11
Chapter 2
Why Worry about Role
Conceptualization?
Professional Socialization
in Public Administration
Introduction
Addressing the process of professional socialization does not mean to suggest, tac-
itly or otherwise, that public administration is a profession per se, professional-
ism as popularly dened, or any one specic formula for professionalism. Indeed,
the three Traditions can be used to deconstruct the meaning of professionalism
to reveal conicting understandings of legitimacy. In other words, each Tradition
promotes a dierent form of professionalism, so no one denition can be asserted
without question. ese notions of professionalism are tied directly to role concep-
tualizations. So, the rst task at hand is to understand this theoretical relationship.
Government has been described as a system that “cannot be understood except
in terms of the public employees themselves, their conceptions of their positions,
and the attitudes of the public about what is required in and from our civil servants
(Appleby 1945, 3). If saying “I am a public administrator” brings to mind vary-
ing images and determinations of which image is proper” is contested, students
and practitioners of public administration have a problem—which model do they
12 ◾  Logics of Legitimacy
follow? Educators in public administration have a similar problem: Which ideation
should they promote? Indeed, Waldo asserts, “What kind of enterprise is educa-
tion for public service? e answer must be, above all, that it is a confusing and
controversial enterprise. No single, agreed, and authoritative denition of Public
Administration is possible” (Waldo 1980, 58).
Nonetheless, education is an important element of professional socialization for
both preservice and in- service students. Master of Public Administration (MPA)
and doctoral programs help students form and adopt an ideation of the public
administration role that can serve to (1)bring diverse occupations into a common
sense of purpose, professional identity, and trust; (2)establish standards for pro-
fessional action; and (3)provide legitimacy to the public (Stever 1988). Doctoral
programs further prepare scholars who will dene the eld through research and
reproduce the eld as faculty through pedagogy. However, the presence of multiple
and distinct ideations of public administration serves to intensify the ambiguity of
the postmodern condition (see, for example, Catlaw and Stout 2007) and exacer-
bates questions of legitimacy (see, for example, McSwite 1997a).
For example, MPA programs have been found to instill the competing ethical
standards of both the bureaucratic ethos and the democratic ethos (Heijka- Ekins
1988). Another examination of theories that promote progressive values found seven
distinct approaches (Box2008). Students and practitioners of public administra-
tion can benet from navigational tools that present these competing ideations and
their practical and philosophical implications for comparison. ese tools can also
be used to identify scholars who share similar beliefs and prefer a similar approach
to action. Ultimately, that is the aim of this book. is chapter explains how theo-
ries aect how we understand our social role as public administrators, oering a
framework for understanding professional socialization and describing how these
processes feed into role conceptualization.
The Importance of Role Conceptualization
in Public Administration
Role conceptualizations stem from legitimating myths”—images of the identity
of the public administrator or the enterprise of public administration as a whole
within our political system (Kass 1990a). As noted by Morgan (1986), images and
metaphors of this type are used not only as descriptors but also as prescriptive
guides for attitudes and action. Role conceptualizations formulate what we wish to
be, not just do: is is partly a matter of self- conception self- knowledge and
… self- summoning(Selznick 1957, 143, emphasis in original). In fact, a historical
review of the eld “shows that the debate over dening the role of the administra-
tor in governance has actually been a struggle of political ideology concerning who
has discretion over policy and how this discretion is to be exercised(McSwite

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