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Comparative Public Administration



  • Comparative public administration is defined as the revise of administrative systems in a comparative fashion or the revise of public administration in other countries.
  • Another definition for “comparative public administration” is the “quest for patterns and regularities in administrative action and behavior”. It looks to test the effectiveness of the Classical Theorists’ (Fayol, Taylor, Urwick, etc) Principles of Administration effectiveness on a universal stage(dissimilar political and administrative setups in developing and developed countries and their ecology) as well as develop a comparative theory of Public Administration.
  • It is a very important area of revise in Public Administration as it helps in understanding Administrative setups and their functioning in several settings and societies/countries and what works and why it works.
  • Also, it helps improvise administrative systems creation them more efficient together with helping in adding and improvising the already existing literature/theories of Public Administration therefore leading to a strong and practical theory of the subject with the help of practical experiments and analysis.



  • Even though comparative studies in administration date back to Aristotlian times where he sent scholars to dissimilar parts of world to revise their political systems, Comparative Public Administration started off as a topic of interest post the Wilson(described the 1st comparatives) essay in 1884 where he very rightly stated that in order to know our own country’s administrative weaknesses and virtues we need to compare with others.
  • And, he stated that administration is the best and mainly safe prospect of comparative studies as administrative techniques and procedures are similar approximately everywhere and in fact we can learn a lot through comparing.
  • Though,   it   was   not   taken   so   seriously   due   to   the    emphasis   on conceptualizing and structuring as well as defining Public Administration at that time was the top priority.
  • The theorists and administrators as well as governments were busy understanding their own administrative setup before they could set off on a comparison with others.
  • So, while this was being contemplated the First World War erupted and with its end and the establishment of the League Of Nations there came about a lot of questions concerning the need to understand the needs of the countries who were not so developed because several of them came under the British colonialism as well as other imperialist countries in order to control these and draw maximum benefit.
  • This comparative revise took a philosophical turn throughout the course of the second world war and its aftermath when there came the end of imperialism and colonialism and emergence of several independent states, a joint initiative through the developed countries under the United Nations(formerly described ‘The League Of Nations’) aegis to refurbish the developing an third world countries as well as to develop their own war damaged national economies.
  • And lets not forget the beginning of Cold War flanked by the two superpowers USA and Soviet Union which played a big part in this movement where both looked to hegemonies the world politics and economy.

USA and its role in CPA

  • USA took the lead here in administrative studies and also in providing financial as well as technical help to the developing nations in order to augment their market share and also to curb communism that was a product of the Soviet Union.
  • The USA was the hub of these studies since the Western countries lacked the institutional and administrative capacities to implement their development plans post world war 2.the government, United Nations and several private institutions as well as corporate sponsored varied technical assistance programmes that enabled the public administrators, lecturers of public administration and professionals to revise the same in depth as well as travel abroad and gather hands on experience and build a universal comparative theory of Public Administration.
  • Notable in these efforts was that of the American Society for Public Administration(ASPA) & American Political Science Association( APSA).

CAG and Comparative public Administration 

  • The first organisation formally shaped to formulate a universal comparative theory of public administration was the Comparative Administration Group(CAG) in 1960 that was a division of the ASPA, funded through the Ford foundation to revise methods for improving public administration in developing countries under the chairmanship of Fred W. Riggs.
  • More than providing administrative techniques this group became a forum for intellectuals to understand why the developing countries differ so much in practice of administration and are not able to sustain the classical theory principles of administration in their systems even though Classical theorists of administration like Fayol & Weber, etc preached that their principles and models of administration were universal in their element and can be applied anywhere with greatest success.
  • CAG gave the thought of scientific studies and emphasized on empirical and ecological(social, cultural, and historical factors) revise of several administrative systems.
  • Even though the CAG had to shut shop in the early 70’s since several administrators and academicians realized that due to the highly complex setting which the group had provided for comparative Public Administration studies was resulting in failures in providing really empirical assessment of administration factors in a society.
  • They stated that it provided a very good direction but the techniques were not being specified to execute the thought. And so the studies were transferred back to the Department of Comparative Studies.
  • Also in 1968, the first Minnowbrook Conference was held under the chairmanship of Dwight Waldo that also talked about the need for Comparative Public Administration revise and analysis.






Public Administration by G.Rajput

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