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Pragmatist DemocracyEvolutionary Learning as Public Philosophy$
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Christopher Ansell

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199772438

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199772438.001.0001

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(p.104) Chapter 6 Recursiveness
Pragmatist Democracy

Christopher K. Ansell

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that recursiveness is a central but unspecified aspect of Pragmatist thought, defining recursiveness as a “continuous and interlocking cycle of perspectives.” Building on complexity theory, the chapter argues that recursiveness develops in organizations with “heterarchical” structures (with many-to-many linkages, rather than the many-to-one linkages typical of hierarchy). It then examines the New York Police Department’s Compstat system as a concrete case of organizational recursiveness. Under Compstat, direct, real-time communication between top executives and street-level bureaucrats supports strategic problem-solving. Generalizing from this example, the chapter develops the concept of a “constitutional hierarchy,” in which top executives primarily act as stewards of their organization’s general rules and values, but uphold and refine these rules and values through close contact with problem-solving operations. Recursiveness can be extended to entire organizational communities using the structural principles developed in Likert’s concept of “linking pin organization.”

Keywords:   pragmatism, recursiveness, heterarchy, NYPD, Compstat, hierarchy, Linking-Pin Organization

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