Evolution of Public Administration as a discipline, new public administration

Evolution of Public Administration as a discipline, new public administration

There are five stages in the chronology of the evolution of Public Administration as a discipline; these stages are theoretically driven as encapsulated below:

Stage 1: politics administration dichotomy (1887-1926)

Stage 2: principles of administration (1927-1937)

Stage 3: era of challenge (1938-1947)

Stage 4: crises of identity (1948-1970)

Stage 5: public policy perspective (1971 onwards)

The first stage was the manifestation of Woodrow Wilson’s view of politics – administration dichotomy (difference between two things as they are completely opposite). This led to a spurt in the interest of its studies in various American as well as universities around the globe and reforms were made in government and thus scholars were attracted to public administration with a new vigour (Adamolekun, 1985). Woodrow Wilson propagated this view since at that time people were fed up with the government and its various policies, rampant corruption and the spoils system that prevailed in the bureaucratic framework. This was the major reason for people to readily lap up his view. L.D. White published a book” Introduction to the Study of Public Administration” in 1926 that further buttressed this view.

The second stage of administrative theory evolve a value neutral or rather value free science of management. It was believed that there are certain principles (guiding/basic ideas) of administration that are common to all organizations and will work for all bringing out optimum efficiency . This was the mature Industrial Revolution period and all that countries were concerned with was increasing production at any cost in order to earn big. Also Industrial revolution’s rapid expansion of industries led to new problems in management that were unforeseen and therefore difficult to solve. That’s when F.W. Taylor and Henri Fayol stepped in and generated their principles of administration/management. They were successful

administrators in their own right and therefore their views held a lot of water and were readily accepted by the industries world over. Frederich Winslow Taylor and Henri Fayol advocated for adopting engineering based scientific methods in the field of industrial work process in order to increase efficiency and economy. These schools of thought are grouped under the Classical theory of administration .


The third stage in the evolution of the theory of public administration is known as the era of challenge because the above mentioned principles and iron cage/mechanistic view of administration and workers were challenged. The Human relations theory brought about a pragmatic view to administrative issues. It emphasized on the human aspects of administration that sprung from the Hawthorne experiments conducted by Elton Mayo and his colleagues at Harvard Business School in the late 20’s and early 30’s of the twentieth century. The main focus of study in this approach was to study the psychological and social problems of the industrial workers . The scholars of this theory identified variables like informal organisation, leadership, morale and motivation for maximum use of human resources in industries. This led to a far vast study by Herbert Simon and others that developed the Behavioural Science theory.


The Fourth stage that is the crisis of identity stage is set in the late 20th century where many parts of the world, called the developing nations, were just out of wars and colonisation. This phase marked a debate for the return of values in public administration and cross cultural as well as cross national study of administration.there grew a need to reinvent public administration and lead to a question as to whether public administration that had been known as it is till then was relevant anymore. Thus was born the concept of ‘ New Public Administration’ It laid stress on values in public administration and a commitedness by administrators and scholars of the discipline towards value formulation and their implementation. It developed the thought of society and its welfare as the main goal of public administration in today’s times through the public policy approach. It brought democratic humanism and client orientation as well as the science perspective in New Public Administration. The collapse of the Soiet Union also strengthened this view.


The Fifth stage is the Public Policy theory in the development of Public

Administration theory. Public policy is an attempt by a government to address a public issue by instituting laws, regulations, decisions, or actions pertinent to the problem at hand. It is policy, as discussed by Stein (1952) that is made for the welfare of the people and their development. As a discipline public policy perspective is the study of government policies for the people and its pros and cons and how to better the same. Here it has come closer to political science again and also has incorporated many management principles to help public administration cope up with the dynamics of its discipline and conduct.

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