Evolution of Public Administration

Evolution of Public Administration

Public administration as a term encompasses a compounded group of interrelated concept, a factor that makes a simple definition to be difficult. In general, public administration deals with the ways and manner in which the government policies are implemented as well as how the civil servants should deliver services to the community. Public administration as an academic discipline is only about a hundred years old which make it not so old. During this time period, the discipline has undergone several developmental phases which can be traced back from its historical trend. These developments change with the changes in the interrelated disciplines in social-economic-political spheres amongst other fields. Some scholars have demonstrated how the developmental theories have helped define the major innovation periods in Public administration. As a discipline, public administration was born in America in 1887. From there, five different evolution stages can be clearly marked. The first stage dates from 1987 to 1926 which is marked as politics administration dichotomy. Woodrow Wilson is credited for introducing public relations as a discipline whereby he laid down the basics which were focused on separating politics from administration. Wilson emphasized that administration lies outside the political sphere and that administrative questions are separate from political questions. This view was embraced since the people were disappointed with the way the government was handling various policy matters where corruption was rampant. L.D. White further heightened the significance of this view through his book that was published in 1926 namely “Introduction to the Study of Public Administration”. The second phase, 1927 to 1937, is known as Principles of Administration. This phase was shaped by a central belief that that there existed certain administration principles that the scholars had a task of discovering in order to boost the economy and improve efficiency of public administration. This made many scholars in business and administrative practices to join hands in order to examine the functionality of management. The move was especially heightened by the great depression in America, a period that defines the golden years of public administration principles. In other words, this period signifies a time when public administration experienced its height and respectability because the ideas were in great demand for both business and governmental activities. The third period is dates from 1938 to 1937 and is known as the Era of Challenge. The core theory in this phase was the human relationship and behavioral approach in public administration discipline. This theory was mainly supported by Herbert Simon and other scholars in the development of behavioral science. Former idea of administrative dichotomy was challenged. Simon maintained that administration is inseparable from politics due to its role and nature for the fact that administration not only deals with policy formulations but also with policy decisions and their implementation. In the similar manner, the principal of administration was also challenged and was viewed as a proverb. It was mainly criticized due to its dependence on formal organizational structure. The human relations theory emphasized on administrations human aspects which originated from the experiments carried out in Harvard Business School by Elton Mayo and colleagues. This was in the late 1820s and 1830s. The study mainly focused on social and psychological problems experienced by the industrial workers. It is in these phase that the scholars distinguished variables like leadership, informal organization, motivation and morale for maximum employment of human resources in organizations and industries. The fourth phase is the Crisis of Identity stage which ranged from 1948 to 1970. This erupted as a result of looking for alternative management options by some public administrators. A considerable number of scholars considered the management option which is at times referred to as generic management or administrative science as a viable alternative. This period marks time where many states in the world were immerging from wars and colonization a scenario which called for reconsideration of public administration values in a cross national and cross cultural perspective. The US was also not spared by the crisis around this period especially in 1960`s , of which the traditional public administration could not offer solutions to most of these problems. This is the reason as to why the need to reinvent public administration developed because it was ceasing to be relevant under the state and principles it was in. This phase of management covers several fields like, decision making, organization theory and behavior and planning. It also incorporates certain techniques of management science which include human resource management, motivation, communication, budgeting, productivity, communication, management information systems and marketing. This demonstrates that scientific management and the underlying principles paved way for the administrative management science. The prominent scholars of this theory are Catheryne Seckler-Hudson who published her work in 1955, “basic concepts in the study of public management. She emphasized on the political implications and policies that are evident in the operation of public administration. However, she gives more consideration to the question of public administration`s problems. Works of other scholars like March`s “Handbook of Organizations”, 1965 and that of James Thompson`s “Organizations in Action”, 1967, provide a clear insight of theoretical reasons in support of management with focus on organization theory as a model for public administration. The fifth period starts from 1971 to the present and this is referred to as Public Policy Theory. In this face public policy plays a significant role and it simply refers to the attempt of the government to undertake public issues through employment of laws, decisions, actions or regulations related to the present problem. This brought about the client orientation, democratic humanism as well as scientific perspective in the New Public Administration. This phase demonstrates a policy which is developed for the interests of the people and which caters for their development. In other words, public policy perspective focuses on government policies towards the development of its citizens. This concept demonstrates a closer move to political science whereby many management principles are embraced in order to help public administration keep up with its conduct. Some developments have taken place in this phase and this has led to further evolution of the fifth phase. For instance in 1970, the National Association of Schools and Public affairs and Administration (NASPAA), was formed. This organization made progress in the fields of information science and organization theory. This is a development form the New Public Administration that marks a very important development which is credited to Dwight Waldo. This scholar focused on moral tone in public administration thus; calling for a shift from both management and political science and instead focus on ethics and values. In this case, the questions of individual development, client bureaucracy relationship as well as technology, urbanism and violence are looked into. In addition to this development, the early 1990s brought forth a new managerial approach namely, the New Public Management (NPM). It based its principles on the traditional managerial approach and focuses on reforms that seek focus on improving the performance of public sector. It emphasizes on matters like putting customers first, empowering employees for better results, solving problems through market mechanisms and decentralizing personnel policies amongst others. In the recent times, the New Public Management has become the dominant managerial approach. For instance the key concepts that were more evolutionally ten years ago, are now dominating the public administration. This is demonstrated by key terms like, customer focused, results oriented, outsourcing, employee empowerment amongst others. In conclusion, Public administration has developed a significant evolution despite being not a very old academic discipline. Most importantly, the culture of this discipline demonstrates changes in a more innovative and flexible entrepreneurial, innovative and problem solving as opposed to process oriented and rule bound exercises.

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