Historical Evolution Of Public Administration

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Historical Evolution of Public Administration in U.S

Historical Evolution of Public Administration in U.S


The term public administration encompasses a vast range of issues and activities. One way of grasping this diversity is to distinguish between two sets of questions: How public authorities are organized and how they seek to act within societies through making and implementing public policy. In short, public administration is about the state “in action” and “in interaction.” Traditionally the organization and the action of the state have generally been seen as coterminous with the concept of government. (Koritansky 2007) This paper discusses the historical evolution of public administration in the United States.


Van (2006) mentions over the last thirty years, however, an increasing number of academics, experts, and practitioners have begun to differentiate between public administration that is government and that which they label governance. According to this view, (Western) societies and economies have been transformed to such an extent that public authorities have been obliged to change both their internal modes of functioning and the way they engage with nonstate actors. More precisely, proponents of the concept of governance consider that it not only encapsulates changes in public administration itself but acts as a catalyst to the transformation of state-society relations (Van, 2006). This paper discusses the historical evolution of public administration in the United States of America in a concise and comprehensive way.

What developments, events, and persons have served as forces for change in Public Administration in the United States?

In order to focus attention on American Public Administration, let us consider how the structure of a country's bureaucracy affects the ability of a democracy to survive. Concretely, by contrast with almost all other presidentialist regimes, appointed officials, headed by military officers, have never seized power in the U.S. This may be the most striking difference between the American experience and that of other presidentialist (separation-of-powers) constitutional systems. To explain this American exception we need to consider two variables: bureaucratic power and performance. In general, these variables are positively correlated: the more powerful a bureaucracy, the greater its capacity to administer. However, there is a ceiling in this relationship (Waldo, 2000).

When bureaucratic power grows above the capacity of political leaders to maintain control, they are able to seize power during a time of severe crisis. Since this is a reciprocal relationship, one might say, instead, that when the ability of a regime to control its bureaucracy drops below a certain level, it courts disaster in the form of a coup leading to the imposition of bureaucratic domination. Moreover, the lack of effective controls by non-bureaucratic institutions destroys a regime' s administrative capabilities. Consequently, uncontrolled bureaucrats in power are especially vulnerable to corruption, laziness, and ignorance (Waldo, 2000). These failings ultimately destroy the capacity of any dominant bureaucracy to govern effectively and leads to regime instability, often taking the form of a counter-coup whereby rival intra-bureaucratic cliques contend for power, but sometimes leading to popular movements that, perhaps with international support, lead to a ...
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