Political Science and Public Administration (Part 2)
Professor Dr. Mohammad Mohabbat Khan
University of Dhaka
Department of Public Administration
Public administration is both an art and a science, with administration being as old
as mankind. Pre-historic humans practiced administration, which may
appropriately be termed a cooperative activity engaged in whenever two or more
people work together to pursue a common objective.
The science element of administration is an indication that man’s development
has improved the activity. This is what Wilson implied with his adage ‘the study
of public administration’.
Meaning of Public Administration
Public administration has and continues to defy precise definition. One-sentence
or one-paragraph definitions are avoided as inadequate because they contain
several abstract words or phrases.
The abstract words or phrases can further be explained by other abstract words
and phrases which may lead to ‘mental paralysis’ rather than enlightenment and
Public administration must develop new answers to questions that fit the changing
realities of public programs.
Public administration is undertaken in a dynamic environment, hence the
necessity to develop new answers to changing realities.
In this sense, supplanting grand successful solutions from one country to the other
without the necessary adaptations should be discouraged.
The two ways in which public administration is usually defined are as follows:
Public administration is the organization, mobilization and management of human
and material resources to achieve the purposes of government.
Public administration is the art and science of management as applied to the
affairs of state.
Scope and Significance of the Discipline
It is widely acknowledged that the scope of the discipline of Public
Administration has to be wide enough to respond to the complex social realities of today.
Major concerns of the discipline are:
• Promoting (publicness): In a democratic society, Public
Administration has to be explicitly 'public' in terms of democratic
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values, power-sharing and openness. This calls for a new climate in
the bureaucracy. Public Administration, in practice, has to absorb the
principles of democracy as an overarching form of the government.
Policy Sensitivity: As governments are called upon to play increasingly
active roles in times of rapid changes and social crisis, innovative and
timely policy formulation becomes 'a prime necessity in the
government. This would necessitate a new preparedness within the
administrative set-up that had hardly any precedence in the past.
Implementation Capability: Effective policy implementation is going to
test the coping capacity of the governments in today's complex
situations. Goals have to be clearly set; planning, programming and
projections have to be followed step by step; and project management
in all its ramifications has to have top priority in government.
Shared understanding of social reality: The capacity to cope with social
and administrative complexity can be enhanced by a deliberate policy
of organizational openness. The underlying assumption here is that
the administration needs to understand the diverse interests and
Administration as a learning experience: Shifting social reality and
complex environmental conditions impose certain rigors on Public
Administration today. Rusted 'principles' of the past or the
administrative recipes of bureaucratic routine are no longer
appropriate tools for analysis and problem solving. Public
Administration in modern time has to be proactive, innovative, risk-
taking, and often adventurous.
The significance of Public Administration as a specialized subject of study
was well brought out by Woodrow Wilson the founder of the discipline. In his
celebrated essay on 'The Study of Administration' published in 1887, he
characterized government administration as the practical or business end of
government that could be separated from the rough and tumble of 'politics'. Urging
for the establishment of an autonomous field of academic inquiry, Wilson observed:
"There should be a science of administration which shall seek to straighten the
paths of government, to make its business less unbusiness like to strengthen and purify
its organization, and to crown its duties with dutifulness."
The significance of public Administration as social science lies in its methodical
study of government and attempts to organize knowledge about governmental
structure and operations.
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In this role, Public Administration as a discipline is more interested in providing
scientific explanations rather than merely solving public problems.
Administration is looked at, in this perspective, as a social activity. Hence the
concern of academic inquiry would be to understand the impact of
government policies and operations on the society.
From this social science perspective, Public Administration, as a discipline,
has to draw on a variety of sister disciplines such as History, Sociology
Public Administration's special status in the "developing countries" has been
widely acknowledged. The post-colonial, "third world" countries have
everywhere embarked upon ‘ speedy socio-economic development. These
countries have naturally to rely on the government to push through speedy
This means Public Administration, has to be organized and operated to
increase productivity quickly. Similarly social welfare activities have to be
efficiently and effectively executed.
Development Administration has emerged as an extremely useful field that
has great practical utility in the special circumstances of the developing
countries. The emergence of 'Development Administration' is indicative of a
felt need for a body of knowledge about how to study the Third World
administration and at the same time to bring about speedy socio-economic
development with government intervention.
All the developing countries in the Third World depend on the government’s
aggressive role in nation-building and socio-economic reconstruction.
Development Administration, therefore, has emerged as a special sub-
discipline to serve the cause of development. This is a distinct branch of the
discipline, pursuing a distinct cause, viz. development.
The Concept of Development Administration has two major facets.
• One facet of it refers to ‘development of administration’. By this we
mean to develop administrators. It involves strengthening and
improving administrative capabilities as a means for achieving
• The other facet is ‘administration of development’. According to this
interpretation, we expect development administration (administrative
organization) to act as an instrument in the implementation of
development programs, projects and policies.
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Elements of Development Administration
1. Planned and Coordinated Effort
Development Administration in operational terms refers to organized efforts to
carry out development programs and projects in the direction of state-building and
2. Goal-oriented Administration
Development Administration is not just public administration in the sense of
carrying out activities , it is a goal- oriented administration with emphasis on
achieving social and economic goal.
3. Management Capacities
Development Administration involves creating and enhancing management capacities as
a means for achieving development goals.
Progressive realization of social and economic goals by developing countries has been
considered an important task of governments of these countries. To achieve this
objective, the instrument of development administration is employed.
Progressive realization of development goals by developing economy would involve
greater participation of the people.
6. Creativity and Innovativeness
An important element in development administration is creativity. The term
creativity is often understood as the ability and power to develop new ideas. On the
other hand, ‘innovation’ generally means application of these ideas. It means a new
way of doing things.
7. Responsiveness and Accountability
Development Administration is required to be responsive and accountable. A top-
down/bottom-up flow of communications and initiatives is recognized as the main
element in accountable administrative capacity.
8. People-centered Administration
Development Administration is a people-centered administration. It aims at serving the
9. Keeping in Touch with Social Realities
In contrast to the traditional administration, development administration is required to
keep in touch with realities, including grassroots situations, local problems, etc.
New Public Administration
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New Public Administration
In 1968, using the fund supplied as part of a ‘super-professorship’ paid for by the
state of New York, Dwight Waldo facilitated a meeting at Minnowbrook,
Syracuse University’s beautiful conference center in Adirondack Mountains.
New Public Administration was markedly different from existing perception of
Public Administration. It puts more emphasis on a normative approach.
There were four goals and three anti- goals of the NPA. The four goals were
–relevance, value, equity, change.
The anti goals were –
Rejection of value neutral concept of public administration.
Rejection of the notion that public administration is concerned with
preserving the status-quo.
Public administration is not a sub-field of politics or management.
In order to achieve the goals the participants of Minnowbrook put forth four
solutions which have been referred to as the 4D’s. These are:
debureaucratization, democratization, delegation and decentralization
According to George Frederickson (1971) New Public Administration was
less ‘generic’ and more ‘public’ than its past counterparts less ‘descriptive’
and more ‘perspective’, less ‘institution-oriented’, and more client-oriented’
and less ‘neutral’ and more ‘normative’. Frederickson (1980: 43) further
clarifies NPA as,
“to develop a concept of new public administration, one must therefore begin by
arguing that a different set of values should predominate. These values would
certainly not be new. They would foster humanistic, decentralized, democratic
organizations that distribute public service equitably. The objective of new
public administration, therefore, would be to organize, describe, or make operative
organization that further these values. These objectives are much less ambitious
than those proposed by many public administrators”.
Bureaucratic responsiveness, worker and citizen participation in decision making,
social equity, citizen choice, administrative responsibility for program
effectiveness – these are the values to be achieved in New Public Administration
What, then, can be made of new public administration, both theoretically and
First, new public administration would reject the notions that administrators are value-
neutral and that administrative theories are value neutral models.
Second, it must be recognized that the values are legitimate, although often in conflict.
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