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Are proverbs really so bad? Herbert Simon and the logical positivist perspective in American public administration

Peter L. Cruise (School of Urban and Public Affairs, Golden Gate University, San Francisco, California)

Journal of Management History (Archive)

ISSN: 1355-252X

Article publication date: 1 December 1997

Abstract

Since the 1950s, the unifying epistemological perspective in American public administration has been logical positivism, most notably as defined and promoted by Herbert Simon. In recent years, logical positivism has been under attack for limiting inappropriately the scope of inquiry within the field, forcing it to ignore important, value‐laden issues critical to government and the public sector. The willingness to address value‐laden issues was at the core of what was to become the field of public administration in the early twentieth‐century. This article examines the philosophical roots of logical positivist movement, its dramatic effects upon public administration, and the subsequent counter attacks on the movement. The article concludes that although logical positivism’s attack on public administration initially weakened the field, as a result practitioners and scholars were eventually to demand increased rigor and higher standards of inquiry for research in the field.

Keywords

Citation

Cruise, P.L. (1997), "Are proverbs really so bad? Herbert Simon and the logical positivist perspective in American public administration", Journal of Management History (Archive), Vol. 3 No. 4, pp. 342-359. https://doi.org/10.1108/13552529710191171

Publisher

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MCB UP Ltd

Copyright © 1997, MCB UP Limited