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Q.Describe the evolution of the discipline of public administration with special emphasis on post-1970 devel¬opments.

Evolution of Public Administration

Ans: The discipline of public administration, despite the uncertainty and turmoil in the pre-1970s registered progress and entered the seventies with an enriched vision. Public administration attracted within its fold scholars from various disciplines and thus was becoming truly interdisciplinary in its nature. Indeed of all the social sciences, it is the public administration which is most interdisciplinary. It is focussing its attention more and more on the dynamics of administration. It is also drawing heavily on the management science.

Public Administration has come close to policy science and related areas and has been showing ample concern for issues in the fields. Since 1970, some significant developments have taken place in public administration as a discipline.

In 1970, the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration was founded. It has been recognized that public administration be called a separate “self-aware” field of study. Although there is not yet a focus for the field in the form of “pure science of administration” progress has been made particularly in the area of organizational theory and information science. There has been less movement towards delineating a locus for the field. Nevertheless, public administration does appear to be emphasizing such areas as state and local government, executive management, and administrative law.

The new development in the discipline of public administration can be discussed under the following heads:

  • Normative concerns as value questions have recently been reassesed in public-administration; the emergence of the philosophy of neo-liberalism provided a powerful base for the setting up of public administration in public interest philosophy. Restoration of communication between philosophers and administrators and raising the level of value consciousness have been the main aim of the writers like Hodgkinson. It provided ethical dimension to public administration. Evolution of Public Administration 
  • Public administration like other social sciences, too adopted interdisciplinary approach in recent years. Three distinct inter-theoretical linkages have been identified (a) politics-administration union, (b) Economics-admin­istration confluence and the political economy paradigm; (c) organization theory-administration intermixing.

Now, in the post 1970 unlike earlier politics-administration dichotomy, politics came to be reunited with administration. New public administration movement asserted the importance of values in administration and said that public administration is just another expression for the study of politics relating administration to the

– environment has been the main focus of Peterself.

Economics-administration confluence and the political economy paradigm, brings public administration within the purview of economic analysis. The contribution of economists to organization theory has also been quite good.

Again political economy paradigm regards political economy as the study of interplay of power, the goals of power wielders and the productive exchange system.

Evolution of Public Administration

However, a recent development that deserves attention is the consistent attempt to construct a radical organization theory based chiefly on Marxist thought. It criticizes traditional theory on the ground that it is system-maintaining and capitalism serving.

  • The debate over bureaucracy-democracy relationship is a reaction to over bureaucratization in the wake of rapid expansion of governmental activities and dissatisfaction with bureaucratic inefficiency. Four streams of thought have emerged in this context. The first is public choice school. It does not accept that bureau­cracy is rational and efficient; it is highly sceptical of its structure and actual operating behaviour.

David Beetham, for instance, says that “the central political problem posed by bureaucracy, was how to restrict it to its proper function, how to ensure that the officials concerned with administrative effectiveness, and hence with power was properly subordinate to the politician’s function of defining the ends that power was to serve and taking responsibility for them”.

  • The concept of “development administration” which was an important feature of administrative theory in the 1960s, came under c;iticism in recent years. The development administration concept has been criticized on various grounds. For instance Riggs said, “The existence of a career bureaucracy without corresponding strength in the political institutions does not necessarily lead to administrative effectiveness- without firm political guidance bureaucrats have weak incentives to provide good service, whatever their formal, preentry training and professional qualification.

Its criticism has come also from techno-managerial school and the ecological school. Development administration was also criticized as ideological and Eurocentric.

As an academic field, public administration’s evolution may thus be viewed as a succession of five over­lapping paradigms. The emerging focus of public administration is organization theory and management science, its locus is the public interest and public affairs. Today, a large number of universities in India provide for the teaching of Public Administration. To this end, there are departments of public administration in many universities. Besides, this is also taught in the joint departments of political science and public administration as well as in the department of political science.

Public Administration Q/A

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