Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Evolution of Public Administration

Here's an excerpt on the origin of public administration in the Philippines. Others have difficulty on understanding PA as a science or a study. I hope  this article would shed light on that question. This article is a copy given by our Professor during my Masters degree class.

A.      Historical Evolution

While Public Administration gained university recognition as a field of study only after the World War II, it is as old as civilized society. It was responsible in the building of cities; in the construction of public works; and the management of the state, among others.

It has been argued that for public administration to qualify as a discipline or field of study, the teaching of the subject matter must be systematic rather than a scattered thought. For modern public administration to evolve, the government as an institution must be delineated from other societal institutions. It must be distinguished from political economy, military or political organization.

In Europe, where public administration has first evolved, studies in modern public administration was intended to prepare prospective public servants in Prussia for government service. In terms of scope, public administration was mainly a description of the machinery of the government, the activities of public servants and the code of conduct of public servants taught by the so-called “cameralist” professors. It was unfortunate to observe that public administration was limited to the educated class. The cameralist approach in the study of public administration was very influential in Europe up to the 20th century until it was replaced by administrative law and legal studies. Under this approach, administrative law and legal studies are the important courses that should be taken by those aspiring for positions in the government. In effect, the teaching of the subject became the responsibility of the law faculties rather than the cameralist professors.

After World War II, public administration was able to gain some sort of disciplinary independence from the influence of cameral sciences and administrative law. However, the strong influence of administrative law in the teaching was still felt in most Asian and Latin American countries.

In United States, it was noted that the development of public administration as a discipline was very slow. Potential public servants were not taught about courses in public administration which would make them more effective public servants. It was thought to require only some kind of vocational training. Before the 20th century, the atmosphere in the English speaking countries was not favorable for the emergence of a discipline of public administration. For instance, civil service training in Great Britain and United States was not given serious attention not until after World War II.

In the United States, the emergence of the discipline could be significantly traced to the publication of Woodrow Wilson’s essay entitled “The Study of Administration” in June 1887. The Wilsonian essay was actually a satire on the prevailing socio-economic and political condition in the United States wherein partisan politics and graft and corruption were rampant.  According to Wilson, the most effective method of strengthening the political system is to separate politics from administration. The Wilsonian idea more particularly his politic administration dichotomy was sustained and expounded by Frank Goodnow to the point that he earned the title of “Father of American Public Administration” because of his effort in making public administration as a recognized discipline, among others.


According to Nicolas Henry, the development of public administration can be described in terms of four (4) successive paradigms. Each of this paradigms can be described as well as differentiated in terms of their “locus”, the institutional WHERE, or based on their “focus”, the specialized WHAT of public administration. In these four (4) paradigms, the locus and the focus of the field might be altered or changing.

Paradigm 1:        Political/Administration Dichotomy (1920-1926)

Under this paradigm, the emphasis of public administration is the “locus”. According to Frank Goodnow and his disciples, as well as supporters, the locus of public administration is the government bureaucracy.

Furthermore, in the book of Goodnow entitled “Politics and Administration”, he argued that there are two different functions of the government, namely: politics which has something to do with policies and administration which has something to do with implementation of the policies. Following the line of thinking of Woodrow Wilson, Goodnow suggested that politics should be separated from administration in order for the public administration through the governmental bureaucracy to operate effectively and efficiently.

In 1926, another classic book was published. This was the book of Leonard White entitled “Introduction to the study of Public Administration”. Among the important things mentioned are the following:
a.       That politics should not interfere into the area of administration;
b.      That public administration is capable of becoming a value-free science; and
c.       That the objectives of public administration are economy and efficiency.
Paradigm 2:        The Principles of Administration (1927-1937)
In this paradigm, the emphasis was on the “focus” of public administration. According to the book of F. Willoughby entitled “Principles of Public Administration” (1927), the specialized focus of public administration is on certain scientific principles of administration. In as far as the “locus” is concerned, no serious attention was given because of the assumption that “principles are principles” which implies that public administration is everywhere. The belief was that there are universal principles which can be applied both in the public and private sectors or adoptable to both public and business administration.
Another classic book published in support of the so-called principles in administration was the book of Luther Gulick and Lyndall E. Urwick entitled “Papers on the Science of Administration” (1937).
2.1          The Challenge (1938-1950)
The first to challenge the two (2) aforementioned paradigms in public administration was Chester Barnard through his book “Functions of the Executive” (1938). However, the influence of the book was not immediately felt not until the publication of Herbert Simon’s “Administrative Behavior” (1948).
By and large, there was a widespread objection during this period about politics-administration dichotomy and the existence of so-called principles of administration. In other words, the popular belief during this time was that politics and administration cannot be separated from each other, and that principles in administration are inconsistent with each other. Fritz Marx “Elements of Public Administration” (1946) was the first major volume of works written questioning the feasibility of separating politics from administration. On the issue regarding the “principles of administration”, the most devastating criticism came from Simon who argued that for every principle in administration there is a contradictory principle and that these principles are as good as “proverbs”.
2.2          The Reaction to the Challenge (1947-1950)
Simon proposed for an alternative paradigm which calls for two (2) kinds of public administrationists, namely: (a) those scholars concerned with the pure science of administration which require solid background in social psychology; and (b) those prescribing for public policy.
However, Simon’s proposal was criticized by his contemporaries based on two (2) major grounds: (1) most of them have no solid ground in social psychology and (2) public administration as a pure science would prevent them from using the normative approach which in value-loaded as distinguished from science which is value-free.

Paradigm 3:        Public Administration as Political Science (1950-1970)
In this paradigm, there was a renewed emphasis on the locus of public administration, that is, government bureaucracy. As a discipline, the locus of public administration was said to be in the Political Science Department. In short, public administration was considered as a subfield of political science.
Unfortunately, in 1962, it was found that public administration was losing its importance and prestige as a sub-field of political science. More specifically, public administration faculties have been treated as second-class citizens by political scientists. In fact, even the political science journal did not allocate space for public administration. In effect, devoted public administrationists started looking for an alternative discipline of public administration.

Paradigm 4:        Public Administration as Administrative Science

As an alternative to political science, administrative science became the nearest discipline to public administration where it could find its place. In this paradigm, the locus was lost in favor of the focus because “administration is administration” whether in public or private organizations. As an alternative paradigm, public administration had become the sister-field of business administration.
However, it became apparent that public administration and business administration have significant differences. For instance, while public administration is situated in a political environment and is service-oriented, business administration is supposed to be situated in a non-political environment and is profit oriented.

Paradigm 5:        Public Administration as Public Administration (1970 – present)

In this paradigm, public administration is in the course of finding its real identity which is independent of political science or administrative science. At least with a paradigmatic focus of organization theory and management science, and a paradigmatic locus of the public interest as it relates to public affairs, public administration can already start its institutional autonomy as a separate discipline.
As t its academic status in the university, such could be determined by how it is defined by the University. The so-called “identity crisis” issue concerning public administration is still very much alive, thus, contributing to the difficulty of a complete autonomy for the field of public administration. We have to settle the controversial  issues surrounding the “theory and practice” of public administrations such as the politics-administration dichotomy, science or art controversy, scope and boundary problem, principles or “proverbs” issue, among others, before we could clear the discipline of its present crisis. On the other hand, if one believes that the “identity crisis” of public administration is an inherent characteristic of the field or its unique feature, then perhaps we could argue that the search is over. Public administration can stand on its own as a field of study.


Anonymous said...

Do you have any sources you can post for this paper?

travis ryan said...

this was from the notes of my previous professor...let's see what i can do, so that i could post the references where he got this article.


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