A pragmatic criticaster or a critical pragmatist is considered a schizophrenic in daily life: it seems impossible to be solution oriented and critical at the same time. You are either an optimist or a pessimist. This schism also seems to run between public administration and political scientists. Public administration is focused on (positive) problem solving, whereas political scientists – especially in a tradition of critical theory – examine the exertion of power. This essay proposes a combination of the two extremes: a critical-pragmatist approach for public administration.
In this approach, critical political theory goes hand in hand with pragmatist reconstruction and design. This design is impossible without normative and procedural principles, for example ideas about sustainability, justice and democracy. This is illustrated with an example for designing just governance arrangements in the Dutch regional energy strategies. The article shows that public administration that is relevant, reflective and democratic builds on a critical-pragmatist approach.