A state has been perceived as a vital component of social and economic development. Most people regard effective administration as a main agent in the implementation, as well as the formulation of development programs. In the 1950s, several developing countries embraced various mechanisms for delivering political and economic benefits to people. This led to the expansion of public administration (Shafritz, Russell, & Borick, 2015). Additionally, the States took a leading role in accelerating development. The theories of public administration also developed during this time. However, tracing the point at which theory and practice of public administration began is not possible. This paper examines the history of public administration. Additionally, it presents a discussion on the strengths and weaknesses of various public administration theories.
The practice of public administration began since human civilization. Certain books were regarded as first attempts at highlighting the discipline. These books authored by White and Willoughby in 1927 marked the beginning of public administration discipline. However, the evolution of public administration began earlier than the stated time. Practicing administration in the public sector has been an essential growth engine. It operates in various governmental spheres. Its evolution is believed to have occurred in five stages.
Initial stages began by the manifestation of Woodrow’s political views. In his writings, he maintained that people had become fed up with governmental efforts due to corruption and bureaucracy (Shafritz, Russell, & Borick, 2015). This led to interests in the developmental role of states from various learning institutions. It was followed by a second stage that evolved into a value free management science. During this phase, certain administrative principles were developed. This governed administration in various organizations. Additionally, the principles were aimed at ensuring efficiency in the delivery of policies. During this period, complex management issues emerged prompting Fredrick Taylor to generate administrative principles. Henri Fayol also contributed in formulation the principles of administration.
The era of challenge shaped public administration emphasizing various human administration aspects. Principles formulated in the previous stages were challenged. Its emphasis lay on human dimensions of public administration. These ideas originated from the Hawthorne experiments (Raadschelders & Vigoda-Gadot, 2015). The lead researcher in the study was Elton Mayo. Apart from the Hawthorne experiment, other studies were also conducted to refine public administration. These include studies conducted by Herbert Simon, Edwin Stene, and Chester Bernard. Simon maintained that decision analysis was an essential issue in public administration. Analysis of administrative behavior through decisions assisted in developing public administration.
The crisis identity phase followed this period of challenge and adjustment of the civil service principles. It occurred in the late twentieth century following the independence of various developing nations. In 1960, the United States experienced problems that traditional practices on public administration was unable to solve. This led to the reinvention of the public administration. In 1968, a new concept of public administration was developed following the Minnowbrook Conference. Scholars from the conference emphasized on societal welfare as the primary goal of public administration (Raadschelders & Vigoda-Gadot, 2015).
The next phase of evolution involved public policy formulations. States attempted to solve public issues by the institution of regulations, laws, decisions, as well as necessary actions. These policies were developed for people's welfare. Additionally, this phase incorporated management science into public administration. This incorporation was essential in ensuring public administration coped with the dynamic environment.
Theories of Public Administration
Theories have been developed to assist in making predictions, explanations, as well as understanding various public administration concepts. Public administration theories are categorized into three broad groups including classical, modern, and postmodern. Classical theories advance ideas developed in the 1900s. They were based on employees' economic rationality. Classical theories revolved around Adam Smith's assumption that economic incentives are the primary motivating factor. People often consider opportunities with higher economic gains. This paper examines the administrative principles theory. Other classical theories include the scientific management and bureaucratic organization theories.
The administrative theory was developed by Henri Fayol focusing on management’s personal duties. Apart from the five principle roles, management also has administrative principles (Sapru, 2013). Some of them include centralization, staff remuneration, equity, order, initiative, and individual interest subordination. These principles were aimed at ensuring efficiency in various organizations. The theory’s comprehensiveness makes it an essential tool for understanding public administration. It is based on human populations, which makes it error prone. Moreover, it encourages unity, command, and harmony for better operations. Any mistake committed by an employee may lead to reduced team strength.
The modern theories of public administration emphasize on quantitative, as well as behavioral ideas. These theories have revolutionized the perceptions of administrators towards jobs. They focus on results, clients, and outcomes. Theories under this model include a system, contingency, and behavioral approaches. Contingency theory maintains that no single way exists of organizing an institution. Decisions should be made based on current situations. Leaders apply their styles of administration to the right situations. It is often considered as dominant, open, and rational (Sapru, 2013). Its flexibility in decision-making is essential in public administration. The approach can work in several areas depending on situations. However, it is open to abuse. The use of contingency decision-making approaches can lead to wrong decisions made by managers. Additionally, it has a potential of breeding dictators.
In conclusion, public administration is an essential component in governments. It allows for the formulation of policies that lead to societal development. The history of public administration highlights various challenges that managers can encounter. Besides, the theories assist in understanding, explaining, and making predictions. These are vital in the development of public administration practice and theory.
Raadschelders, J., & Vigoda-Gadot, E. (2015). Global Dimensions of Public Administration and Governance: A Comparative Voyage. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.
Sapru, R. (2013). Administrative Theories and Management Thought. New Delhi, India: PHI Learning Pvt.
Shafritz, J. M., Russell, E. W., & Borick, C. (2015). Introducing Public Administration. New York: Routledge.