Public Administration | Definition & Features

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PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION – Definitions and Features

Public Administration
Public Administration

Public administration is one of the sub-fields of Political Science. In this article, public administration is defined from the traditional and modern perspectives.

Definition Of Public Administration

There are as many definitions of public administration as the writers on the subject. Since most of these definitions are based on the personal experiences or orientation of the authors, they do not always reflect the essential attributes of public administration.

Indeed, some of the definitions are too short to be useful like the one, which defines public administration as an activity. The plethora of definitions might have made Dwight Waldo, one of the foremost writers in the field, to caution that: “But in truth there is no good definitions of public administration”. Or perhaps there are good short definitions, but no good explanation.

The immediate effect of all one-sentence or one-paragraph definitions of public administration is mental paralysis rather than enlightenment and stimulation”.

With this apt warning about the problem of defining public administration, the following definitions of the discipline by some of its leading authorities may be put in perspective.

  • Public administration is the organization and management of man and materials to achieve the purposes of government. – Dwaldo, 1955
  • Public Administration is the coordination of individual and group efforts to carry out public policy. – Coker, 1985
  • Public Administration is the study and practice of public bureaucracy. – Henry, l975
  • Public Administration is the government machinery established for the realization of public policy objectives. – Akinbade, 2004
  • Public Administration is the art and science of management as applied to affairs of the state. – Waldo, 1955
  • Public Administration is concerned with the study of how a country’s administration is organized and how it functions. – Adebayo, 1984
  • Public Administration is decision-making, planning the work to be done. formulating objectives and goals… establishing and reviewing organization, collecting and supervising employees. .. exercising controls and other functions performed by government executives and supervisors. It is the action part of government; the means by which the purposes and goals of government are realized. – Corson and Harris, 1969

Featuress Of Public Administration

From the seven defmitions of public administration given above, there are certain characteristics of the discipling that can be inferred.

  • Public Administration is both a science (study) and an art (practice). That is, it is both an academic discipline and an instrument by which the government achieves its objectives. However, In this article, we are concerned primarily with public administration as an academic discipline.
  • It is basically the administrative side of government found mainly in the executive branch.
  • As a state institution which is directly under the direction and control of government, public administration cannot be insulated from politics. That is, the work of public servants is directly influenced by larger political considerations.
  • Public Administration is involved in the processes of governmental decision making about how the powers of government are to be used.
  • Public Administration is concerned with the routine work of government.
  • Public Administration deals with the management of human and material resources in the public bureaucracy.
  • As a public agency, public administration may be found at national, state or regional government levels.
  • The people who work in the public bureaucracy, especially the higher civil servants are part of the governing elite.
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