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At a first glance it seems easier to accept public administration as an art.

It is just the
administration of Government affairs and for most part it does not follow the laws of Science
like absence of normative value, predictability of behavior and universal application as argued by
many scholars world over. Its focus is specifically on public bureaucracy. The study and practice
of public bureaucracy is called public administration. It encompasses the management of public
agencies that carry out public policies in order to fulfill state purposes in the public interest.
Since government provides services for the people in the public interest, the administration of
governmental affairs is known as public administration. Thus the aim of this academic writing is
to look at what Public Administration is, and to discuss whether it is a science or an art using
Administration, theories of organization, and principles of management concept.

There are many authors who ferociously defended public administration and argued that it is in
fact a science. One of them was Frederick Taylor (1911) who wrote a book called The Principles
of Scientific Management in which he proposed to discover one best way of doing
things/operation and thus save on cost on time and energy. Luther Gulick and L Urvick
collectively published, Papers on the Science of Administration which reaffirmed its status as a
Science. W F Willoughby stated that public administration like Science has certain fundamental
principles which can be generally applied and therefore it is a Science (Ibid). However, there still
remain certain aspects to be established before public administration can be actually and in real
terms, be classified as a Science.

Public administration can also be seen as the activities of groups cooperating to accomplish the
common goals of government. Such common goals include defense, safeguarding the frontiers,
maintenance of law and order, fire protection, communications, public health, education, etc. In
managing public affairs, public administration focuses principally on the planning, organizing,
directing, coordinating and controlling of governmental operations.

The places of normative values in public administration should be clearly defined. More efforts
should be put in to understanding the human nature and dynamics at play in public
administration. Lastly, the principles of public administration should derive references from
across the worlds, cultures, type of states etc to make them more universal and free of cultural,

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religious and political biases. The advent of the modern welfare state itself has added, to the
changing approach to public administration. The kind of activities and sphere of works have
never been more varied and dynamic and there has been a never before interest in actually
improving the efficiency of the government.

Subject matter experts like Frederick Taylor have opened ways to exploration, experimentation,
observation, collection of data and analysis based on which principles and laws can be made.
There are increasing numbers of authors like Metcalfe, Fayol, Emerson, Follett, Mooney, and
more recently Drucker who have written on the subjects of administration. In-fact Drucker wrote
a book called “The Age of Discontinuity” and one of the chapters of the book called The
Sickness of Government became the basis of the New Public Management theory popular in
1980s which emphasized the market oriented management of the public sector (Brian, 1990).

The word ‘public’ it simply means the practice of administration in a particular segment of the
society, that of the public sector. Public administration is therefore governmental administration
and operates in the particular sphere of government. It is the machinery for implementing
government policy. Public administration is concerned with the study of how a country’s
administration is organized and how it functions. Since it is the machinery for implementing
government policy, it follows that its study must lead to the study of the most efficient ways of
organizing the executive branch of government, its institutions and its procedures. Public
administration is the machinery, as well as the integral processes through which the government
performs its functions. It is a network of human relationships and associated activities extending
from the government to the lowest paid and powerless individual charged with keeping in daily
touch with all resources, natural and human, and all other aspects of the life of the society with
which the government is concerned.

Art is skilful and systematized practice. It comes to a person partly as a matter of natural
endowment and partly from effort to learn and master its techniques. For a long time public
administration has been assumed as an art. It has been repeated often that administrators are born
and not made. Gifted administrators like Kautilya, Akbar, Todarmal, Bismarck and Sardar Patel
worked wonders with their administrative skill and were hailed as the greatest artists in their own

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field by an admiring world. This was the reason why training had no role in preparing an
administrator for his future job. However, there is difference of opinion among the thinkers on
whether public administration is an art, science or craft.

Before we decide whether there is a science of administration or not, it is necessary to


understand the meaning of the term “Science”. If by science is meant a conceptual scheme of
things in which every particularity covered may be assigned a mathematical value, and then
administration is not a science (Augustine, 1990). If on the other hand, we rightly use the term in
connection with a body of systematized knowledge, derived from experience and observation,
then public administration is a science. Public administration knowledge is increasing and public
administration study is being approached through the scientific method. Science is characterized
by precision and predictability. A scientific rule is one that works all the time. As a matter of fact
rules in science are considered to be so rigid and final that they are not called rules at all but
laws. Two parts of hydrogen combined with one part of Oxygen will always give us Water or
steam or ice, depending on the temperature regardless of where and when the amalgamation of
the two elements takes place.

Public Administration as a course of study emerged as a result of the deficiencies observed by


Woodrow Wilson (1887) in the aparatus for performing the numerous tasks of government.
Woodrow highlighted the importance of studying the administrative institution of government.
He opined that the task of public administration was ‘to straighten the paths of government, to
make its business less un-business like, to strengthen and purify its organizations, and to crown
its duties with dutifulness’. Other scholars developed interest in the study of public
administration and their writings further awakened general interest in the subject. However,
despite the huge awareness generated by these scholars, the subject lacks a universally accepted
definition. While some argue that it should be treated as a separate subject that should stand on
its own, other insist that it should be treated as a branch of political science. Public
administration can be viewed as those activities involved in carrying out the programmes and
policies of government irrespective of the system of the government in power.

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Whether monarchical, totalitarian, socialist, parliamentary or congressional, presidential, all
countries of the world require a machinery to put into effect the policies of the government at all
levels, that machinery is Public Administration. As a discipline or body of knowledge, Public
Administration is geared towards the understanding of governmental administration. It is
concerned towards the accomplishment of government businesses. As an academic discipline, it
is mostly interested in the structures, finances, materials and personnel and how it can be more
proactive. However, there have been confusions and debates as to the real status of Public
Administration. While some state that it should be regarded as part of Political Science, some say
should stand alone. There are some that say it is a science; some opined that it is an art. Yet some
classify it as both a science and an art.

Of course, if the apparatus combining them is dusty or if someone switches it off at the wrong
time, or if any of countless thousands of other things happen, the formation of H20 may not
occur. But this does not invalidate the formula. So nor sciences or some aspects of science,
achieve such a 100 percent level of predictability (Daniels, 1899). Many of the scientific aspects
of the social science similarly deal with expectations that govern only a portion of the elements
being scrutinized, not all of them. For example many social scientists feel that they have
established pretty much as a scientific law, the theory that political participation correlates with
education and affluence.

Public Administration is a newly emerged discipline compare to other Social Science’s


discipline. Public Administration has gained immense importance since the emergence of
Administrative state under the administrative concept. In Ancient Greek, Roman and Indian
political system gave more importance to the concept of Administration. Kautilys’s
“Arthasathra” contributed large scale in the administrative system; it deals every aspect of the
state and its relation to subjects. In simple sense Public Administration is state mechanism. In
every System administration have significant role. Public Administration is considered as an art
under the administrative concept. Webster Dictionary defines art as ‘skill acquired by experience,
study or observation, the conscious use of such skill’. Art is an acquired skill used in doing
things.

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According to Vigoda (2002) those who posit that Public Administration is an art has the
following arguments to buttress their assertion: that public administration deals with human
behavior which can not lend itself to the uniformity of nature, nor can it be easily analyzed in the
way that physical objects can; the administrative behavior is not always completely rational; that
no concept of Public Administration can be studied as an absolute constant, that is, something
not affected by circumstances of time place and environmental factors; that since the various
factors that influence the application of the policy cannot be measured, Public Administration as
a subject becomes inconcrete and flexible; That laws also lack universality e.g administration
policy changes from country to country due to differences in political system in various
countries.

Administration makes or should make great use of scientific data, laws, and theories. The use of
mathematics and computer sciences in some aspects of budgeting is a fairly obvious example.
The utilization is personnel work of somewhat less definitive but nevertheless statistically valid
material developed by psychologist is another. Thus administration uses these types of scientific
data, but is it a science itself? In attempting to answer this question we should note that the
utilization of science is not confirmed to the sciences themselves. Music, for instant, bases itself
on law of harmony that are quite mathematical. Painting depends on laws dealing with the
colours of the spectrum. Yet both music and painting are arts, not sciences. In a sense, the same
holds true for administration.

Administrators made use of scientific laws, techniques and data. But they do so in ways that
allow a great deal of free rein to the individual imagination and temperament. Practically every
social discipline, finds itself confronted with the question whether it can be a science? It is
obvious that social sciences cannot produce such results with the same certainty as it can in the
physical sciences like physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Astronomy etc.

Politics has no principles by following which a political leader or party can win a majority or
prevent revolution with absolute certainty. Economics has no sure recipe for making individual
or nation prosperous. Same way, public administration too has no sure principles by which
desired results can always be obtained (Wayne, 2010). And on his ground the physical scientists

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and others of their way of thinking during the claim of these studies to be sciences. On the other
hand period II (1927 - 1937) theories of Organization: The central belief of this is that there are
certain ‘organizational theories’ of administration and which is the task of the scholars to
discover and applied to increase the efficiency and economy of Public Administration.
According to this view, the works of only those persons who are engaged in the performance of
managerial functions in an organization constitute administration. In this managerial view the
administration has the functions of planning, programming and organize all the activities in an
organization so as to achieve the desired ends. Luther Gullick and Herbert Simon subscribe this
view. Gullick says ‘Administration has to do with getting things done; with the accomplishment
of defined objectives’. These two views are deals the nature of public administration. In simply
the nature of Public Administration deals the execution.

On the other hand period II (1927 - 1937) theories of Organization: The central belief of this is
that there are certain ‘organizational theories’ of administration and which is the task of the
scholars to discover and applied to increase the efficiency and economy of Public
Administration. Organizational concept handled the business of administration becomes a
slogan. Administrative practitioners and business school join hands to mechanistic aspect of
management. They claim that Public Administration is a science. The great depression in the
America contributed a lot to the development. These periods were the golden years of ‘theories
of organisation’ in the history of Public Administration. This was also a period when Public
Administration commanded a high degree or respectability and its product were in great demand
both in government and business. The idea of administrative dichotomy was rejected. It was
argued that Administration cannot be separated from politics because its political nature and role,
Administration is not only concern with policy decision but it deals with the policy formulation.
Similarly, the principle of Administration was challenge (Waido, 1968).

Organizational concept handled the business of administration becomes a slogan. Administrative


practitioners and business school join hands to mechanistic aspect of management. They claim
that Public Administration is a science. The great depression in the America contributed a lot to
the development. These periods were the golden years of ‘theories of organisation’ in the history
of Public Administration. This was also a period when Public Administration commanded a high

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degree or respectability and its product were in great demand both in government and business.
The idea of administrative dichotomy was rejected. It was argued that Administration cannot be
separated from politics because its political nature and role, Administration is not only concern
with policy decision but it deals with the policy formulation. Similarly, the principle of
Administration was challenge (Waido, 1968).

Willoughby, Taylor, Fayol, Gullick and Urwik etc defend the scientific side of public
administration by their principles of administration. Pfiffner agrees that specialists in Public
Administration have achieved a considerable degree of uniformity in the manner of approach to
the solution of problems which is characteristics of science. From the foregoing, Public
Administration is a science since it has a well systematized body of knowledge. It is an applied
science because it utilizes the basic principles of sciences. It is equally a social science since it
deals with human beings. However, we have to note that Public Administration is not a pure
science like physics, chemistry and biology which is subjected to a laboratory scientific
experiment (Vigoda, 2002).

From the foregoing, Public Administration is a science since it has a well systematized body of
knowledge. It is an applied science because it utilizes the basic principles of sciences. It is
equally a social science since it deals with human beings. However, we have to note that Public
Administration is not a pure science like physics, chemistry and biology which is subjected to a
laboratory scientific experiment (Waldo, 1968). Public administration can be entitled to be called
science only after its principles are directly derived from studies and investigations made in the
different societies of the world-in Asian, satin American and African Countries. No social science
including public administration, which studies human behaviour, can claim the degree of
precision and in fallibility characteristic of physical science. Dahl says, “We are long away from
a science of public administration” No science of public administration is possible unless: The
place of normative value is made clear, the nature of men in the area of administration is better
understood and his conduct is more predictable, there is a body of comparative studies from
which it may be possible to discover principles and generalities that transcend national
boundaries and peculiar historical experiences.

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Art is skilful and systematized practice. It comes to a person partly as a matter of natural
endowment and partly from effort to learn and master its techniques. For a long time public
administration has been assumed as an art. It has been repeated often that administrators are born
and not made. Gifted administrators like Kautilya, Akbar, Todarmal, Bismarck and Sardar Patel
worked wonders with their administrative skill and were hailed as the greatest artists in their own
field by an admiring world. This was the reason why training had no role in preparing an
administrator for his future job. However, there is difference of opinion among the thinkers on
whether public administration is an art, science or craft.

It is not a science to the extent that it has preciseness or universal validity of laws or principles.
To this extent there is no social science that can claim the pre-requisites of a physical science.
Public administration is primarily a science of observation rather than experiment. Public
administration is a progressive science whose generalization or ‘Principles’ are bound to be
constantly revised and restated in the light of fresh discovery of facts and new experience. There
can be no absolute liability about the lessons it teaches, although various points of view put
forward from time to time may give the student a truer and truer insight into the problems
involved.

In conclusion, administration uses artistry but is not an art. It uses science but is not a science. It
is more properly thought of as a craft, seeking to achieve goals and to meet standards, and in so
doing often managing to utilize all the creativity and capacity that its harried practitioners can
muster.

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REFEERNCES

Augustine, Philippe (2001), The Arts and Sciences: Comparisons of Natural, Physical and
Social Sciences: New York Publishing Press, New York

Brian O’Brian (1990), The concepts of Public Administration in the lens of Sciences: Oxford
Publishing Press, Oxford

Constantine, Zack (2003), the art of Public Administration: An inquiry into the Characteristics
of the Social and Scientific Sciences, New Delhi Publishers, New Delhi

Daniels, Given (1899), The 21st Century Argument of what is a Science and what is Not,
Sterling Publishers, Sterling

Wayne, P.M (2010) The Concepts of Scientific Study, Oxford University Press, Oxford

Vigoda E. (2002) (Editor). Public Administration: An Interdisciplinary Critical Analysis . New-


York: Marcel Dekker.

Waldo, D. (1968). Scope of the theory of public administration. Annals of the American
Academy of Political and Social Sciences, 8, 1-26.

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