‘Public Administration’ is in the phase of reconstructions and deconstruction and its scope is ever expanding.......Q&A

‘Public Administration’ is in the phase of reconstructions and deconstruction and its scope is ever expanding.

PA is a dynamic discipline. Its scope and subject matter keeps on evolving and transforming with time.

Right from the 1887 essay of Wilson which established the identity of PA as a distinct discipline to the contemporary post-modern view, it has gone through multiple phases of reconstruction and destruction, eulogisous and controversies, crests and troughs etc.

Historically analyzing the early 20th century saw advent of classical and scientific management movement, which led to human relation movement (emphasis on socio-psychological aspects) and subsequent behavioural thoughts (man as ‘administrative man’, Simon’s decision making model, emphasis on system theory and viewing man as ‘administrative man’). Subsequent theorists like Argyris, McGregor, Likert, Herzberg emphasized on management, employee participation, emphasis on theory Y instead of theory X, participative management approaches etc. The heralding of theory Z by Ouchi emphasized on motifs (theme that is repeated and developed in an artistic work) like trust and co-operation. No wonders thinkers like Riggs themselves reformulated his hypothesis of viewing degree of differentiation as the only parameter on which system evolve, he introduced a 2-D – differentiation and integration on which development occurs. Complexities in the environment led to demise of the Comparative Administrative Group, evolving of NPA and replacement of New Public Management emphasizing on the role of private sector and transformed role of governance in 1990s. Emergence of digital era, in fact has compelled the thinkers to realign their thinking in the view of improved ICT technologies and complex systems which require unique solutions depending on the context.

Francis Fukuyuma in his masterpiece ‘The Death of History’ cautioned that liberal democracies will be the reality in the 21st century. Political scientists visualized ‘clash of civilizations and remaking of a new world order’ (Samuel Huttington), thinkers even mentioned ‘death of ideology’ as new characteristics of millennium, and the list goes on and on.

The macro theories of the discipline are dead (according to post-modern view). No more grand generalisation like NPA, NPM etc can be panacea to administrative problems faced by a nation. Situations have become so unique and context driven that localized solutions, instead of grand theory building (for theory sake), are the need of the hour.

Thus in every branch of the PA whether development aspect, comparative, financial, personnel – many of the earlier themes are not relevant. Rise of anti-development thesis because of increased disparities and a proactive role of civil society and transformed role of state is a case in point. Not mere governance but good governance and that too suited to a particular time and space is the need of hour.

However not to say that some of the dominant themes and structural pillars of earlier eras are not significant or useful. Bureaucracy to take care of the rational legal system, democratic participation in giving the say to the common man, delegated legislation to empower executive in law-making in consonance with legislature, motivation and leadership theories in improving morale is personnel administration, sound financial policies and regulatory mechanisms etc are the pillars which are ubiquitous and will continue to be so.

The relevance and identity of PA is undoubtedly secure and uncontentious. Need of the hour is to continuously transform it to cater to the need of the system and the people, the reason of its existence.

Some Appreciation Please!