I’ll be the opening plenary speaker at the 2022 conference of the Canadian Association of Programs in Public Administration, in Victoria on May 25. Title of my talk: “The case for scholarly nationalism in public administration.” Program here. Slides here.
Here’s the description for Superstates: Empires of the Twenty-First Century, forthcoming from Polity in late 2022. Read catalogue information here.
In this century, the world will conduct an extraordinary experiment in government. In 2050, forty percent of the planet’s population will live in just four places: India, China, the European Union, and the United States. These are superstates — polities that are distinguished from normal countries by expansiveness, population, diversity, and complexity.
How should superstates be governed? What must their leaders do to hold these immense polities together in the face of extraordinary strains and shocks? Alasdair Roberts looks to history for answers. Superstates, he contends, wrestle with the same problems of leadership, control and purpose that plagued empires for centuries. But they also bear heavier burdens than empires — including the obligation to improve life for ordinary people and respect human rights.
One axiom of history was that empires always died. Size and complexity led to fragility, and imperial rulers improvised constantly to put off the day of reckoning. Leaders of superstates are doing the same today, pursuing radically different strategies for governing at scale that have profound implications for democracy and human rights. History shows that there are ways to govern these sprawling and diverse polities well. But this requires a different way of thinking about the art and methods of statecraft.
Strategies for Governing: Reinventing Public Administration for a Dangerous Century has received the 2021 book award from the Section on Public Administration Research of the American Society for Public Administration. The Committee’s statement: “This book challenges researchers and practitioners in the field to contemplate how we can ‘recover the fundamentals of government,’ and addresses the urgent and fundamental issues we are facing today. The book takes a thoughtful interdisciplinary approach, drawing on public administration history and theory, administrative process development in political science, fragile states research in international relations, and institutional design, presenting an expansive view of the capacities and new directions for public administration as a field of research, teaching, and practice. The nomination letter by ASPA Past President Chester Newland notes this distinctive quality of the book and emphasizes that in light of the ‘currently urgent realities of the field, the analysis is certain to be a lasting contribution.'” More comments and reviews on the book here.
On May 7 at 7AM EDT, I’ll be the keynote speaker for the first seminar of the new South Asia Network for Public Administration. I’ll talk about my book Strategies for Governing. Powerpoint for the presentation here. Zoom details here.
I’ll speak at the “Driving Good Governance” conference organized by the Institute of Government and Public Policy, University of East London, on May 30. Details to follow.
On April 30, I will be the keynote speaker at the Public Service Recognition Week Conference organized by SUNY Buffalo State College’s Department of Political Science and Public Administration. This year’s conference theme is “Public Service and Human Rights.” More details here.
The American Society for Public Administration has established a Presidential Committee on International Scholarly Engagement (PCISE). Its aim is to consider how we can think more deliberately about aims and forms of engagement in a world where a shared commitment to democracy, human rights and academic freedom cannot be taken for granted.
Here are the terms of reference for the committee.
PCISE Co-Chairs are Alasdair Roberts of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Mary-Lee Rhodes of Trinity College Dublin. Other committee members are:
Mohamad Alkadry, University of Connecticut
Maria Aristigueta, Biden School of Public Policy, University of Delaware
Nisha Botchwey, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota
Michael Brintnall, Montgomery College
György Hajnal, Corvinus University and ELKH Centre for Social Sciences
Leslie Pal, College of Public Policy, Hamad Bin Khalifa University
Meghna Sabharwal, University of Texas Dallas
Here are the full biographical notes for the committee members.
The work of the committee will be discussed in a Presidential Panel session at the ASPA conference in Jacksonville FL on March 19. Details about the panel here. Here are some scenarios that we’ll discuss at the session. Here are the Powerpoint slides for the March 19 session.
I look forward to serving as the second Jocelyne Bourgon Visiting Scholar at the Canada School of Public Service in 2022-2023. Story here.
Richard Huff reviews Strategies for Governing in the Journal of Political and Military Sociology: “Roberts succeeds in setting forth his charge for public administration to deemphasize the technical, efficiency-driven, myopic view of theory and practice and to urgently take on a new, bold view to meet the dangers facing us in this new century. . . . This brief, clearly written book is a must read for academics and an essential addition to the required reading for public administration graduate students. Overall, it makes an important contribution to understanding the significance of a much-needed shift toward a macro-level analysis and the renewal of the state as we hurtle into the face of powerful change.”
I participated as a panelist during the February 15 conference on digital technology and access to information organized by the Karnataka Center for e-Governance and the Social Accountability Forum for Action and Research.