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Guerrillas in government are all around us. They can be as high profile as "Deep Throat," or as low profile as the bureaucrat who belligerently slows the processing of an application for a driver's license. Their dissent stems from dissatisfaction with the actions of public organizations they work for, but they strategically choose not to go public with their concerns. Instead, they work against the wishes-either implicitly or explicitly communicated-of their superiors and run the spectrum from anti-establishment liberals to fundamentalist conservatives, from constructive contributors to deviant destroyers. Typically guerrilla government is undetected as it is woven into the fabric of the everyday, often mundane, world of bureaucracy.
Rosemary O'Leary shows that the majority of guerrilla government cases are the manifestation of inevitable tensions between bureaucracy and democracy, which yield immense ethical and organizational challenges that all public managers must learn to navigate. To illustrate these tensions and challenges, O'Leary presents three in-depth case studies and 21 mini case studies that showcase the range of guerrillas from an official at a regional EPA office to a doctor at a medical school to the director of planning in a county office. O'Leary's fresh analysis, combined with great story-telling, underscores the importance of dissent and presents strategies for ways public servants can decide ethically to engage in guerrilla activity, while offering ways public managers can learn to tap into the potentially insightful, creative ideas and energy of dissenters in order to make constructive changes in the system.
"Rosemary O'Leary has written an excellent handbook for public administrators with such responsibilities, for those who aspire to such responsibilities, and for those who study and teach those who aspire to such responsibilities. I agree with Donald F. Kettl's observation in the book's foreword that The Ethics of Dissent: Managing Guerrilla Government "stands as one of the most insightful works on the real world of bureaucracy ever written."