- Meaning of public administration can be understood through the semantics of Public Administration.
- " Administration " is derived from two Latin words " ad " and " ministrare " meaning " to serve, to care for or to look after "
- " Public " is derived from the Latin word " Populus " meaning " people ".
- So from an etymological or semantics perspective, " Public administration means to serve or to care for or to look after people "
- So E.N. Gladden remarked " Administration is a long and slightly pompous word, but it has a humble meaning, for it means to care for or look after people, to manage affairs....is determined action taken in pursuit of conscious purpose "
- The term Public in Public Administration was debated and defined by many theorists but According to Dwight Waldo Public in Public Administration means " State or Government "
- So from the epistemological perspective, Public Administration refers to efforts taken by the government to serve the people
- But state or Government is
- composed of people(political reps)
- and it exists for the people(public welfare)
- and it is administered by the people(public servants)
- So the public in public administration includes 3 P's - political reps, public servants and people.
- But the above oversimplified epistemological perspective doesn't encompass the entire scope of Public Administration because Public Administration is not a static but ever-changing and evolving subject. Therefore there can't a unanimous definition. So many scholars defined Public Administration in their own perspective.
- So Dwight Waldo remarked " Public administration is a study of government in action. The government in action is never static, is ever-changing and that is why it becomes difficult to capture fully. A single sentence definition or a single para definition is a mental paralysis rather than enlightenment which restricts the view rather than broadening it. "
Schools of thought in defining Public Administration
- Many scholars attempted to define Public Administration but all these definitions were the product of its time and situation. The ever-evolving character of the state, public, and administration needs an ever-evolving definition. So, Public Administration doesn't have a single unanimous definition. But the meaning of Public Administration can be understood through attempts made by scholars to define public administration.
- So Dwight Waldo Opined " Precepts flow from theory and theory flows from the precepts. The state (or Government) administration is ever evolving and today Public Administration is all encompassing "
- The theories are conceptualized based on realities and the realities enrich these theories. But these theories are constrained by time and societal happenings. Therefore any attempt to define public administration in an ever-changing environment suffers from the limitation of the future, necessitating new definition.
- In simple words, a thinker comes up with a definition but ignores or misses certain aspects of public administration, so new thinker comes up with another definition encompassing the missing aspects of public administration but due to limitation of time and societal happening even the enriched definition misses out the newly evolved aspects necessitating new definition by another thinker.
- These attempts to define public administration gave rise to the number of schools of thought. They are
- Narrow View and Broad View
- Political School of thought
- Legalistic View
- Public Weal
- Process View
- Subject-matter View
- Market View of Public Administration
Narrow View and Broad View
- Narrow View - Public Administration is a study of only Policy Implementation or executive branch of Government or action part of the government or visible part of the government
- Herbert Simon
- Woodrow Wilson
- Dwight Waldo
- EN Gladden
- Broad View - Public Administration should include the study of activities of all three organs of state i.e executive, legislative, judiciary and their interdependence
- John Pfiffner
- Marshal Dimock
Political School of Thought
- The narrow and broad view was challenged by Political School of Thought and according to them the Public administration involved the study of state and non-state actors and extended it to anti-state actors as well
- Robert Dhal
- Public administration as the study of enforcement of Law and should confine to the formulation and its implementation
- L.D.White - Public administration means the study of all the operations having for their purpose the enforcement of law and policies or fulfilment of the public policy
- Woodrow Wilson - Public administration means the systematic and detailed implementation of public law
- Marshall Dimock
- This legalistic view was challenged to include non-legal aspects of the state that are outside the boundaries of enforcement of public policies and included illegal aspects of the state like subversion and spying.
- Public administration is the study activities dealing with the welfare of the people
- But this view was criticized for excluding non-welfare activities of states like subversion, War, offensive strike ....etc
- They are one of the oldest schools of thought belonging to the classical era.
- For them, Public administration is all about the study of generic and Universal managerial tools, techniques, process and principles of administration
- Luther Gullick and Lyndall Urwik - "Administration is Administration whether public, non-public, religious or cultural"
- They also gave POSDCoRB, an acronym for steps in the administrative process
- This view was challenged by every other later school of thought
- Subject-matter view is a.k.a substantive or content view.
- According to them, Public administration should include the study of subject matter in addition to tools, techniques, and processes because of its multidisciplinary nature.
- For e.g Health policies should study medical science, diseases
- RAW & IB should study literature on security, subversion ...etc
- It is one of the most accepted views in Public Administration
- Here Public administration includes the study of both state and non-actors like NGOs, private for-profit and not-for-profit organization that plays a major role in performing any activity that affects the public, that delivers public goods, that achieves public goals and activities funded out of public exchequers.
- E.g PPP projects
- The public goal of Education and Health is delivered through both state and non-state actors
All these viewpoints created a pool of definitions with various focus and locus and in the process expanded the ambit and broadened the scope of public administration. Yet every definition has limited perspective restricting the definition of Public Administration.
So Dwight Waldo remarked " Every single sentence or paragraph on definition of Public Administration is a mental paralysis rather than enlightenment and stimulation " because these definitions instead of providing clarity raised many questions and created confusion. So Frederick C. Mosher says that it is best that it (Public Administration) is not be defined.
Expert definition of Public Administration
" Public Administration is art and science of management as applied to the affairs of state "
" Public administration is a study of government in action "
Art means the skill of the admin and science means universal principles of management. He tried to incorporate narrow view and process view in his definition
" Public administration has come to signify primarily the organization, the practices, personnel and the procedures which are essential for effective performance of civilian functions and entrusted to the executive branch of the government "
This definition takes a narrow view or dichotomy view i.e water tight separation of power between organs of government
" Public administration is the use of managerial, political and legal theories and processes to fulfil the legislative , executive and judicial mandate of the government for the provision of regulatory and service function for the society or for some of its segments "
This definition took broader view, legal view and process view
Nigro and Nigro
" Public administration is a co-operative group effort in a public setting which covers all branches of government namely legislative, executive, judiciary and their interrelationships. It has an important role in the formulation of policy and it is different from private administration in significant ways. But it is closely associated with private groups providing services to the community "
This definition is quiet comprehensive as it takes broad view and market view.