The Quixotic Quest for a Unified Theory of the Administrative State

Posted: 12 Jan 2005

See all articles by Mark Seidenfeld

Mark Seidenfeld

Florida State University College of Law


This essay comments on the impact of Richard Stewart's seminal article, "The Reformation of American Administrative Law." It posits that the most long-lasting contribution of that article was not its primary thesis that the interest group model of the administrative state is flawed, but rather its expression of doubt that any single unifying theory could adequately explain or justify administrative law. This essay surveys attempts that scholars have made subsequent to the publication of Stewart's article to provide an overarching theory of the administrative state and describes flaws with each of these attempts. The essay evaluates whether, in light of Stewart's contribution doubting the adequacy of any such model, looking for such models makes sense. It concludes that despite the inevitability that such models will be flawed, they will provide those who develop administrative law with insights and ideas that at the margins will be able to improve the operation of the administrative state.

Suggested Citation

Seidenfeld, Mark, The Quixotic Quest for a Unified Theory of the Administrative State. Issues in Legal Scholarship, No. 6. Available at SSRN:

Mark Seidenfeld (Contact Author)

Florida State University College of Law ( email )

425 W. Jefferson Street
Tallahassee, FL 32306
United States
850-644-3059 (Phone)
850-644-5487 (Fax)


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