State Work

Public Administration and Mass Intellectuality

State Work

Book Pages: 240 Illustrations: Published: July 2002

Author: Stefano Harney

Politics > Public Policy, Sociology > Social Theory

An innovative contribution to political theory, State Work examines the labor of government workers in North America. Arguing that this work needs to be theorized precisely because it is vital to the creation and persistence of the state, Stefano Harney draws on thinking from public administration and organizational sociology, as well as poststructuralist theory and performance studies, to launch a cultural studies of the state. Countering conceptions of the government and its employees as remote and inflexible, Harney uses the theory of mass intellectuality developed by Italian worker-theorists to illuminate the potential for genuine political progress inherent within state work.
State Work begins with an ethnographic account of Harney’s work as a midlevel manager within an Ontario government initiative charged with leading the province’s efforts to combat racism. Through readings of material such as The X-Files and Law & Order, Harney then reviews how popular images of the state and government labor are formed within American culture and how these ideas shape everyday life. He highlights the mutually dependent roles played in state work by the citizenry and civil servants. Using as case studies Al Gore’s National Partnership for Reinventing Government and a community-policing project in New York City, Harney also critiques public management literature and performance measurement theories. He concludes his study with a look at the motivations of state workers.


"[An] ambitious and audacious book. . . . [P]rovocative." — M. Miller, Contemporary Sociology

"[Harney's] book shows this workplace may produce utopian dreams as well as nightmares, even at the state's collective heart. For this it is worth the read." — Greg McElligott , Labour/Le Travail

"Harney has taken us far from the pedestrian concerns of running a public agency and has shown us that in terms of a politics of social change, the bureaucrats are sexy, very sexy indeed. For that reason alone, this is a provocative book that is bound to stir up some change of its own." — Sanford F. Schram, American Journal of Sociology

“Harney gives us a refreshingly new perspective on the contemporary state through the labor of those in government and public administration. His analyses move elegantly from the registers of daily practice and experience to general theoretical discussions to create a sophisticated and accessible argument.” — Michael Hardt, coauthor of Empire

“There is a growing need for a socially critical understanding of corporate management and government. Stefano Harney’s book is a timely contribution in this regard. This is a painstaking analysis of the complexity of political and administrative processes.” — Tony Tinker, Editor, Critical Perspectives on Accounting


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Price: $25.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Stefano Harney is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the City University of New York, College of Staten Island.

Table of Contents Back to Top

Introduction: Hands of a Government Man

1. Yes, Minister: The Rise and Fall of the Ontario Antiracism Secretariat

2. Reengineering Immaterial G-Men

3. Reinventing Statolatry: From Nicos Poulantzas to Al Gore

4. Generalizing Social Terror: Public Management and Performance by Objectives

5. The Administration of Motivation: Any Cook Can Network


Selected Bibliography

Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2895-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2880-3
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