This contribution to the Common Knowledge symposium “Antipolitics” A considers what it might mean for the administrative state to be antipolitical. Two conceptions of an antipolitical administrative state are identified. The first of these—antipolitics as in opposition to administrative discretion—holds that, in a democracy, value judgments should be made only by elected officials and that all administrators should do is carry out technical tasks calling for expertise. Administrators, however, inevitably make policy decisions that call for value judgments, making this first conception unattainable. On the other hand, a second conception or standard—one of antipolitics as in opposition to favoritism—is both realistic and desirable to expect of those who occupy positions of administrative power. It holds that administrators should avoid making decisions for self-interested reasons. Many doctrines of administrative law follow from aversion to favoritism, as the law aspires to free the administrative state from decision-making that is based on the interests of administrators and their partisan overseers or friends. Today, as the state comes under increasing threat from populist and authoritarian attempts to capture its power, distinguishing between these two conceptions of antipolitics—one unrealistic, the other imperative—can help to channel antipolitical impulses where they are most needed.

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