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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unmasking Adminstrative Evil
I am a conservative by nature, and have tried for two years to convince my republican husband to read this book, but he has not yet seen the light. I was not only lucky enough to read this book in my Adminsitrative Ethics class, but also had the priviledge to have Professor Balfour as a professor in my graduate program. The information provided in Unmasking is shocking...
Published on January 20, 2002 by E. L. Roe

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Administrative Evil not unmasked here
If only *Unmasking Administrative Evil* lived up to its ambitious title; sadly, it does not.

As the authors, I was also shocked by the revelations of Richard L. Rubenstein (1975) that associated modern bureaucracies with the Holocaust. But if you are looking for more than a couple of superficial case studies of von Braun's past, and a somewhat plausible attempt...
Published on July 25, 2009 by G. MCGHEE


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unmasking Adminstrative Evil, January 20, 2002
I am a conservative by nature, and have tried for two years to convince my republican husband to read this book, but he has not yet seen the light. I was not only lucky enough to read this book in my Adminsitrative Ethics class, but also had the priviledge to have Professor Balfour as a professor in my graduate program. The information provided in Unmasking is shocking to say the least; as an administrator, you tell yourself that initiatives and programs the government is doing "for the good of the people" is simply that. However, scratch the surface, and you will find what Adams and Balfour refer to as "moral inversion"--an act that is evil or destructive is redefined as "good and worthy." I can think of a million examples on a local, state, federal and international level that refer to this phenomenon. This book is a must-read for any person presently in public managment, or considering a career in government or politics. And hey, maybe one day my husband will read it.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Dangers of Devil Theory, November 5, 2000
Humankinds's historic efforts to deal with the problem of evil are exemplified by the understandings of evil provided by psychology, as well as by most theologies and ideologies. All of these resort to some variant of Devil Theory: that evil outcomes are the products of evil people. From this standpoint, an obvious solution to the problem of evil is to identify evil people so that they can be neutralized or destroyed. This kind of understanding is viscerally satisfying, simple, obvious, wrong and dangerous. Unfortunately, it is possible to have evil outcomes in the absence of evil people. This sad truth has been demonstrated experimentally many times (e.g., Stanley Milgram's experiments at Yale University, replicated hundreds of times around the world), and suggested by the work of other researchers (e.g., Phillip Zimbardo at Stanford University). Of the millions of perpetrators of souch holocausts as those of Nazi Germany, Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia, most of them were ordinary human beings. Ameliorative actions grounded in Devil Theory might rid us of such figures as Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, and Jack the Ripper, giving us much satisfaction and relief. However, this dangerous theory would ensure that our history continues to record such spectacular atrocities as Mai Lei, the Inquisition, ethnic cleansing, the Oklahoma City Bombing, and the deaths of millions of Kulaks. In their book, Unmasking Administrative Evil, Adams and Balfour provide an important contribution by examining the way in which organizational dynamics and administrative processes --- the very life blood of which is provided by the faceless bureaucrat, the impersonal official, the compliant, dispassionate civil servant --- can generate evil outcomes large in scale and spectacular in impact. Adams and Balfour argue that a linkage of the dynamics of evil with administrative processes is typically lost to view: that is, it is masked. This linkage is masked by the bloodless technical rationality of modern bureaucracy and confluence of science and technology in modernity. To illustrate this, they present two case studies examining these linkages. The first of these is the relation between the Nazi Holocaust and public administration. The second is an examination of organizational dynamics and administrative evil in the Marshall Space Flight Center, NASA, and the launching of the Space Shuttle CHALLENGER. They conclude with chapters on "Public Policy and Administrative Evil" and "Finding a Basis for Ethics in the Public Service." Remaining to be addressed is the nature of evil as such. Also, while they do address some of the social psychological dynamics that account for evil outcomes, they do not go far enough. Worse, I regard their resort to object relations theory to be a misdirected return to Devil Theory. Were they to discuss with me my own research and writing, these difficulties might have been avoided. Regardless, they make an important contribution that deserves close attention.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Administrative Evil not unmasked here, July 25, 2009
This review is from: Unmasking Administrative Evil (Paperback)
If only *Unmasking Administrative Evil* lived up to its ambitious title; sadly, it does not.

As the authors, I was also shocked by the revelations of Richard L. Rubenstein (1975) that associated modern bureaucracies with the Holocaust. But if you are looking for more than a couple of superficial case studies of von Braun's past, and a somewhat plausible attempt to link the Challenger disaster with his managerial legacy, all sandwiched into a book on public administration, this is not the book for you (Ch 4 & 5).

Nor is this the book to reach conclusions for public administrators regarding the equally shocking results of Milgram's social psychology experiments in the 1960s; if this is what you are looking for, *The Lucifer Effect* by Philip Zimbardo is more relevant -- especially when it comes to "unmasking administrative evil" at Abu Ghraib. (But be warned: the descriptions and photos are very unsettling.)

Although Adams and Balfour frequently cite Zygmunt Bauman's classic, *Modernity and the Holocaust* (1989), it fails to supply them with the missing theoretical ballast which their book requires (especially in regard to Weber and the division of labor, the social production of moral indiffernece, and moral displacement). Even Zerubavel's *The Elephant in the Room: Denial and Silence in Everyday Life* is far more insightful when it comes to elaborating on the social mechanisms of administrative evil; or even a book on mobbing in the workplace.

How a book on public service ethics can evade the issues Bauman raises seems itself an ethical lapse of significance.

I guess the problems start in the literature review in Ch 2, which lacks a theoretical center. This leaves the book badly under-theorized, and misses the chance to address the ethical problems posed by administrative bureaucracies of all kinds. For example, the authors never quite grasp the fact that public administration is a type of social institution, and they thereby miss out on the important contributions of neo-institutionalism to our understanding of the operation of human organizations. (The book that addresses this head-on is Peter Berger's *The Homeless Mind: Modernization and Consciousness,* with Brigette Berger and Hansfried Kellner, 1973. Don't let the title fool you -- this book mines the deep reserves of social constructivism and social cognition by reminding us that the "structure of modern consciousness" is social, and it is bureaucratic if it is truly modern.)

It is only in hindsight that Woodrow Wilson's approach to studying administration (1887, p. 70 here) astonishes, and this itself shows us just how big these problems really are. But without sufficient theoretical depth, the conclusions in Ch 7 fail to inspire (p. 174) and only end up sounding like empty pleading.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, disturbing, informed and depressing., March 31, 2000
By A Customer
This book links the Holocaust, the Challenger disaster and contemporary issues of public administation, questioning the methods and motivations. It ties in a wide variety of disciplines to give a full and well argued perspective. It brings home the horrors of 1940s Germany to America today. It pleads with the reader to develop an historical conscience. If you work in public administration you should read it. The book has relevance for everyone, but limits itself to the public sector, due to its links with the series on advances in public administration. An uncomfortable, but important book to read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Deep thoughts, April 29, 2014
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Good concepts and deep thoughts, extraordinary examples of how you can think you're doing things well but causing a big damage to others. A very good book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars administrative evil, January 7, 2014
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This review is from: Unmasking Administrative Evil (Paperback)
honestly i havernt finish reading the book as yet,but thus far it is very interesting especially pointing out and emphasizing just how subtle evil is, especially administrative evil
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent public administration book, November 9, 2013
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Jaime (Orlando, Fl) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Unmasking Administrative Evil (Paperback)
Understanding such evil, particularly in public administration is crucial to what we do daily. Such atrocities need not be repeated but we must first be educated as to why they happened to begin with. Adams and Balfour do an excellent job at providing such answers.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read, November 4, 2013
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This review is from: Unmasking Administrative Evil (Paperback)
I loved the book. Great insights. If you want to test your ethics, you this is a must read book.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Purchased for graduate class, October 2, 2013
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I bought this book for a graduate course I was enrolled in. It's good, but I wouldn't read it on my own.
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5.0 out of 5 stars You could read this even it was not required for school., January 30, 2013
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This review is from: Unmasking Administrative Evil (Paperback)
This was a fantastic book. It was required reading for my graduate work, but it could easily be read for pleasure.
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Unmasking Administrative Evil
Unmasking Administrative Evil by Guy B. Adams (Paperback - April 30, 2009)
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