Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs

PA 974 Diversity and Public Management


While government is often intended to limit inequalities that emerge in society, recent events and new social movements underline how characteristics such as race, gender, nationality, class, sexual orientation, age, and religion significantly shape our experiences and interactions with the public sector. In this context, it becomes ever more important to examine the relationships between diverse identities, social divisions, and public institutions and to reassess change and continuity in them over time.

The concept of diversity is used in a variety of ways. In this class we will use the idea of diversity as an overarching theme or a broad framework to help us explore the complex and multi-directional relationships between the public sector and groups and individuals with different types of identities. Often academics and practitioners interested in diversity and public management will focus on theories and issues involved in developing a more inclusive and representative workforce and in serving diverse demographic groups. Without ignoring these topics, this class will broaden the focus. This means we will ask questions such as how do norms and ideas about difference shape the public sector and how has this changed over time? How do public agencies and management practices shape distinct identities, social divisions and stratifications? Conversely, how do different groups shape the development of public organizations and the delivery of services? Do underrepresented groups perceive an obligation of representation if they serve in the bureaucracy? How do interactions between public agencies and specific groups shape the politics of public policies and management? How do biases undermine the ultimate effectiveness of public programs? Are efforts to facilitate diversity and minimize biases within the bureaucracy actually effective?

We will draw on a range of sources, some from the US and some from elsewhere. Some will provide historical and comparative perspectives and empirical evidence, others will focus on theories regarding different aspects of diversity. Students will write a paper on a particular issue of diversity in relation to public management.

Fall 2018 Syllabus