Thought Styles on Administrative Justice Systems

T.T. Arvind, Lindsay Stirton, Simon Halliday

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Mike Adler is rightly celebrated for having made significant theoretical and empirical contributions to the study of administrative justice. Relatively early in his career, Adler was much influenced by the publication of Jerry Mashaw’s Bureaucratic Justice: Managing Social Security Disability Claims, an extended study of social security administration in the USA. Mashaw famously proposed three competing models of administrative justice: bureaucratic rationality; professional treatment; and moral judgment. During the course of a number of empirical projects, Adler applied, developed and refined Mashaw’s analytical schema, culminating in an important article in 2003, which definitively sets out his own framework for understanding administrative justice.

In this chapter, we re-visit Adler’s seminal essay on administrative justice, offering an interpretation of its contribution which is sometimes overlooked by his critics: that Adler sought to move the agenda on from a narrower focus on frontline administrative decision-making to a broader consideration of administrative justice systems, including modes of redress. Adler’s essay, in consequence, represents an important advance in our overall thinking about administrative justice.

In reviewing Adler’s contribution to administrative justice theory, we also seek to build on it. Adler’s work is radical in its potential, and when taken seriously points to an important and far-reaching agenda for administrative justice scholarship. Drawing on Mary Douglas’ grid-group cultural theory, we offer a high level ‘map’ of thought-styles around administrative justice systems – four distinctive ways in which participants in systems of administrative justice—whether users, operators or designers—frame the legitimacy of the system rationality that underpins it. Each of these frames, we argue, presents a distinctive set of challenges to the system’s own “arguments for the acceptability of its outcomes” which, if left unaddressed, could have non-trivial implications for the success of systems of administrative justice.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSocio-Legal Generation
Subtitle of host publicationEssays in Honour of Michael Adler
EditorsSimon Halliday, Sharon Cowan
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 20 Nov 2023

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