Theories of public administration.

Theories of Public Administration

Public Administration is an aspect of a more generic concept of administration.

Public Administration houses the implementation of government policy and an academic discipline that studies this implementation and that prepares civil servants for this work. Some of the various definitions which have been offered for them are: the management of public programmes; 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. Public

Administration is centrally concerned with the organization of government policies and programmes as well as the behaviour of officials formally responsible for their conduct.

Public Administration is the machinery used by the service state to place itself in a position to make plans and programmes that can carried out, and to carry out the plans and programmes it has made. Administration is of importance for another reason too. It is essentially national character makes it a powerful instrument of national integration. Public Administration is the first need of a society, more so of a developing country like India, which has chalked out for herself numerous plans of economic and social betterment.

Public Administration as a discipline consists of five branches:

(I). Organisational theory and Behaviour;

(II). Public Personal Administration;

(III). Public Financial Administration;

(IV). Comparative and Development Administration and

(V). Public Policy Analysis

Theories of public administration can be categorized into: classical theories , modern theories and postmodern theories ,

Classical Theory

The classical approach is based upon the ideas similarly generated in the late 1800‘s and early 1900‘s and are primarily based upon the economic rationality of all employees. This evolved around the classical assumption of Adam smith, that people are motivated by economic incentives and that they will rationally consider opportunities that provide for them the greatest economic gain. The rational  economic view is summarized as below, based on Schein (1970)‘s position, :

i.people are motivated by economic gains;

  1. Because organizations control economic incentives, an individual is primarily a passive resource to be manipulated, controlled and motivated by the organization;

iii. Irrational emotions must be kept from interfering with economic rationality;

  1. Organizations can be designed in ways to control irrational emotions and thus unpredictable, dysfunctional behaviours of employees .

Scientific management, Administrative principles, and bureaucratic organization all work on the principals of classical theory.

Modern Theory

The modern theory of public administration emphasizes more on behavioural and quantitative schools of thought. Modern management theory has changed the way public administrators look at their jobs . Advancements and refinements in management theory and practice have enabled managers and managerial systems to evolve.

The modern approach to public administration is oriented to results, focusing on clients, outputs and outcomes. The adoption of new form of public management means the emergence of a new paradigm in public sector

.Following are the models and approaches of modern public administration:-

 System Approach or System Model

This is also called system analysis of organization and it was developed in the ‗50s to eliminate the deficiencies of the classical model by requiring that any organization should be viewed as a system and its actions performed.The approach views administrative system (formal organization, informal organization, roles, and individuals) and examines the inter linkages among various parts. System theory also analyses the dynamic interaction between an administrative system and its external environment. It is noteworthy to reaffirm public administration to be the facilitation of positive outcome of these interactions and where possible, limit any unintended negative consequence.

 Structural Functional Approach

The entire units that constitute the sum of a system are structures and these structures function to ensure the delivery of services to the public. Structural functionalism or simply referred to as functionalism is the relations among government sub system such as intergovernmental relations with the goal of achieving desired goals through an institutional arrangement that perform certain functions in order to survive and operate efficiently. It tries to explain how structures operate in a society, the various part or institutions combine to give society over time.

 contingency theory

contingency theory is a class of behavioral theory that claims that there is no best way to organize a corporation, to lead a company or to make decisions. Instead the optimal course of action is contingent (dependent) upon the internal and external situation.

 Behavioral School

work satisfaction and hence performance is basically not economic – depends more on working conditions and attitudes – communications, positive management response and encouragement, working environment. The influence of the peer group.


Postmodern theory is a broad and somewhat ambiguous belief system tied to the philosophical and cultural reaction to the convictions of Modernism (sometimes equated with Humanism). Postmodernism is the philosophical proposal that reality is ultimately inaccessible by human investigation, that knowledge is a social construction, that truth-claims are political power plays, and that the meaning of words is to be determined by readers not authors

Post modernism is highly sceptical of explanations which claim to be valid for all groups, cultures, traditions, or races and instead focuses on the relative truth of each person. It relies on concrete experience over abstract principles, knowing always that the outcome of one‘s own experience will necessarily be fallible and relative, rather than certain and universal.

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