Wolfgang Seibel visiting professor at USG

Wolfgang Seibel
Photo: University of Konstanz

Wolfgang Seibel, emeritus professor of public administration from the University of Konstanz, has been appointed visiting professor at the Utrecht University School of Governance (USG). Seibel has a broad range of interests within Public Administration, held together by his fascination for how bureaucratic organizations (and systems) work, how they cope with unusual pressures of trying circumstances, and how they may fail. This has led to path-breaking studies on, e,g., the implementation of Nazi-German occupations and persecutions) in countries like the Netherlands and Denmark, on UN peacekeeping operations, and on flood preparedness and responses. His most recent work is on how failures of public organizations to act in a proper bureaucratic manner contribute to the occurrence of large-scale accidents (crowd disasters, collapsing buildings etc.). 

The Utrecht University School of Governance is very happy to host Wolfgang Seibel. In the words of Paul ’t Hart: He is a long time collaborator and friend. Some of us might have engaged with him during his relatively recent stint as visitor of our Successful Public Governance research team, and may remember how smart, resourceful, warm and generous a scholar he is.

Wolfgang Seibel

Wolfgang Seibel is a Emiritus Professor of Politics and Public Administration in Konstanz and an Adjunct Professor of Public Administration at the Hertie School, Berlin. He studied political science and administrative science at Marburg University and at the German Graduate School of Administrative Science, Speyer. Seibel obtained his PhD at the University of Kassel (1982) where he also completed his Habilitation in Political Science (1988). He held Guest Professorships at the Institut für Höhere Studien / Institute for Advanced Studies (1992) in Vienna, the University of California at Berkeley (1994), Stanford University (2014), the Central European University (2016), the University of Pretoria (2017) and the University of Utrecht (2019/20). He was twice a Temporary Member of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton (School of Social Science 1989/90, School of Historical Studies 2003), a Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin / Institute for Advanced Study (2004/2005) as well as of the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS, 2019).

Seibel is one of the Principal Investigators of the Cluster of Excellence 2035, "The Politics of Inequality", and a member of the Centre for Cultural Inquiry at the University of Konstanz. Since 2009, he is a member of the Heidelberg Academy of Science.

Collapsing Structures and Public Mismanagement

Wolfgang Seibel's latest book is entitled Collapsing Structures and Public Mismanagement. This open access book is about mismanagement of public agencies as a threat to life and limb. Collapsing bridges and buildings kill people and often leave many more injured. Such disasters do not happen out of the blue nor are they purely technical in nature since construction and maintenance are subject to safety regulation and enforcement by governmental agencies. The book analyses four relevant cases from Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Germany. Rather than stressing well-known pathologies of bureaucracy as a potential source of disaster, this book argues, learning for the sake of prevention should aim at neutralizing threats to integrity and strengthening a sense of responsibility among public officials.

The book is an outcome of the research project “Black Swans in Public Administration: Rare Organizational Failure with Severe Consequences” funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).

Read more about this book