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Definition Nature and Scope of Public Administration

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					                    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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posted:9/13/2010
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