(I) What is public administration

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(I) What is public administration Powered By Docstoc
					Competing Perspectives on Public Administration

(I) Defining Public Administration

       - is there a generic public administration? Is there a coherent and unified conception
of              public administration?
       - some general definitions:
                 “organization and management of men and materials to
                achieve the purpose of government”
                “the art and science of management as applied to affairs of state” (Waldo)
       - Waldo: “the immediate effect of all one-sentence or one-paragraph definitions of
                        public administration is mental paralysis rather than enlightenment and
       - how public agencies are (or should be) organized and managed, and competing
       concerns in, and competing approaches to, public administration

(II) Public Administration As Competing Concerns

       - public administration is a complex activity involving multiple functions and
concerns:      management, policy making, representing different interests, responding to
public demands, and weighing difficult ethical questions

       - descriptive, normative and cognitive elements of different approaches to public
               descriptive: about what public administration is in reality
               normative: about what public administration should be; views on different
               institutional designs based on widely different views on how best to organize
               cognitive: views on how to develop knowledge
       - Are these three approaches equally applicable to analyzing public administration in
all            countries?
       - national variations in the nature and character of public administration
               why national variations? political structure and culture

(III) The Managerial Approach

        - the root of the managerial approach - scientific management championed by
                Frederick Taylor
        - reaction to the pervasive political influence in administration, exemplified most
clearly in the spoils system.
        - Woodrow Wilson: Administration lies outside the proper sphere of politics.
                Administrative questions are not political questions.
                The policy-administration dichotomy and the managerial approach to public
        - key values: efficiency and effectiveness; politics was to be eliminated because it
                                produced inefficiency
      - View of organizational structure:

             bureaucratic structure (division of labor, coordination through hierarchy, clear
             assignment of functions and responsibilities, formal rules, and an emphasis on
             merits in matters of recruitment and promotion.) - but are other organizational
             forms not consistent with efficiency?

      - View of the individual:

              impersonal view of the individual, regardless of whether the
             individuals in questions are the employees and clients of public
             administrative agencies.
                    employees: as “cogs” in an organizational machine
                    clients as cases: “a bureaucracy is never set up to treat or deal with
                    persons: it „processes‟ only „cases‟.”

      - Cognitive Aspect of the Managerial approach
             treating public administration as a science: studying and generalizing
             administrative behavior and developing testable knowledge about it

      - Variations on the theme: the rise of new organizational forms, managerial principles
      and concepts in recent years

(IV) The Political Approach

      - the pluralist democracy model (Douglas Yates) - the fundamental values
      underpinning the political approach are representation, responsiveness, accountability,
      and separation of powers: the purpose of the doctrine of separation of powers in the
      American constitution was not to avoid friction, but to create friction to save the
      people from abuse of power

      - the political approach also grew out of a recognition that the policy-administration
      dichotomy was mythical and public administration, in reality, is necessary a political

             “the responsibility and responsiveness of the administrative agencies and the
             bureaucracies to the elected officials is of central importance in a government
             based increasingly on the exercise of discretionary power by the agencies of

      - Norton Long: In the United States, because the constitution does not provide a solid
      foundation for the existence of government agencies and bureaus, they “more
      or less perforce are in the business of building, maintaining, and increasing their
      political support. They lead and in large part are led by the diverse groups
      whose influence sustains them. Frequently they lead and are led in conflicting
      directions. This is not due to a dull-witted incapacity to see the contradictions
      in their behavior but is an almost inevitable result of the contradictory nature of
      their support.”
               representativeness and managing the civil service: merit or ensuring that the
               civil service reflects the diversity of the population

               - View of organizational structure: (and it suggests that the root of a political
               approach is far deeper than the recognition that it is impossible to separate the
               realm of politics from that of administration. It has a deeper root in the
               political philosophy stressing the importance of separation of government

               “the executive branch structure is in fact a microcosm of our society.
Inevitably            it reflects the values, conflicts, and competing forces to be found in a
pluralistic           society. The ideal of a neatly symmetrical, frictionless organization
structure is          dangerous illusion.”

               rejecting a view of centralized and unified bureaucracy as argued by the
               managerial approach. Instead, the government structure should (Douglas
               Yates, 1982:p.12)

                      - present multiple centers of power (by means of which concentrations
                               of power would be checked.);
                      - facilitate the representation of interest groups by providing multiple
                                        points of access;
                      - have strong elements of decentralization;
                      - be internally competitive;
                      - be open and participative;
                      - produce widespread bargaining.

        View of the individual:

               legitimacy of individual interests and needs; aggregate the individual into
broad          social, economic or political group.

        Cognitive aspect: looking for consensus or the development of broad coalition in
               determining what is correct; public discussion and debate are viewed as
               methods for developing knowledge and finding truth; limited role for expert or
               science, instead the public should be given a large role in shaping public
(V) The Legal Approach

       - view public administration as applying and enforcing the law in concrete
       circumstances, and a process marked increasingly by judicialization (i.e. the tendency
       for administrative processes increasingly to resemble courtroom procedures) and by a
       growing concern for protecting and maximizing individual rights through legal
       procedures in administrative activities.

        - values stressed by the legal approaches:
                procedural due process, individual substantive rights and equal protection of
                the laws, equity in the sense of substantive fairness in the result of conflicts
                        between private parties and the government, and constitutional

               downgrading the cost-effectiveness reasoning associated with the managerial

        View of Organizational Structure:
              adversary procedures modified from the judicial trial, the relative
independence         and impartiality of the hearing examiner (while they can be told which
cases to             hear, they cannot be told how to rule or decide, and their rulings may
be                   binding), relative independence and impartiality of the hearing

       View of the individual:
             individual as a unique person in a unique set of circumstances

       Cognitive aspect:
              adjudication as the method of developing knowledge; wary about applying
                     generalizations to individual cases.

(VI) Contextual Goals and the Distinctiveness of Public administration

       Contextual goals: description of desired states of affairs other than the one a particular
             agency is brought into being to create. For example, a police department not
             only must try to prevent crime and catch criminals, it must protect the rights of
             the accused, safeguard the confidentiality of its records, and provide necessary
             health services to arrestees. These other goals define the context within which
             the primary goals can be sought.

       Some major types of contextual goals:
             - administrative procedures
             - freedom of information
             - environmental protection
             - some contextual goals exist to produce a level playing field ("give notice",
             "hold hearings" etc), but others work to tilt the playing field ("buy American,"
             "recruit local workers.")
       The effects of contextual goals on public administration:
              - to worry more about rules and procedures than outcomes (it is hard to hold
              managers accountable for attaining a goal, easy to hold them accountable for
              conforming to the rules. and very often contextual goals and rules are defended
              by powerful interests.)
              - increasing importance of contextual goals enhances the power of the courts
              and other interests over bureaucratic processes (The rules conferred rights;
              courts exist to enforce rights.).
              -equity becomes more important than efficiency in the management of many
              government agencies; equity issues always seem easier to judge than efficiency
              and effectiveness issues (We cannot easily say whether the pupils were
              educated, the streets made safer, or some diseases prevented; but we can say
              whether every pupil got the same textbook, every citizen got the same police
              response, and every patient got the same vaccine.).
              - managers become more risk averse (Police administrators rarely lose their
              jobs because the crime rate has gone up or win promotion because it has gone
              down. They can easily lose their jobs if somebody persuasively argues that the
              police has abused a citizen, beaten a prisoner, or failed to answer a call for
              -standard operating procedures are developed to reduce the chance that an
              important contextual goal is not violated.
              - pushing more discretionary authority upward to the top (If the administrator
              is going to get into trouble for what an operator does, the former will find ways
              to making the decision for the latter.).

       Universal phenomenon or national variations?

       - “a European would be astonished to learn that in the United States citizens can read
       many government files but the government can read few citizen files. In Europe it tend
       to be just the opposite.”

Discussion Questions:

1. Which of the three approaches better describe public administration in Hong Kong and

2. What are the primary goals of your organization? Does your organization have any
contextual goals? What are they? How do they affect your and your colleagues' work? What
purposes do these contextual goals serve?