9 Transformative Leadership and Remedial Action: Prospects for a Public Ethics Focused on Claims to Equity
Transformative Leadership and Remedial Action: Prospects for a Public Ethics Focused on Claims to Equity
Introduction: Pluralist Liberal Ethics in the United States and the Challenge of Social Equity
Public ethics in the United States is largely anti–foundational, to the extent that public discourse on ethics and justice reflects the politics of interest–based competition, conflict, and compromise; there is no consensus on any universal obligation to redress the historical imbalances of racism and social inequity that are explored in this text. Moreover, the literature on public sector leadership largely sidesteps questions of the transformational potential of shared leadership in these contexts. This chapter presents an inevitably partial consideration of these challenges, found at the intersection of public ethics, public service, and diversity leadership.
The closest that most Western liberal theory comes to recognizing moral foundations is in the terms and outcomes of political discourse. Pluralist systems make for pluralist ethics; common ground can only be found, if at all, in negotiation and compromise. Contractarian and communicative ethics, in particular, coincide in tying moral agency to the tentative consensus that may follow political competition and compromise (Rawls, 1971; Habermas, 1987).
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