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Public administration refers to two meanings: first, it is concerned with the implementation of government policy; second, it is an academic discipline that studies this implementation and prepares civil servants for working in the public service. As a "field of inquiry with a diverse scope" its "fundamental goal... is to advance management and policies so that government can function." Some of the various definitions which have been offered for the term are: "the management of public programs"; the "translation of politics into the reality that citizens see every day"; 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 behavior of officials (usually non-elected) formally responsible for their conduct" Many unelected public servants can be considered to be public administrators, including heads of city, county, regional, state and federal departments such as municipal budget directors, human resources (H.R.) administrators, city managers, census managers, state mental health directors, and cabinet secretaries. Public administrators are public servants working in public departments and agencies, at all levels of government.
In the US, civil servants and academics such as Woodrow Wilson promoted American civil service reform in the 1880s, moving public administration into academia. However, "until the mid-20th century and the dissemination of the German sociologist Max Weber's theory of bureaucracy" there was not "much interest in a theory of public administration." The field is multidisciplinary in character; one of the various proposals for public administration's sub-fields sets out six pillars, including human resources, organizational theory, policy analysis and statistics, budgeting, and ethics.
In 1947 Paul H. Appleby defined public administration as "public leadership of public affairs directly responsible for executive action". In a democracy, it has to do with such leadership and executive action in terms that respect and contribute to the dignity, the worth, and the potentials of the citizen.  One year later, Gordon Clapp, then Chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority defined public administration "as a public instrument whereby democratic society may be more completely realized." This implies that it must "relate itself to concepts of justice, liberty, and fuller economic opportunity for human beings" and is thus "concerned with "people, with ideas, and with things." 
Drawing on the democracy theme and discarding the link to the executive branch, Patricia M. Shields asserts that public administration "deals with the stewardship and implementation of the products of a living democracy."  The key term "product" refers to "those items that are constructed or produced" such as prisons, roads, laws, schools, and security. "As implementors, public managers engage these products." They participate in the doing and making of the "living" democracy. A living democracy is "an environment that is changing, organic", imperfect, inconsistent and teaming with values. "Stewardship is emphasized because public administration is concerned "with accountability and effective use of scarce resources and ultimately making the connection between the doing, the making and democratic values." 
More recently scholars claim 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". Public administration is a field of study (i.e., a discipline) and an occupation. 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". Scholar Donald Kettl is among those who view public administration "as a subfield within political science".
The North American Industry Classification System definition of the Public Administration (NAICS 91) sector states that public administration "... comprises establishments primarily engaged in activities of a governmental nature, that is, the enactment and judicial interpretation of laws and their pursuant regulations, and the administration of programs based on them". This includes "Legislative activities, taxation, national defense, public order and safety, immigration services, foreign affairs and international assistance, and the administration of government programs are activities that are purely governmental in nature".
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."
Dating back to Antiquity, Pharaohs, kings and emperors have required pages, treasurers, and tax collectors to administer the practical business of government. Prior to the 19th century, staffing of most public administrations was rife with nepotism, favoritism, and political patronage, which was often referred to as a "spoils system". Public administrators have been the "eyes and ears" of rulers until relatively recently. In medieval times, the abilitzies to read and write, add and subtract were as dominated by the educated elite as public employment. Consequently, the need for expert civil servants whose ability to read and write formed the basis for developing expertise in such necessary activities as legal record-keeping, paying and feeding armies and levying taxes. As the European Imperialist age progressed and the militarily powers extended their hold over other continents and people, the need for a sophisticated public administration grew.
The eighteenth-century noble, King Frederick William I of Prussia, created professorates in Cameralism in an effort to train a new class of public administrators. The universities of Frankfurt an der Oder and University of Halle were Prussian institutions emphasizing economic and social disciplines, with the goal of societal reform. Johann Heinrich Gottlob Justi was the most well-known professor of Cameralism. Thus, from a Western European perspective, Classic, Medieval, and Enlightenment-era scholars formed the foundation of the discipline that has come to be called public administration.
Lorenz von Stein, an 1855 German professor from Vienna, is considered the founder of the science of public administration in many parts of the world. In the time of Von Stein, public administration was considered a form of administrative law, but Von Stein believed this concept too restrictive. Von Stein taught that public administration relies on many prestablished disciplines such as sociology, political science, administrative law and public finance. He called public administration an integrating science, and stated that public administrators should be concerned with both theory and practice. He argued that public administration is a science because knowledge is generated and evaluated according to the scientific method.
Modern American public administration is an extension of democratic governance, justified by classic and liberal philosophers of the western world ranging from Aristotle to John Locke to Thomas Jefferson
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 entitled "The 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." Wilson was more influential to the science of public administration than Von Stein, primarily due to an article Wilson wrote in 1887 in which he advocated four concepts:
The separation of politics and administration has been the subject of lasting debate. The different perspectives regarding this dichotomy contribute to differentiating characteristics of the suggested generations of public administration.
By the 1920s, scholars of public administration had responded to Wilson's solicitation and thus textbooks in this field were introduced. A few distinguished scholars of that period were, Luther Gulick, Lyndall Urwick, Henri Fayol, Frederick Taylor, and others. Frederick Taylor (1856-1915), 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):
Taylor had very precise ideas about how to introduce his system (approach): ‘It is only through enforced standardization of methods, enforced adoption of the best implements and working conditions, and enforced cooperation that this faster work can be assured. And the duty of enforcing the adoption of standards and enforcing this cooperation rests with management alone.’
The American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) the leading professional group for public administration was founded in 1939. ASPA sponsors the journal Public Administration Review, which was founded in 1940.
The separation of politics and administration advocated by Wilson continues to play a significant role in public administration today. However, the dominance of this dichotomy was challenged by second generation scholars, beginning in the 1940s. Luther Gulick's fact-value dichotomy was a key contender for Wilson's proposed politics-administration dichotomy. In place of Wilson's first generation split, Gulick advocated a "seamless web of discretion and interaction".
Luther Gulick and Lyndall Urwick are two second-generation scholars. Gulick, Urwick, and the new generation of administrators built on the work of contemporary behavioral, administrative, and organizational scholars including Henri Fayol, Fredrick Winslow Taylor, Paul Appleby, Frank Goodnow, and Willam Willoughby. The new generation of organizational theories no longer relied upon logical assumptions and generalizations about human nature like classical and enlightened theorists.
Gulick developed a comprehensive, generic theory of organization that emphasized the scientific method, efficiency, professionalism, structural reform, and executive control. Gulick summarized the duties of administrators with an acronym; POSDCORB, which stands for planning, organizing, staffing, directing, coordinating, reporting, and budgeting. Fayol developed a systematic, 14-point, treatment of private management. Second-generation theorists drew upon private management practices for administrative sciences. A single, generic management theory bleeding the borders between the private and the public sector was thought to be possible. With the general theory, the administrative theory could be focused on governmental organizations.The mid-1940s theorists challenged Wilson and Gulick. The politics-administration dichotomy remained the center of criticism.
During the 1950s, the United States experienced prolonged prosperity and solidified its place as a world leader. Public Administration experienced a kind of hey-day due to the successful war effort and successful post war reconstruction in Western Europe and Japan. Government was popular as was President Eisenhower. In the 1960s and 1970s, government itself came under fire as ineffective, inefficient, and largely a wasted effort. The costly American intervention in Vietnam along with domestic scandals including the bugging of Democratic party headquarters (the 1974 Watergate scandal) are two examples of self-destructive government behavior that alienated citizens.
There was a call by citizens for efficient administration to replace ineffective, wasteful bureaucracy. Public administration would have to distance itself from politics to answer this call and remain effective. Elected officials supported these reforms. The Hoover Commission, chaired by University of Chicago professor Louis Brownlow, to examine reorganization of government. Brownlow subsequently founded the Public Administration Service (PAS) at the university, an organization which has provided consulting services to all levels of government until the 1970s.
Concurrently, after World War II, the whole concept of public administration expanded to include policy-making and analysis, thus the study of ‘administrative policy making and analysis’ was introduced and enhanced into the government decision-making bodies. Later on, the human factor became a predominant concern and emphasis in the study of Public Administration. This period witnessed the development and inclusion of other social sciences knowledge, predominantly, psychology, anthropology, and sociology, into the study of public administration (Jeong, 2007). Henceforth, the emergence of scholars such as, Fritz Morstein Marx with his book ‘The Elements of Public Administration’ (1946), Paul H. Appleby ‘Policy and Administration’ (1952), Frank Marini ‘Towards a New Public Administration’ (1971), and others that have contributed positively in these endeavors.
In the late 1980s, yet another generation of public administration theorists began to displace the last. The new theory, which came to be called New Public Management, 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. During the Clinton Administration (1993–2001), Vice President Al Gore adopted and reformed federal agencies using NPM approaches. In the 1990s, new public management became prevalent throughout the bureaucracies of the US, the UK and, to a lesser extent, in Canada.
Some modern authors define NPM as a combination of splitting large bureaucracies into smaller, more fragmented agencies, encouraging competition between different public agencies, and encouraging competition between public agencies and private firms and using economic incentives lines (e.g., performance pay for senior executives or user-pay models). NPM treats individuals as "customers" or "clients" (in the private sector sense), rather than as citizens.
Some critics argue that the New Public Management concept of treating people as "customers" rather than "citizens" is an inappropriate borrowing from the private sector model, because businesses see customers as a means to an end (profit), rather than as the proprietors of government (the owners), opposed to merely the customers of a business (the patrons). In New Public Management, people are viewed as economic units not democratic participants. Nevertheless, the model is still widely accepted at all levels of government and in many OECD nations.
In the late 1990s, Janet and Robert Denhardt proposed a new public services model in response to the dominance of NPM. A 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).One example of this is openforum.com.au, an Australian non-for-profit eDemocracy project which invites politicians, senior public servants, academics, business people and other key stakeholders to engage in high-level policy debate.
Another new public service model is what has been called New Public Governance, an approach which includes a centralization of power; an increased number, role and influence of partisan-political staff; personal-politicization of appointments to the senior public service; and, the assumption that the public service is promiscuously partisan for the government of the day.
Increasingly, public policy academics and practitioners have utilized the theoretical concepts of political economy to explain policy outcomes such as the success or failure of reform efforts and/or the persistence of sub-optimal outcomes.
In academia, the field of public administration consists of a number of sub-fields. Scholars have proposed a number of different sets of sub-fields. One of the proposed models uses five "pillars":
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Given the array of duties public administrators find themselves performing, the professional administrator might refer to a theoretical framework from which he or she might work. Indeed, many public and private administrative scholars have devised and modified decision-making models.
In 1971, Professor William Niskanen proposed a rational choice variation which he called the "budget-maximizing model". He claimed that rational bureaucrats will universally seek to increase the budgets of their units (to enhance their stature), thereby contributing to state growth and increased public expenditure. Niskanen served on President Reagan's Council of Economic Advisors; his model underpinned what has been touted as curtailed public spending and increased privatization. However, budgeted expenditures and the growing deficit during the Reagan administration is evidence of a different reality. A range of pluralist authors have critiqued Niskanen's universalist approach. These scholars have argued that officials tend also to be motivated by considerations of the public interest.
The bureau-shaping model, a modification of Niskanen, holds that rational bureaucrats only maximize the part of their budget that they spend on their own agency's operations or give to contractors and interest groups. Groups that are able to organize a "flowback" of benefits to senior officials would, according to this theory, receive increased budgetary attention. For instance, rational officials will get no benefit from paying out larger welfare checks to millions of low-income citizens because this does not serve a bureaucrats' goals. Accordingly, one might instead expect a jurisdiction to seek budget increases for defense and security purposes in place programming. If we refer back to Reagan once again, Dunleavy's bureau shaping model accounts for the alleged decrease in the "size" of government while spending did not, in fact, decrease. Domestic entitlement programming was financially de-emphasized for military research and personnel.
In the United States, the academic field of public administration draws heavily on political science and administrative law. Some MPA programs include economics courses to give students a background in microeconomic issues (markets, rationing mechanisms, etc.) and macroeconomic issues (e.g., national debt). Scholars such as John A. Rohr write of a long history behind the constitutional legitimacy of government bureaucracy. In Europe (notably in Britain and Germany), the divergence of the field from other disciplines can be traced to the 1720s continental university curriculum. Formally, official academic distinctions were made in the 1910s and 1890s, respectively.
The goals of the field of public administration are related to the democratic values of improving equality, justice, security, efficiency, effectiveness of public services usually in a non-profit, non-taxable venue; business administration, on the other hand, is primarily concerned with taxable profit. For a field built on concepts (accountability, governance, decentralization, clientele), these concepts are often ill-defined and typologies often ignore certain aspects of these concepts (Dubois & Fattore 2009).
One minor tradition that the more specific term "public management" refers to ordinary, routine or typical management concerns, in the context of achieving public good. Others argue that "public management" refers to a newer, market-driven perspective on the operation of government. This latter view is often called "new public management" by its advocates. New Public Management represents a reform attempt, aimed at reemphasizing the professional nature of the field. This will replace the academic, moral or disciplinary emphasis. Some theorists advocate a bright line differentiation of the professional field from related academic disciplines like political science and sociology; it remains interdisciplinary in nature.
One public administration scholar, Donald Kettl, argues that "...public administration sits in a disciplinary backwater", because "...[f]or the last generation, scholars have sought to save or replace it with fields of study like implementation, public management, and formal bureaucratic theory". Kettl states that "public administration, as a subfield within political science...is struggling to define its role within the discipline". He notes two problems with public administration: it "has seemed methodologically to lag behind" and "the field’s theoretical work too often seems not to define it"-indeed, "some of the most interesting recent ideas in public administration have come from outside the field".
Public administration theory is the domain in which discussions of the meaning and purpose of government, the role of bureaucracy in supporting democratic governments, budgets, governance, and public affairs takes place. In recent years, public administration theory has periodically connoted a heavy orientation toward critical theory and postmodern philosophical notions of government, governance, and power. However, many public administration scholars support a classic definition of the term emphasizing constitutionality, public service, bureaucratic forms of organization, and hierarchical government.
Comparative public administration is defined as the study of administrative systems in a comparative fashion or the study of public administration in other countries. Another definition for "comparative public administration" is the "quest for patterns and regularities in administrative action and behavior". There have been several issues which have hampered the development of comparative public administration, including: the major differences between Western countries and developing countries; the lack of curriculum on this subfield in public administration programs; and the lack of success in developing theoretical models which can be scientifically tested. the Comparative Administration group has defined CPA as, "the of publicadministration applied to diverse cultures and national setting and the body of factual data, by which it can be examined and tested." Accordingly to Jong S. Jun, "CPA has been predominantly cross-cultural and cross-national in orientation."
Some public administration programs have similarities to business administration programs, in cases where the students from both the MPA and MBA programs take many of the same courses. In some programs, the MPA is more clearly distinct from the MBA, inthat the MPA often emphasizes substantially different ethical and sociological criteria that are traditionally secondary to that of profit for business administrators. The MPA is related to similar graduate level government studies programs including MA programs in public affairs, public policy, and political science. Differences often include program emphases on policy analysis techniques or other topical focuses such as the study of international affairs as opposed to focuses on constitutional issues such as separation of powers, administrative law, problems of governance and power, and participatory democracy.
There are two types of doctoral degrees in public administration: the Doctor of Public Administration and the Ph.D. in Public Administration. The Doctor of Public Administration (DPA) is an applied-research doctoral degree in the field of public administration, focusing on practice. The DPA requires a dissertation and significant coursework beyond the Masters level. Upon successful completion of the doctoral requirements, the title of "Doctor" is awarded and the post-nominals of D.P.A. are often added. Some universities use the Ph.D. as their doctoral degree in public administration (e.g., Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada).
Notable scholars of public administration have come from a range of fields. In the period before public administration existed as its own independent discipline, scholars contributing to the field came from economics, sociology, management, political science, administrative law, and, other related fields. More recently, scholars from public administration and public policy have contributed important studies and theories.
There are several organizations that are active. The Commonwealth Association of Public Administration and Management CAPAM is perhaps the most diverse, covering the 54 member states of the Commonwealth from India to Nauru. Its biennial conference brings together ministers of public service, top officials and leading scholars in the field.
The oldest is the International Institute of Administrative Sciences. Based in Brussels, Belgium, the IIAS is a worldwide platform providing a space for exchanges that promote knowledge and practices to improve the organization and operation of Public Administration and to ensure that public agencies will be in a position to better respond to the current and future expectations and needs of society. The IIAS has set up four entities: the International Association of Schools and Institutes of Administration (IASIA), the European Group for Public Administration (EGPA), The Latin American Group for Public Administration (LAGPA) and the Asian Group for Public Administration (AGPA).
IASIA is an association of organizations and individuals whose activities and interests focus on public administration and management. The activities of its members include education and training of administrators and managers. It is the only worldwide scholarly association in the field of public management. EGPA, LAGPA and AGPA are the regional sub-entities of the IIAS.
Also the International Committee of the US-based Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) has developed a number of relationships around the world. They include sub regional and National forums like CLAD, INPAE and NISPAcee, APSA, ASPA.
The Center for Latin American Administration for Development (CLAD), based in Caracas, Venezuela, this regional network of schools of public administration set up by the governments in Latin America is the oldest in the region. The Institute is a founding member and played a central role in organizing the Inter-American Network of Public Administration Education (INPAE). Created in 2000, this regional network of schools is unique in that it is the only organization to be composed of institutions from North and Latin America and the Caribbean working in public administration and policy analysis. It has more than 49 members from top research schools in various countries throughout the hemisphere.
NISPAcee is a network of experts, scholars and practitioners who work in the field of public administration in Central and Eastern Europe, including the Russian Federation and the Caucasus and Central Asia. The US public administration and political science associations like NASPAA, American Political Science Association (APSA) and American Society of Public Administration (ASPA). These organizations have helped to create the fundamental establishment of modern public administration.