Friday, August 16, 2013

Evolution of the DISCIPLINE & Its Present Status in Public Administration

Traditionally Political Science has been regarded as the "mother discipline" of Public Administration while the discipline of Management has been regarded as the "counterpart" of Public Administration. For most period of its evolution, this discipline has been fluctuating between the realms of Political Science and Management. It has only been since 1970s that Public Administration has been regarded quite distinct from these two disciplines. For discussing the evolution of the discipline and its present status we will sue the Nicholas Henry's six paradigms approach.

Concept of "Locus" and "Focus"

Nicholas Henry in his famous book "Public Administration and Public Affairs" gives six paradigms in the evolution of the discipline of Public Administration. Each of these paradigms can be characterized by "locus" and "focus". When one is sharply defined in some paradigmatic stage then the other is ignored and vice versa.

Locus means the institutional "where" of the field i.e. the institution with which the discipline has been associated. Traditionally public bureaucracy has been the locus of public administration but this has not always been the case.

Focus depicts specific "what" of the field. The knowledge of the field and its expertise comprise the focus. The focus of public administration has changed depending upon the contextual conditions. At one point of time it was to enunciate certain "principles of administration" while at some others it has been to study the human behavior.


The Early Phase : Beginning of the Study of Public Administration

It was Woodrow Wilson who through his essay "The Study of Administration" published in the Political Science Quarterly in 1887, called for a specialized study of the discipline of public administration. Wilson wanted to reform the way governmental affairs are managed and therefore wanted that intellectual studies should be carried out for the same. In the last article Wilson's Vision of Public Administration  it was stated that it seems Wilson himself was confused regarding the nature of public administration but still it is amply clear that what he wanted was to professionalize the field of public administration and towards this end he believed that public administration worth studying. Thus Wilson laid the seeds of the discipline. His views on "Politics Administration Dichotomy" influence many of the later writers. Around his views the first paradigm of public administration was created.


Paradigm 1: The Politics-Administration Dichotomy, 1900-1926

Frank J. Goodnow published his book "Politics and Administration" in the year 1900. In this book he supported the idea of politics administrative dichotomy. He stated there were two distinct functions of the government: Politics i.e. expression of the will of the state and Administration i.e. the execution of that will. Obviously according to this view public administration should be centered in the public bureaucracy. Thus "locus" was emphasized in paradigm 1. A unique feature of this phase was the close relationship between the public administrationists (i.e. the academicians) and the public administrators (i.e. the practitioners). In fact little distinction was made between the two. The first text book entirely devoted to the discipline of public administration was published in the year 1926. It was "Introduction to the Study of Public Administration" by Leonard D. White. The theme of this book was : public administration is capable of becoming a "value free" science of that aims of administration were economy and efficiency.


Paradigm 2: The Principles of Administration, 1927-37

Second full-fledged text book in the field appeared in 1927 when W.F. Willoughby published "Principles of Public Administration". This book also favored the same tone as was done by L.D. White's book a year earlier. In addition it also advocated the idea that certain principles of administration could be developed. In this phrase the discipline of public administration reached its reputational zenith. In this phase the locus of the discipline was lost while the focus was on developing certain principles of administration. Further these principles could be applied anywhere where administration is involved regardless of the setting, environment, sector, culture or institution. Thus according to this view locus of public administration was everywhere wherever there is administration. In 1937, Luther H. Gullick and Lyndall Urwick published "Papers of the Science of Administration". Again, focus was emphasized over the locus. Gulic and Urwick gave seven principles of administration and coined the acronym "POSDCORB" which stood for Planning, Organizing, Staffing, Directing, Coordinating, Reporting and Budgeting. According to this view public administration was all about POSDCORB. In due course rigid "scientific principles" were also developed.


In 1938, first major intellectual challenge to the then mainstream public administration came from Chester I. Barnard's "The Functions of the Executive". In 1940s two types of viewpoints came to the fore; one, politics-administration dichotomy was seriously challenged and two, principles of administration were abandoned.

F.M. Marx was among the first scholars to question the politics - administration dichotomy in his book "Elements of Public Administration" published in 1946. This book had chapters written by the practitioners and they showed that often the decisions which looked neutral administrative decisions were actually influenced by politics. In 1950 one of the leading journals of public administration mentioned that, "A theory of public administration in our times means in our time a theory of politics also". This finally gave death blow to the politics -administration dichotomy.

In 1947, Herbert Simon published his book "Administrative Behavior: A study of Decision Making Processes in Administration Organization". In this book he called the so called principles of administration as mere "proverbs" as they existed in pairs. Every principle could be negated by a counter principle. This point will be illustrated more while discussing Simon. Thus by the middle of twentieth century two pillars of traditional public administration: politics-administration dichotomy and principles of administration were demolished.



Simon suggested that the study of public administration should encompass two things: one, "a pure science of administration" should be developed based on the study or administrative behavior on the basis of social-psychology and two, public policy should also be part of public administration. However the Public Administrationists did not have a background of social psychology and they did not wish to leave the traditional backyard of political science. Political Scientists also feared secession from public administration & some other fields and so it was mentioned in the "American Political Science Review", a leading journal, that "dominion of political science over public administration..." should be maintained.


Paradigm 3: Public Administration as Political Science, 1950-1970

Return of public administration to the realm of political science resulted in loss of focus of the discipline of public administration though the locus was sharply defined i.e. the governmental bureaucracy. The influence of this paradigm was that public administration was merely mentioned as an "area of interest", an "emphasis" or even a "synonym" of political science. In 1970s public administration was dismissed as "intellectual wasteland". The expertise gathered by public administration over a period of time was lost and it resulted in decline of the discipline. Nonetheless, the impact of political science on public administration was to make it more democratic, to imbibe the concepts of pluralistic polity, political participation, equality under law in the discipline.


Paradigm 4: Public Administration as Management, 1956-1970

Paradigm 4 evolved side by side paradigm 3 but it did not receive much interest as was received by the paradigm 3. The main drawback of both paradigms 3 & 4 was that public administration lost its own identity behind some "larger" concept. This paradigm provided the focus to the discipline but not the locus. Focus was provided in the form of some specialized techniques and expertise which could be applied to the administrative situations. Locus is everywhere where administration is found. In 1956, a journal called "Administrative Science Quarterly" was founded by a public administration for both for the business & public administration. Thus the artificial distinction between the public & business administration was sought to be removed. In 1968 Minnowbrook Conference was organized and New Public Administration was born. This conference showed disinclination towards the efficiency, economy, administrative techniques and budgeting etc. It called to free public administration both from political science and the management to help the discipline identify its uniqueness & distinct identity.


Paradigm 5: Public Administration as Public Administration, 1970 - Present

This phase underscores the distinct identity and unique nature of the discipline of public administration. It distinguishes it both from political science and management. In some ways this paradigm can be viewed as return to the locus of bureaucracy. In 1970, the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) was established. This association comprises of 250 colleges/universities that offer Master of Public Administration (MPA) programmes. This is seen as the faith of Public Administrators in the separate identity of the discipline of public administration. NASPAA, since 1983, has even started accrediting the MPA programmes. This has enhanced the prestige & confidence of the discipline.


Paradigm 6: Emergence of Governance, 1990 - Present

Paradigm 6 has not replaced paradigm 5. They exist side by side and will probably continue to so always. Since late 1980s some trends are visible in the field of public administration. These are: trend of globalization, redefinition of the role of government from directing & controlling towards partnership & collaboration, treating citizens as customers, focus on providing 'value for money', emphasis on outcomes rather than on rules & procedures and devolution of powers to the local governments and administration at lower levels. The traditional boundaries between the public sector, private sector and the voluntary sectors are thinning down. Governance is seen as joint responsibility of public,private and non-profit institutions rather than of government alone. Thus a shift from government towards governance has been taking place in the field of public administration. Less government and more governance are emphasized this phase. Government stands for "institutional" entity while governance stands for "institutional and networked" entity. A general trend has been noticed from "hierarchical government" towards "horizontal governing". Governance today is seen in terms of such total of laws, policies, organizations, institutions, co-operative arrangements & structures that provide necessary goods & services to the citizens that help building their capabilities so that they could realize their full potential. Public, in the framework of governance, is not seen as passive receiver of benefits offered by the government but as active stake holder in the process of administration. Thus governance means collaborative partnership among the public, government, communities, market and the voluntary organisations. However it should be appreciated that involving these partners in the process of governance puts more & not less responsibility on the shoulders of the public officials. Thus the field of public administration has redefined itself towards increasing relevance and importance of the human welfare.



Even in the changed paradigm of governance from government, it will be the government only that will remain central to public administration. However public administration will be practiced in all the three forms: public, private or non-profit sectors. Though the locus of the discipline has been weakened as it is not only the government with which the public administration is concerned but the focus of the discipline i.e. to implement "social change" has been clearer than ever before. As mentioned in paradigm 5, public administration will remain an autonomous profession and discipline wherever is practiced. It has found a balance between its locus and focus.


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