Inversion, and Torture Policy 8. Administrative Evil and Public Ethics in Praetorian Times 9. Afterword: Expiating Evil and Administrative Evil Appendix A. Foreword to the Third Edition, Philip G. Zimbardo Appendix B. Foreword to the Second Edition, Charles B. Perrow Appendix C. Foreword to the First Edition, Curtis Ventriss References Index About the Authors

About the Authors

Guy B. Adams is Professor Emeritus in the Harry S. Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri, USA.

Danny L. Balfour is Professor in the School of Public and Nonprofit Administration and a faculty fellow of the Honors College at Grand Valley State University, USA.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Affairs & Administration
POLITICAL SCIENCE / NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations)