Meaning, Nature and Scope, and Importance of Public Administration Meaning and Definitions Public Administration is an aspect of a broader generic concept of „Administration‟. Thus, an understanding of the concept of administration is necessary to understand the meaning and significance of Public Administration. „Administration is defined variously by various administrative thinkers. Gladden defines administration as “…a long and slightly pompous word, but it has a humble meaning, for it means, to care for after people, to manage affairs…is determined action taken in pursuit of a conscious purpose.” Felix Nigro holds that “Administration is the organization and use of men and materials to accomplish a purpose.” However, a more broad, comprehensive and lucid definition of administration is provided by L. D. White when he says, “ The art of administration is the direction, coordination and control of many persons to achieve some purpose or objective.” These definitions of administration reveal that administration involves collective action and a common purpose; it is a universal process and occurs in a plurality of institutional settings. Public administration is a sub field of the broader field of administration. The dictionary definition of public administration is „the activity of the state in the exercise of its political powers.‟ This implies that public administration exists in a political system. Hence, the focus of Public Administration is the governmental or pubic bureaucracy. Several administrative thinkers have attempted to define Public Administration. Some of them include, Woodrow Wilson who defines Public Administration, as “Public Administration is the detailed and Systematic execution of law.” For Gladden, “Public Administration is concerned with the administration of the government.” Willoughby opines “The term Public Administration may be employed in Political Science in two senses. In its broadest sense, it denotes the work involved in the actual conduct of the governmental affairs, regardless of the particular branch of the government concerned. In its narrowest sense, it denotes the operations of the administrative branch only. As students of Public Administration, we are concerned wit the narrowest meaning of the term.” Rather simplistic as it appears, but a comprehensive definition of Public Administration is provided by Dimock who says, “Administration is concerned with ‘what’ and ‘how’ of the government.” Definitions provided by others like Felix Nigro, Dwight Waldo, L. D. White, Luther Gullick and Pfiffner also throw significant amount of light on how Public Administration needs to be understood. An analysis of the definitions of Public Administration reveals that the term is used in two senses. In the wider sense, Public Administration includes the activities of all the three branches of the government. By contrast, in the narrower sense of the term includes the activities of only the executive branch of the government. Nature and Scope of Public Administration There are two divergent views on the nature of Public Administration. An Integral View on the nature of public administration holds that public administration encompasses all the activities, which are undertaken to accomplish the given objectives. In other words, this view sees public administration as the sum total of managerial, technical, clerical and manual activities. On the other hand, the Managerial View holds that public administration encompasses only the managerial activities and not the clerical, technical and the manual ones. Thus, in this view, administration consists of the activities of the managerial personnel only. Neither of the above two views is without defects. The correct meaning of the term public administration would depend upon the context in which it is used. Thus, the following statement of Dimock, Dimock and Koening in their Book entitled „Public Administration‟ best captures the nature of public administration: “As a study public administration examines every aspect of government’s efforts to discharge the laws and to give effect to public policy; as a process, it is all the steps taken between the time and enforcement agency assumes jurisdiction and the last break is placed; and as a vocation, it is organizing and directing the activities of others in a public agency.” As regards the scope of Public Administration, broadly speaking, it embraces the entire area and all the activity of the government. But by established usage, the term has come to signify primarily the organization, personnel, practices and procedures essential to the effective performance of the civilian functions entrusted to the executive branch of the government. Hence, the scope of public administration can be approached from two perspectives: the POSDCORB view and the Subject Matter view. The POSDCORB view on the scope of Public Administration is advocated by Luther Gulick. He believed that administration consisted of seven elements: P- Planning O- Organizing S- Staffing D- Directing CO- Coordinating R- Reporting and B- Budgeting. According to Gulick, POSDCORB activities are common to all organizations. They are the common problems of administration and management, which are found in different agencies regardless of the peculiar nature of the work they do. This view of the scope of public administration over looks the fact that different agencies are found with different administrative problems. This view takes into consideration only the common techniques of administration and ignores the study of the subject matter in its analysis and prescription of the scope of public administration. The Subject matter view of the scope of Public Administration arose out of the limitations of the POSDCPRB view. Lewis Merriam held tat Public Administration is like a scissors wit two blades, and that while POSDCORB view covers one, the subject matter is another. Lewis Merriam, Pfiffner and others share this view. They opine that both subject matter as ell as the techniques of administration fall within the scope of public administration. A more comprehensive account of the scope of public administration has been provided by Walker by dividing it in to two parts: administrative theory, and applied administration. Walker says both the areas under administrative theory and under applied administration form the subject of study of Public administration as a discipline. Importance of Public Administration Public administration has become an essential segment of modern society, which has witnessed the emergence of what the administrative thinkers call an „Administrative State’. Every activity of an individual from „womb to tomb‟ is regulated and regulated by the agencies of the administrative state or the administrative agencies. Thus administration plays multiple roles in the modern state and its significance has increased manifolds in the cotemporary modern society. The importance of Public Administration in a modern state lies in the fact that today Public administration is the basis of government; it is the instrument for executing the laws, policies and programmes formulated by the state; it is the instrument of social change and development, especially in the Third World countries; it is also an instrument of national integration; it serves as an agency of the modern state to deliver public good; and above all, Public administration is the great stabilizing force in a modern state because it provides continuities when governments change either due to elections, revolutions or due to coups. Thus Public administration has assumed crucial roles in contemporary modern society. It preserves the polity, maintains stability and order, institutionalizes socio-economic changes, manages commercial services of the state, ensures economic development, protects the marginalized sections of society, and influences the public policy. These are some of the important roles played by Administration in a modern state as detailed by Gerald Caiden in his Book The Dynamics of Public Administration. This growing importance of Public Administration in the Modern State owes to the scientific and technological developments, which have led to the emergence of the „ Big- Government‟. Dimock aptly remarks, “Administration is now so vast an area that a philosophy of administration comes close to being a philosophy of life”. The emergence of the Welfare State replacing the Police State is another factor responsible for the growing significance of Public Administration in a modern state. Other factors like the adoption of economic planning by the modern governments, increase of natural calamities like floods, earthquakes etc., the sophisticated nature of the present system of warfare, and finally, decline in social harmony, and an increase in violence in the modern society. These all have been the factors that have contributed to the steady increase of the importance of public administration in the recent years. Thus Public administration in the modern state is important to the people, it is important for democracy, and above all, it is important as a subject of study. Henry Fayol, therefore, has rightly commented that “the administrative process is universal”, which, in fact, keeps living with a strong vigour, the importance of Public Administration in the Modern States of today.
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