Wu-Wei as the Professional Ethos of Public Service: "Non-Action" for the 21st Century

Max Everest-Philipps


Public service currently lacks a guiding philosophy to underpin its role and work, not least in preserving long-term interest over short-term political expediency. Furthermore, if solutions to public sector problems are specific to context, no universal or common approach exists, nor is a definition of ‘excellence’ possible. This article suggests the ancient Chinese concept of ‘wu-wei’ (purposeful ‘non-action’) in public administration offers a well tested solution, a simple yet profound way to guide realistic expectations of public service and its reform everywhere, while assisting public officials to cope with the increasingly complex demands put upon them in the 21st century.


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ISSN: 2409-5532