Public administration and "the lives of othersg": Toward an ethics of collaboration

Thomas J. Catlaw, Gregory M. Jordan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Public administration is about how we work and live together; thus, it implies an ethic of collaboration. Despite this imperative, the ethical terrain in public administration appears divided into principle- and market-based ethics of judgment. Drawing from the psychoanalytic theory of Jacques Lacan, this article argues that both of these ethical systems unproductively rely on logically similar efforts to reconcile individual demand with the presumption of a super-ordinate value, or conception of the Good. The thesis advanced here is, by contrast, that a collaborative ethics is directly concerned with the bearing of desire, that which is deeper than simple demand(s) and excessive to the Good as such. The film The Lives of Others provides a compelling example of the nature of this sacrifice as well as the collaboration that flows from it, and may serve as exemplar for those engaged in the practice of public administration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)290-312
Number of pages23
JournalAdministration and Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2009


  • Collaboration
  • Ethics
  • Film
  • Lacan
  • Ontology
  • Politics of the subject
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Public administration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Marketing


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