Just like the meaning and scope of Public Administration different schools of thought attempted to define the nature of Public Administration. Just like the meaning and scope, the nature of public administration is also not well defined. But nature can be understood through different schools of thought just like the meaning and scope.
- Narrow and Broad Views
- Managerial and Integral Views
- POSDCoRB and Substantive Views
- Discretionist and Instrumental Views
- Public Administration as an art and science
- Public Administration as a discipline and profession
- Public Administration as a political science
- Public Administration as a social science
- Philosophy of Public Administration
- Public Administration and Private Administration
Discretionist and Instrumental Views
Michael C. Spicer distinguished public administrationist and administrator. He further grouped these two in two different groups.
|Discretionist View||Instrumental View|
|Administrationist and Administrator are autonomous||Administrationist and Administrator are non-autonomous and depend on government|
|They are committed to the welfare of People||They mere instrument of government|
|They are subjected to constitutional " values " like democracy, socialism, secularism ....etc||They are subjected to the rules and regulations or government and are " valueless " instrument or implementing agency|
Discretionist view is widely accepted these days as the nature of modern bureaucracy.
Public Administration as an art as well as a science
Public Administration needs certain skills for efficient management of state affairs. These skills vary across the countries (USA vs India), region (TN vs J&K), and even among different departments (Defence vs HRD) of a government. Therefore Public administration is an art.
Public administration is a science because it has certain standardized procedures and scientific principles that are applied for efficient management of state affairs. More importantly, many thinkers claim these principles were derived after rigorous scientific analysis are applicable universally and provides consistent results across the board, a necessary feature to consider Public Administration as science. One such example is Taylor's Scientific management principles which produced consistent efficiency improvement across countries wherever it was applied.
But from the Positivist school of thought, Public administration cannot be considered as science as they don't follow the standards and rigour of testing applicable to physical science while conceptualizing a theory. Also, the Public Administration principles are not absolute truth and don't have the universality of physical science ( like physics thermodynamics ).
But Max Weber defended Public Administration as a science because he believed physical science studies objective things objectively while social science studies both objective things and subjective things objectively. Therefore it is both art and science.
The debate was finally settled by the arguments of Karl Popper. He remarked all knowledge is provisional, temporary and capable of refutation at any moment. This has also been voiced by Royal Society of Science. No principles in the world is final including findings of physical science. All principles are constrained by time, the accuracy and universality is limited by the tools and techniques used at that time. Theories and principles of Physical science holds good for longer period of time and applicable more Universally than social science due to the advanced nature of tools and techniques used for investigation. Thus its Public administration is a science in its own right.
Public administration as a discipline as well as profession
Public Administration as a discipline
A subjects is considered as a discipline if it contains two elements
- Corpus of Knowledge
- This knowledge is being imparted in institutions
Going by these above criteria Public administration is a discipline. Yet some scholars disagree in this regard(more on that later).
Genesis of Public Administration as a discipline
Public administration as a discipline or systematic study started by cameralists ( German and Austrian Professors of Science of Administration ) in Europe during the 17th & 18th centuries. They used to advise kings and bureaucracy on administration. They undertook organized research on the science of Public Administration. They prepared potential candidates for government services. They remained relevant only until the 20th century because the emphasis on Public Administration shifted to jurisprudence or Law.
Public Administration as an activity as old as society or state. Even Pubic Administration as focus of study (not systematic study like discipline ) is as old as civilization itself. However, as an organized discipline, Public Administration is of recent origin with just 100 odd years of history. According to Woodrow Wilson, this late origin is because Government all over the world broadly evolved in three stages
- Absolute Rule or Autocracy
- Popular Struggle for Constitutionalism
- Popular Rule or Democracy
With democracy, the need for efficient administration arose. Therefore Woodrow Wilson wrote an Essay " Study of Administration " in 1887. This Essay became the genesis for Public Administration as an organized discipline.
In 1900 Frank Goodnow in his work 'Politics and Administration', took the dichotomous viewpoint of separating Politics from Administration.
In 1926 L.D White published " Introduction to the study of public administration " studying various principles of public administration and promoted further development public administration in the U.S. A. White defined public administration as " consisting of all those operations having for their purpose the fulfillment or enforcement of public policy ". He took the narrow view of limiting the study of public administration towards the executive branch. Other scholars like Luther Gullick and Herbert Simon supported his viewpoint.
By 1939 American society for public administration was formed with its quarterly journal, the Public Administration Review.
By 1945 World War II ended followed by a wave of decolonization and the need for the development of administrative systems suited to these colonies. So scholars like F.W. Riggs, Ferrel Heady, Gabriel A. Almond started comparative public Administration and development Administration expanding the scope of public administration. Finally, the modern view of public administration is that of government-in-action.
Critiques of Public Administration as a discipline
Over the years, public administration has developed various theories, principles, methods, tools, and techniques. But most of the principles were borrowed from sister discipline of management science and mother discipline of political science. The theories and principles are by-products of administration in private firms. The vocabularies were are also borrowed from every other discipline. It was considered as an offshoot of Political Science and Public Law with a significant correlation with the study of Management.
So scholars believed Public administration doesn't have an exclusive body of knowledge of its own. Caiden observed that Public administration is an underdeveloped discipline and suffers from lack of approach, methods and principles...etc. In fact, there are theories in Public Administration but there are no general theories of Public Administration.
But in the defense of the above criticism many scholars argued - Every discipline is multidisciplinary i.e every disciple borrows from and donates ideas to other discipline. Public administration like many other discipline borrowed ideas from many discipline but it has core i.e government in action.
So Frederickson and Dwight Waldo observed " The polyglot nature is not restricted to Public Administration. It is the characteristic of all the disciplines. Public administration despite of its polyglot nature has staple core - government in action - and derives its identity from its staple core. The periphery of Public Administration may vacillate but the core provides the stability "
Dwight Waldo even remarked that the Public Administration is enriched because of its polyglot nature. In due course, Public administration accumulated a corpus of knowledge and many Universities around the world started to impart public administration.
Scope of Public Administration as Discipline
The scope of Public Administration as a Discipline can understood the following 5 dimensions
- Study of action part of the government - a.k.a Narrow view
- Process - a.k.a Process View
- Study of all organs of the government - legislative, executive, and Judiciary and their interdependence - a.k.a Broad View
- Study of the core function of an organization - a.k.a Subject matter view
- Study of the managerial function of Public Administration - a.k.a Managerial View
- Study of all functions of Public Administration in addition to managerial function - a.k.a Integral View
Public Administration as a profession and activity
A discipline may be regarded as profession if it has the following elements
- Corpus of Knowledge
- This condition is satisfied
- Prolonged Training and education
- This condition is also partially satisfied as many generalist administrators are trained in public policy and public administration before induction into service. e.g - LBSNAA for IAS
- This condition is partially satisfied because a degree in Public Administration is not mandatory to a public administrator in India though, in some countries like Nigeria, France, it is mandatory for certain posts like welfare officers.
- PC Hota Committee had recommended teaching Public Administration for civil servants.
- Social Responsibility
- From discretionist view, Public administrators exist for the purpose of welfare, a key feature for social responsibility.
- Instrumental view of Public Administrators as an instrument of political executive is a minority and not widely accepted. So the condition of social responsibility is satisfied.
- Code of Conduct
- Public administration is devoid of code of conduct because of lack of a parent body that prescribes and enforces such a code of conduct. So this condition is not satisfied
- A parent body or an association
- Public administration also lacks a parent body or association. Therefore this condition is also not satisfied.
Therefore Public administration is not a full-fledged profession from an academic point of view. It is profession-in-making. Yet, Public Administration as an activity existed since time immemorial.
- The efforts taken by the government or Condition to satisfy something as public activities are classified under three heads
- Activities that impact public
- Activities performed out of the public exchequer
- Activities performed to achieve public goals
- Public administration as an activity as old as the concept of state and civilization
- Kautilya's Arthasasthra treatise on Public Administration mentioned about Mauryan administration
- Ramayana & Mahabharatha had observations on Public Administration
- Aristotle's Politics had observation of the style of Greek administration
- Machiavelli's The Prince mentions about the conduct of public servants
- Sumerian Priests of Mesopotamia(Iraq) practiced Public Administration as early as 5000BC to 2000BC
- Egyptian followed Sumerian and showed their administration skills in Pyramid Construction
- China has civil service since 206 BC and recruited civil servants through examination since 605 AD
- Prussia(Germany) was the 1st country to organize civil service on the basis of merit.
- Ain-e-Akbari is a collection of administrative reports of the Mughal Empire during Akbar's rule written by Abul Fazal
Public Administration as a political Science as well as Management Science
Between 1950s and 1970s Public Administration faced identity crisis and was linked, de-linked and re-linked with either with its mother discipline of Political Science or sister discipline or parallel discipline of Management Studies.
Public Administration as political science
Political science deals with study of state which can also include " State in action ". Therefore many scholars considered Public Administration is a subset of Political Science. So Frederick C. Mosher observed Public Administration at best is an area of emphasis or interest within Political Science.
But supporters of Public Administration claimed Political Science theory deals with philosophical aspects of the state. Therefore study of political science is not enough to deal with the action part of the state. The action part of the state can only be dealt efficiently by Public Administration. Thereby Political science can't claim ownership of Public Administration.
Public administration as Management studies
Principles like POSDCoRB was originally developed for Management studies, later repurposed by Public Administration. Therefore Public Administration doesn't have an identity on its own.
But the scholars of Public Administration claimed, it is true management tools were borrowed from Management studies, but the purpose of these tools are to deliver government goods and services efficiently, achieve good governance and achieve societal equity, while in Management science it is used for maximizing profits only.
Social science is scientific study of society and social relationship. Public Administration deals with action part of the government. The action part of government affects a certain aspects of society and social relationship. Thus Public Administration is a part of social science. Because of the government in action is ever changing, the principles of Public Administration is also evolving. Therefore it is also called as progressive science.
Philosophy of Public Administration
Philosophy of Public Administration is not given its due diligence. The study of philosophical part of Public Administration is also limited. Graham Wallace observed that in the era of great society, the role of Public Administration is to attempt a good society and to obstruct the coming up of an evil society. The great society refers to the contemporary societies that economically successsful. Good society refers to a society that has justice, equality, liberty, peace.. etc. Evil society refers to a society where there is disharmony, violence, exploitation, illiteracy, malnutrition etc. Other scholars like Leonard D. White, Chester Barnard and Donham also came up with philosophy of Public Administration. But Graham Wallace aptly described the philosophy of Public Administration.