Sunday, 11 September 2011

Give an account of major landmarks in the growth of the discipline of public administration in 20th century possible trends in its growth in 21st century.


Nicholas Henry in his book on public administration and public affairs traced the evolution of pas as a discipline over years as a long journey of public administration even after several ups and downs as ‘century in a quandary’ which means the current state during later 20th century of public administration as a discipline in dilemma. It has not always been easy to get access to government departments. Hence, the world of public administration was open to very few indeed to a countable extent. The movement for governmental reform gathered momentum in USA. The evolution of public administration as a specialised field of study falls into no of stages that also can be called paradigms, which mean ‘the dominant nature of thinking about a thing’. The evolution was classified into six paradigms explained detailed as follows:

Politics-administration dichotomy (1900 -1926)
Administration was well distinguished from politics by Wilson and was told that the implementation of policies was done through administration that was politically decided. According to him, ‘politics has to do with policies or expressions of ‘state of will’ whereas ‘administration is concerned with execution of policies’ which was very much accepted by L D White, Simon Smithberg and Thompson, John A Veig. As well the location (physical) was also mentioned ie the institutional location of politics was legislature (higher echelons of government) where as administration was executive (or) bureaucracy. [Locus – bureaucracy, Focus – Politico-administration dichotomy]

Principles of Administration (1927 – 1937)
In order to evolve a value free ‘science of management’ the preference was given more to efficiency dropping ‘public’ side public administration merged into new science which was supported by people like Luther Gulick, Reiley, Moonley, Urwick. However, few did not accept or even consider public administration as value-free science and one amongst them is Herbert Simon who mentioned in his book called ‘administrative proverbs’ against the acceptance of administration as science. He told they are not principles but just proverbs. On the other side Robert Dahl casted his vote to Herbert saying there are three problems in accepting public administration as science.  1) Values (likes/dislikes), 2) Personality (mindset, attitude), 3) social framework (society influenced by caste system) [Locus – bureaucracy, Focus – Principles]

Public administration as political science (1950 – 1970)
In between period (1939 – 1949) was a challenge to those who didn’t agree with public administration as an emerging value free science, which later in third era/paradigm aroused as political science. Even here, we did not lack in those people who condemn public administration as separate subject. We can put Moshiu Landan, JM Gauss amongst such list. The failure of administration in America during this era put the whole of public administration aside. On one side, is called as the golden era simultaneously on the other it is the age of downfall of public administration. [Locus – bureaucracy, Focus – Political science]

Business administration (1956 – 1970)
Public administration is now clubbed with business administration and in order to raise the awareness amongst people a journal was started titled ‘Administration Behaviour’ by Herbert Simon. However, idea was given by a professor of public administration. Later it was much given importance in the field of business. This is where the downfall began. [Locus – bureaucracy, Focus – Management science]  

Public administration as public administration (1970 – 1990)
Lately in 20th century, people realised the importance of public administration as a separate disciple. So they laid a commission asking for the reasons behind the downfall of public administration. John C Honey was asked to look at them. According to him the remedies or solutions to maintain public administration as a discipline are:
  • Fund public administration department generously to enable to offer research, teaching – assistance ship to graduate student
  • Improving employment opportunities of public administration students by offering apprenticeships
  • Creating chairs in every university to attract reputed scholars offering teaching, research.
  •  Not giving too much importance to principles and being flexible. These recommendations were implemented by most of public administration department.
  • Gained a lot of confidence; simultaneously efforts are made then to develop an inter-disciplinary approach to study public administration [Locus – bureaucracy, focus – interdisciplinary approach]
Liberalisation, Privatization, Globalisation (1990 onwards)
As government seeks to implement more and more welfare programmes, policy studies gained importance in public administration with boundaries not defined clearly. As correctly stated by paul Appleby as ‘public administration is making a mesh of things’. As a result of this era the emergence of new paradigm called governance arose which include government plus market plus NGO(s) which is the blurred version of public administration. [Locus – Bureaucracy, Focus - ]


These are the stage of public administration that grew as a separate disciplinary. But what is expected in the first decade of 21st century is public administration as disciplinary going to go global, more inter-disciplinary concentration would be on micro-level as administration being centralised failed to understand what is happening at corners. In coming years, public administration is going to play a keen role at the micro-level.


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