“The Possibility of Administrative Ethics” by Dennis F. Thompson

Topic: Business Ethics
Words: 326 Pages: 1


Nowadays, there are many views on administrative ethics, however, there is one general concept about what it concerns. Administrative ethics refers to the norms and notions of moral aspects in the context of the executive service. It has been found that the ethics of neutrality suppresses independent moral judgment, while the ethics of structure ignores individual moral agencies in organizations.


Administrative ethics allows the use of moral principles regarding the actions of representatives of the organization. In the article The Possibility of Administrative ethics, the author stated that individuals in organizations could both make moral judgments and be the objects of moral judgments (Thompson, 1985). Besides, it was mentioned that moral principles identify the rights, duties, and conditions which should be respected by individuals. Similarly, the collective practices and policies which should be considered when affecting the well-being of individuals and society were defined.

Key Points and Lessons

The article’s key points include two major theoretical models of administrative ethics. The first view, the ethics of neutrality, describes the fact that administrators are usually ethically neutral, they do not formulate independent moral judgment (Thompson, 1985). Moreover, they are aware of the duties of the office in advance, and in case the duties will change, officials may leave the office. The second model, the ethics of structure, claims that individuals may not be morally responsible for most of the government’s policies and decisions (Thompson, 1985). Thereby, even if one has some part of independent moral judgment, the moral responsibility extends only to their specific office duties for which they are legally liable.


In this context, in the article, the author was able to show that administrative ethics is possible, namely its two theoretical models. However, among the questions, there is the question of its application since the proof of its possibility is not the way to use it. Thus, the main issue is further to develop models for the practical application of administrative ethics.


Thompson, F. D. (1985). The possibility of administrative ethics. Public Administration Review, 45(5), 555-561.

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