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Sunday, 13 November 2022




One scholar claims that public administration has no generally accepted definition, because the scope of the subject is so great and so debatable that it is easier to explain than define. There is much disagreement about whether the study of public administration can properly be called a discipline, largely because of the debate over whether public administration is a subfield of political science or a subfield of administrative science (Kenneth 2012)[1].From the academic perspective, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in the United States defines the study of public administration as "A program that prepares individuals to serve as managers in the executive arm of local, state, and federal government and that focuses on the systematic study of executive organization and management. Includes instruction in the roles, development, and principles of public administration; the management of public policy; executive-legislative relations; public budgetary processes and financial management; administrative law; public personnel management; professional ethics; and research methods.

Therefore, Public administration houses the implementation of government policy and an academic discipline that studies this implementation and that prepares civil servants for this work.As a field of inquiry with a diverse scope its fundamental goal... is to advance management and policies so that government can function (Rabin, Hildreth, and Miller 1989). Some of the various definitions which have been offered for the term are: the management of public programs (Denhardt 2009), the translation of politics into the reality that citizens see every day (Donald and Fessler 2009) and the study of government decision making, the analysis of the policies themselves, the various inputs that have produced them, and the inputs necessary to produce alternative policies ( McKinney and Howard 1998)

Brief history:

In the United States of America, Woodrow Wilson is considered the father of public administration. He first formally recognized public administration in an 1887 article entitledThe Study of Administration. The future president wrote that it is the object of administrative study to discover, first, what government can properly and successfully do, and, secondly, how it can do these proper things with the utmost possible efficiency and at the least possible cost either of money or of energy (Wilson1887).

He advocated four concepts:

·         Separation of politics and administration

·         Comparative analysis of political and private organizations

·         Improving efficiency with business-like practices and attitudes toward daily operations

·         Improving the effectiveness of public service through management and by training civil servants, merit-based assessment

Frederick Taylor, another prominent scholar in the field of administration and management also published a book entitled ‘The Principles of Scientific Management’ (1911). He believed that scientific analysis would lead to the discovery of the ‘one best way’ to do things and /or carrying out an operation. This, according to him could help save cost and time. Taylor’s technique was later introduced to private industrialists, and later into the various government organizations (Jeong, 2007).

Taylor's approach is often referred to as Taylor's Principles, and/or Taylorism. Taylor's scientific management consisted of main four principles (Frederick W. Taylor, 1911):

·         Replace rule-of-thumb work methods with methods based on a scientific study of the tasks.

·         Scientifically select, train, and develop each employee rather than passively leaving them to train themselves.

·         Provide ‘Detailed instruction and supervision of each worker in the performance of that worker's discrete task’ (Montgomery 1997: 250).

·         Divide work nearly equally between managers and workers, so that the managers apply scientific management principles to planning the work and the workers actually perform the tasks.

In 1980s and 1990s there was a rise of New Public Management (NPM), was proposed by David Osborne and Ted Gaebler in their book Reinventing Government. The new model advocated the use of private sector-style models, organizational ideas and values to improve the efficiency and service-orientation of the public sector.

NPM's rise seems to belinked with four other administrative 'megatrends', namely:

(i)            attempts to slow down or reverse govemment growth in terms of overt public spending and staffing (Dunsire and Hood 1989);

(ii)           the shift toward privatization and quasi-privatization and away from core govemment institutions, with renewed emphasis on 'subsidiarity' in service provision (cf. Hood and Schuppert 1988; Dunleavy 1989).

(iii)          the development of automation, particularly in information technology, in the production and distribution of public services;

(iv)         the development of a more intemational agenda, increasingly focused on general issues of public management, policy design, decision styles and intergovernmental cooperation, on top of the older tradition of individual country specialisms in public administration.

(Hood 1990b)

In late 1990s and 2000sJanet and Robert Denhardt(2000) proposed a new public service model in response to the dominance of NPM.successor to NPM is digital era governance, focusing on themes of reintegrating government responsibilities, needs-based holism (executing duties in cursive ways), and digitalization (exploiting the transformational capabilities of modern IT and digital storage).

Anthropology and public administration:

The major field to which anthropologists have contributed directly is that of the administration of dependent peoples, either in a colonial context or in a situation such as that of the North American Indians. Anthropologists have been widely used as resources of expert knowledge about the workings of cultures and societies and have been hired to provide the information and analysis which government officials have used to form policy and design procedures for its implementation. The post of “Government Anthropologist” was a standard one in the British colonies; the French established research centres which sponsored fieldwork with applied implicationsl governments in Canada and the United States have had anthropologists on staff or as consultants; and in at least one instance, that of the United States Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, anthropologists were assigned direct administrative responsibility for the implementation of policies based upon their own cultural analysis.

In post war scenario the role of anthropologists in public administration is increasingly becoming prominent and inevitable. As the differences between administration and politics is apparent and more scientific tools are being used for policy making there is a rising demand of anthropologists to gather baseline data on populations to be governed and administered. The catchy phrases like “Needs Assessment”, “impact assessments” which are expected to deliver inputs in policy implications, failures and felt changes are increasingly becoming fields for anthropologists. As scholars like Fenno (1990) argues for the needs of gathering anthropological knowledge on politicians’ lifeworlds and their modes of decision making newer avenues for anthropologists are opening. Today anthropologists are playing different roles in public administrations these roles range from doing research for betterment of public service delivery to actually catering public services to the people.

Following is a list of positions anthropologists occupy in and around the domain of Public Administration:

1.    Policy research.

2.    Programme evaluator and designer

3.    Needs assessor

4.    Impact assessor

5.    Planner

6.    Advocator

7.    Advisor

8.    Consultant

To make anthropological knowledge and methodology more effective there are several new methods for doing policy analysis which helps in betterment of public administration. Methods like Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA), principally advocated by Robert Chambers, where local people are asked to make active participation for quick understanding of problems and possibilities are highly practiced. The use of Ethnographic sensitivity in understanding the local needs have become an art of doing anthropology. Other methods like Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA) are also increasingly used.

Participatory ethnography in organizations to assess the organizational effectiveness for betterment of the service delivery system with further suggestions, coupling of participation and change management have make the discipline of public administration more rich.

[1]Kernaghan, Kenneth. "Public administration" in The Canadian Encyclopedia. Available online at:http://thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0006540

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