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Fabricating the People

Politics and Administration in the Biopolitical State

Written by Thomas J. Catlaw

Publication Year: 2007

Since the 1960s, hostility and mistrust toward the U.S. government has risen precipitously. At the same time, the field of public administration has wrestled with its own crisis of legitimacy. What is at the root of current antigovernment sentiment? Conventionally, two explanations for this problem persist. Some see it primarily in moral terms, a deficit of Constitutional or democratic values in government. Others emphasize government’s performance failures and managerial inefficiency.
Thomas J. Catlaw departs from both explanations in this groundbreaking study and demonstrates that the current crisis of government originates in the uncritical manner in which we have accepted the idea of “the People.” He contends that this unifying, foundational concept—and the notion of political representation it entails—have failed. While illuminating some of our most pressing social and political problems, Catlaw shows how the idea of the People, far from serving to unify, relies in fact on a distinctive logic of exclusion. True political power is the power to determine what constitutes the normal, natural life of the electorate. Today, the exclusionary practices that once made up or fabricated the People are increasingly contested. In turn, government and political power now appear more invasive, less legitimate, and our shared reality appears more fragmented and disconnected.
In order to address this crisis and reinvigorate democracy, Catlaw argues, we must accept as bankrupt the premise of the People and the idea of representation itself. Fabricating the People boldly proposes post-representational governance that reframes the practice of modern democracy and reinvents the role of public administration.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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p. vii

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pp. ix-xi

A long, rich line of nurturing relationships made possible the composition of this work. It is a pleasure to acknowledge them here. I am grateful for the many enriching discussions about this project. Thanks, in particular, to Marshall Alcorn, Ami Avitsur, Corey Davis, Michael Dimock, Amy Gignesi, Susan Halebsky- Dimock, Allan Jones, Aaron Kup-chik, Elena Kupchik, Victoria Ludwin, Nick Samuels, Brad Snyder, and Andrew Zimmerman...

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1. Public Administration and Political Ontology: Crisis and Political Ontology

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pp. 1-15

Over the last thirty years, there has been a rising tide of hostility toward government. During the same period, the field of public administration in the United States has been concerned with its own, perhaps more narrow, crisis of legitimacy. But why? Just as skepticism about and mistrust of government is not a recent phenomenon in American political culture, neither...

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2. Public Administration and Sovereignty: Doing the Unstuck

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pp. 16-42

Scholarly enterprises typically attempt to identify a “gap” or hole, as it were, in our knowledge of a field, and subsequently explain how the author intends to “plug” it. Here, I propose to reread the intellectual history of public administration and in doing so to identify what has not been said, not in order to plug a hole but to examine how a certain unspoken element, a ...

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3. Representation

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pp. 43-86

If the general thrust of the continental critique of knowledge and philosophy that followed in the trajectory of Nietzsche and Heidegger1 may be identified, broadly, as a critique of representation (May, 1994, 1995), public administration has yet to fully examine the implications of this critique for the technologies and institutions of political representation. By and large, ...

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4. Law

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pp. 87-118

I concluded the previous chapter with a decision to analyze the local deployments of representation insofar as these are the sites at which models of representation are operative and through which the People is fabricated or “made up” (Hacking, 1999/1986). That is, I will be considering the sovereign decisions on the exception that, in fact, work to fabricate the “object” ...

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5. Administration

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pp. 119-154

I turn now to examine the administrative mode of the biopolitical production of the People. Administration as a self-conscious enterprise emerges amid the breakdown in the regulatory efficacy of law and institutes a novel strategy in the movement of representation that I will call the internalization of the exclusion. Here, we will need to differentiate between the internalization...

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6. Legitimacy and Control

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pp. 155-187

We have seen that administration is not illegitimate vis-à- vis law insofar as law itself was shown not to be a source of legitimacy per se but an instrument of rule. Furthermore, administration’s contemporary legitimacy problem cannot, therefore, be a function of professional competency or the production of the “right” kind of “useful” knowledge (be it normative ...

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7. A Politics of the Subject: Refusing Representation

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pp. 188-203

The project of refusing representation is obviously not so easy since it re-quires the rejection of “the very fundamental structural principle of society, as happened with the emergence of the ‘democratic invention’” (Zizek, 2000a, p. 93; emphasis in original).1 This transformation must propose a new avenue of engagement and subjectivation that does not demand...


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pp. 205-222


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pp. 223-242


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pp. 243-258

E-ISBN-13: 9780817380182
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817315726

Publication Year: 2007

OCLC Number: 183208669
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Fabricating the People

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Subject Headings

  • Legitimacy of governments -- United States -- Public opinion.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 2001-2009.
  • Political leadership -- United States -- Public opinion.
  • Public opinion -- United States.
  • Public administration -- United States -- Public opinion.
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