Cops, Teachers, Counselors
Stories from the Front Lines of Public Service
Second Edition, New and expanded edition
A penetrating look at how government workers make sense of their work, ascribe identity to the people they encounter, and account for their decisions and actions
The new edition of Cops, Teachers, Counselors furthers the exploration of forces that shape the contours of frontline work. This line of inquiry is at the heart of street-level bureaucracy research, a field of study cutting across disciplines, including public administration, political science, social work, law and society, education, and criminal justice. The oft-cited 2003 edition pioneered a qualitative method of inquiry using workers’ own voices and storytelling about fairness in the delivery of services. This NSF-supported field research reveals the ways workers engage in moral judgments, more than implementing laws and policies, to account for their decisions and actions.
The new edition wraps an expanded framing around the original chapters, while maintaining a lively, approachable presentation style. It takes on a more enriched perspective of legality than the original, while retaining a focus on frontline work as a powerful source of cultural ordering. In addition to examining workers’ stories of encounters, attention is given to the agency of the governed during interactional moments, the power dynamics in play during both interpersonal and group encounters, and patterns of practice that converge across distinctive service domains. The original edition describes two narratives that shape frontline workers’ decisional judgments and the interplay between legality and morality: the state-agent and citizen-agent narratives. This edition adds the knowledge-agent narrative that stresses the importance of professional and field learning to decisional judgments.
The book examines routine encounters of cops, teachers, and counselors with diverse publics when questions of justice and fairness are at play. This new edition speaks to contemporary issues at a time when frontline workers gained broad recognition for their heroic contributions to communities during the Covid 19 pandemic, as well as sustained condemnation for their embodiment of the brutal expression of racialized state power in police actions. The authors conclude with a focus on the significance of place and trust in building social inclusion on the frontlines of public service.
Praise / Awards
“After nearly two decades since its first edition, Cops, Teachers, Counselors remains a cornerstone for policy analysis. By recounting compelling stories which bring the state to life, the book offers an in-depth theoretical analysis of frontline work. This new edition provides a successful update on major debates raised by the book and will therefore continue to inspire scholars around the world”
—Gabriela Lotta, Professor of Public Administration, Getulio Vargas Foundation (Brazil)
“This great book allows the reader to both (re)read compelling interpretations of frontline stories and engage with new concepts that push thinking about frontline encounters and agency even further. The new and expanded version of Cops, Teachers, Counselors succeeds in distilling new ideas from a growing global research community and will no doubt enlighten research for many years to come.”
—Gitte Sommer Harrits, Academic Vice Rector, VIA University College, Denmark
“In this intellectual masterpiece, Maynard-Moody and Musheno tell inspiring and sometimes heartbreaking stories of the daily struggles of cops, teachers, and counselors to advance our understanding of such frontline workers. You will remember the stories. You will tell your friends. In the end, you will rethink how you view frontline workers.”
—Lars Tummers, Utrecht University
“To understand frontline work, you must listen to frontline workers. Spotlighting frontline workers and the stories they tell, Cops, Teachers, Counselors reveals how teachers, police officers, and social workers navigate a terrain of limited resources, legal ambiguity, and moral uncertainty. As calls for top-down reforms fall flat, bureaucratic change stalls, and frontline workers experience unprecedented levels of burnout, the book provides a bold approach that can help us not just understand but transform frontline work for the better—both for workers and for the citizens they engage. Twenty years after its initial publication, Cops, Teachers, Counselors remains more urgent than ever.”
—Jennifer Carlson, University of Arizona
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