Reinventing Government or Reinventing Ourselves

The Role of Citizen Owners in Making a Better Government

By Hindy L. Schachter

Subjects: Social And Cultural History
Series: SUNY series in Public Administration
Paperback : 9780791431566, 138 pages, December 1996
Hardcover : 9780791431559, 138 pages, December 1996

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Table of contents


1. Two Models of Reform

2. The Bureau of Municipal Research

3. Citizens as Owners

4. Controversy over the Schools

5. Analysis

6. Strategies for Reform




Viewing the public as owners rather than customers of government, this book argues that better performance by public agencies requires active and responsible citizens as well as efficient organizations.


Challenging the assumptions of the "reinventing-government" movement now in vogue, this book unites a call for active citizenship with the current concern for improving public-agency performance. The author argues that citizens should not be viewed as customers of government, as reinventing-government advocates assume, but rather as government's owners. By analyzing a turn-of-the-century model of urban reform that depicts this relationship between citizens and government, Schachter shows how reinvigorating an active public is essential to increasing agency efficiency and responsiveness. She offers two strategies for moving toward active citizenship: better citizenship education, including service learning, and public agencies' provision of better-focused information for their owners. This book will spark much-needed debate on the role of active citizens in administrative reform.

Hindy Lauer Schachter is Professor of Management in the School of Industrial Management at New Jersey Institute of Technology. She is the author of Frederick Taylor and the Public Administration Community: A Reevaluation, also published by SUNY Press, and Public Agency Communication: Theory and Practice.


"What I like most about this book is that it brings historically grounded arguments to bear on the citizenship/professionalism debate that has simmered since professional management developed at the turn of the century. Citizenship is an enduring theme in the public administration, management, and political science literature. The topic is destined to remain a front burner issue given the impact of federal budget cuts on programs, entitlements, and services. The Contract With America requires individuals to contemplate citizenship. Some expanded citizenship duties will enable individuals to rationalize and cope with a downsized government. " -- James A. Stever, University of Cincinnati

"The topic of this book is central to an important and current debate in the field of public administration. More than that, it addresses a fundamental issue of governance--the appropriate role of govenment in society--and that lends it an importance beyond public administration. " -- Brian R. Fry, University of South Carolina

"In this era of 'reinventing' and 'reengineering,' it is nice to see someone take a different view of this process, particularly as it relates to citizenship. I think a lot of scholars (and students) will want to read this book. " -- Curtis Ventriss, University of Vermont