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Current Status of Comparative Public Administration

Current Status of Comparative Public Administration

The contemporary comparative public administration is concerned with the complexities of social change in the context of modernization and diversity. These complexities are:

    1.       What really is modernization?
    1.       What role does diversity play in modernization?
    1.       What are the context specific processes of modernization?
    1.       What is the difference between cultures which have modernized themselves?

Influenced by the events at the international level, the comparative public administration has moved from the “theoretical” emphasis of the ‘classical era’ to a ‘new’ “empirical” emphasis that guides in making better decisions in public policies and management. For this to happen the modern governments should know what skills and institutions are needed.

The “classical” comparative public administration (generally from 1961 to 1980) stressed transfer of Western technology to the non-western world, export of the ideas of democracy, modernization of the administration through external support, training by foreign practitioners and setting of institutes of public administration etc. The classical era produced mostly the rhetorical debates about what constituted development and how it could be achieved.

An appreciation of the local cultures and environments was emphasized while framing the development policies but the only few developing countries developed with the help of foreign aid or comparative public administration model building. The primary reason was that the developing countries didn’t have the kind of infrastructure which the Marshall aid receiving countries of Europe had at that time. So the success of Marshall Plan could not be replicated elsewhere. In developing countries, comparative studies used to be confined to the case studies, such as the case study of Pakistani civil service by Braibanti. The comparative lessons were often offered but were rarely followed in later studies.

The focus of foreign aid programmes have now shifted from direct government assistance to non-govemmental organizations and private agencies. The efforts have been on reducing the role of state in direct productive activities. Trade and investment are being seen as the solutions to nation building. If the government receives aid now then it is for downsizing the civil service and not primarily for reinvigorating basic governmental functions of budgeting, personnel management etc.

Fewer resources and increased doubts about the applicability of theory building the focus of new CPA has shifted from constructing new theories to application of the already existing ones. In contrast to the past debates over middle range v/s systems theory, the new comparative public administration has been on finding solutions to policy problems. The comparative public administration is no longer determined by the flow of US foreign aid money. Funding for administrative studies is no truly multilateral e. g. through UNDP, the World Bank, the IMF and EU.

The comparative public administration is moving towards a “reinvigorated functionalism stimulated by the growth of new public management. The comparative focus has been on practical issues of policy and administration e. g. performance based procurement, performance budgeting and performance management.

The International Public Management Network (IPMN) through its two journals International Public Management Journal (IPMJ) and International Public Management Review (IPMR), promotes the comparative public management as one of the focus of comparative administration. The Public Management Institute at Catholic University in Belgium has developed a set of performance indicators to compare national level performance of public sector in policy areas such as health and public welfare. The changing world order has created a set of conditions in which the international interest in the results of public sector reform is increasing rapidly.

The comparative public administration now focuses on non-governmental structures, international bureaucracies and post-bureaucratic structures such as the non­governmental organizations and public private partnerships. New challenges like sub-nationalism, ethnicity, balkanization etc. are the important concerns of comparative public administration now which were never there for the traditional CPA studies. The traditional CPA literature did not have much empirical data due to lack of awareness about different systems while due to enhanced information & knowledge, the new CPA doesn’t face any such constraints.

Earlier the national governmental organizations such as the Planning institutions, national bureaucracy etc used to be the study point while the new trends in CPA emphasize even the study of supranational organizations such as WTO, the World Bank and the IMF. This shows that now international bureaucracy and global administrative systems are being studied and not just the bureaucracy confined to a nation. Liberalization, privatization and globalization have influenced the spirit of CPA to a large extent. This influence has made de-bureaucratization as one of the focus.

The humankind today faces global problems for which global solutions are to be found. This has forced public administration to be truly globalised and have an international outlook rather than a narrow country specific view. Terrorism, gender issues, environ­mental concerns, civil society initiatives & participation, human rights, labour laws, self help groups, trade barriers etc. are some such issues which have to be tackled globally. This aspect has also helped evolve the new CPA outlook.

Public Administration by G.Rajput

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