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From rationality to reasonableness in environmental administration: Moving beyond proverbs

Robert V. Bartlett (Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA)
Walter F. Baber (University of San Diego, San Diego, California, USA)

Journal of Management History (Archive)

ISSN: 1355-252X

Article publication date: 1 March 1999



The administrative state is situated in a physical and ecological context that requires a conceptualisation of rationality broader than the instrumental rationality that characterizes most administrative theorising. Various scholars have contributed to clarifying some aspects of the needed broader conceptualisation, particularly with respect to focuses (system, substance, procedure) and form (social, legal, political, and ecological). But unlike the classical Aristotelian conception of rationality, the goal‐blindness of contemporary rationality still distinguishes it from reasonableness. Rawls and Habermas suggest the recoupling of reasonableness and rationality through political discourse and pursuit of social action that requires reasoning about ends as well as means. The opportunities for deliberative democracy and for furthering environmental justice provided by environmental impact assessment illustrate how rationality, justice, and ecological sustainability can be integrated by breaking down distinctions between decision‐making processes and the substance of decisions. Administration can thus move beyond proverbs to proceed on the realization that the only ecologically rational organization is a broadly reasonable one.



Bartlett, R.V. and Baber, W.F. (1999), "From rationality to reasonableness in environmental administration: Moving beyond proverbs", Journal of Management History (Archive), Vol. 5 No. 2, pp. 55-67.




Copyright © 1999, MCB UP Limited

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