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This essay argues that there are (at least) three paradigms of governance and especially public administration: Chinese, Western, and Islamic — paradigms understood here as potentiality and theory rather than reality and practice as observed today. It then discusses classical Chinese, i.e. Confucian, and Islamic, specifically Ottoman, public administration, from this perspective. The guiding question is whether we arrive more easily at good public administration if we realize that there are different contexts and thus, potentially at least, different ways thither, as well as legitimately different goals.

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