Q. In the evolution of’ the discipline of Public Administration, Minnowbrook Conferences 1,11 and III reflect the discipline’s re-conceptualisation and its changing values. Elucidate. (CSE, 2011)
Ans. There has long been a polemical discussion within the field of Public administration regarding the theoretical basis of the field. Some authors argue that Public Administration is, or used to be a part of political science or management. Other considers Public administration to be a multi-disciplinary area of interest. Academics have long sought to define what public administration is and what it should be. In this direction Minnowbrook three conferences are path breaking and has shed a great deal of light on the subject matter of public administration.
As Dwight Waldo puts Mirmowbrook -I, “What Minnowbrook helped to inaugurate was a greatly needed and highly significant discussion. Here was fresh and original thinking as the role of Public administration in the “time of revolutions” in which we find ourselves.” The period of 1960s was one of turmoil. There were campus riots, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the Vietnam War and other events. The Mirmowbrook Conference-I (in 1968) pioneered a new era of public administration, i.e., the New Public Administration. The value orientations of the New Public Administration were social equity, representativeness, responsibility, democratic participation and social accountability which is different compared with the previous focus on efficiency and effectiveness.
In contrast to Mirmowbrook-I, which challenged Public Administration to become proactive with regard to social issues, Minnow brook-II retreated from an action perspective to cerebral examinations of democracy, ethics, responsibility, philosophy and even economics. At this conference two main arguments posed a challenging pursuit to the field of Public administration. These were, first, citizens seeking a renewed sense of community and shared endeavour, emphasizing inter-personal values and de-emphasising personal gain. Second, society need to look to Public administration to solve a continuing stream of problems. In these light seven main themes were put forth
at this conference. The chief were strong concerns about democratic values and the centrality of Public Administration in promoting them; diversity in society-gender and sexual, and the work force-generalist vs specialist was accepted as a basic value; constructive role of Public administration at both the national and global level; and innovative personnel practices were described or called for. However, the debate between the normative and behaviourist perspective still lingered and there was clear unwillingness to address technological issues was evident.
Minnowbrook-I and Minnowbrook-II appeared at peace with its core values and its sense of relevance and purpose. Whole-hearted acceptance of democratic values and preeminent issues of social issues were unquestioned. However, little attention was devoted to the realities of implementation. There was little vision of how the public service can function at its best within what promises to be a future of declining market share and a changing industrial base. Moreover, the previous two conference were silent on evolving role of electronic media like internet in shaping the global governance. All these themes were reflected in the Minnowbrook-III which attempted to develop a better understanding of the different positions and build a consensus about the construction of a science of Public Administration.