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The Ethics of Dissent

The Ethics of Dissent
Managing Guerrilla Government

Second Edition

October 2013 | 176 pages | CQ Press
From “constructive contributors” to “deviant destroyers,” government guerrillas work clandestinely against the wishes of their superiors. These many public servants are dissatisfied with the actions of the organizations for which they work, but often choose not to go public with their concerns. In her second edition, Rosemary O’Leary shows that the majority of guerrilla government cases are the manifestation of inevitable tensions between bureaucracy and democracy, which yield immense ethical and organizational challenges that all public managers must learn to navigate. Alongside updates to her original cases, O’Leary offers a new case on Private Bradley Manning and the WikiLeaks scandal, as well as new mini-stories for her Interlude sections.
1 Guerrilla What?
2 Guerrilla Government in the Nevada Wetlands
First Interlude: More Stories of Guerrilla Government
3 Guerrilla Government in EPA’s Seattle Regional Office
Second Interlude: More Stories of Guerrilla Government
4 A Government Guerrilla Sues His Own Agency: Off-Road Vehicles in the Hoosier National Forest
5 WikiLeaks and Guerrilla Government: The World’s Largest Security Breach
Third Interlude: More Stories of Guerrilla Government
6 Managing Guerrilla Government: Ethical Crusaders or Insubordinate Renegades?
Postlude: Are there Lessons?

“The book’s very readable style, case-study format, and Rosemary O’Leary’s experience are all great strengths of The Ethics of Dissent. Students love the book.”

Alejandro Rodriguez
University of Texas, Arlington

“The theoretical frame of The Ethics of Dissent is well done and evident throughout. This book is unique because it sheds light on a little recognized phenomenon while making clear that it is far more widespread than previously thought. Books that genuinely break new ground and do it well are very rare!”

Guy Adams
University of Missouri

The Ethics of Dissent covers a unique aspect of ethics in government, beyond what we agree are the values and obligations to law and management principles. It is concerned with the ethical dilemmas in which the bureaucracy has placed dedicated public servants and how they balance what is ethically right with conflicting rules, regulations, and administrative expectations. This, I believe, is the book’s main strength:  a unique view of ethical conflict and decision-making.”

Denis Hatch
University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee

Only parts of the book are important for my teaching

Professor Dirk Reiser
Society and economy, University of Applied Sciences Rhine Waal
December 8, 2016

A one-of-a-kind resource for this very specific topic. An under-studied area and a great introduction for that.

Dr Hakan Ongur
Department of Political Science, TOBB University of Economic & Tech
March 28, 2014
Key features


  • A new chapter on Private Bradley Manning and the WikiLeaks scandal presents a riveting ethical dilemma that stands in sharp juxtaposition to the ethical dilemmas presented in the rest of the book. 
  • Up-to-date literature and theory supplement all parts of the book. 
  • Epilogues enhance each of the case studies to track what has happened in recent years.  
  • New mini stories of guerrilla government have been added. 
  • The analysis of the ethical challenges posed by guerrilla government has been revised to reflect the most current thinking.
  • New questions for discussion are offered.


  • With thoroughly researched in-depth case studies, fresh analysis, and great story-telling, The Ethics of Dissent provides just what your students need to understand the importance of dissent, and presents strategies public servants can use to determine whether to engage in guerrilla activity.
  • As a leading scholar and thinker in the areas of public management, ethics, dispute resolution, law, and environmental management, author Rosemary O’Leary is the perfect guide for your students’ understanding of the ethical complexities in the tensions between bureaucracy and democracy. 

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

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