Public Administration: Theory, Issues, and Opportunities

Posted on April 14, 2020

Humankind developed the political system with a specific hierarchy adjusted to the needs and specifications of every particular region. Public administration is a sphere of people’s activity aimed to realize, control, and perform all laws, reforms, recommendations, and requirements of government. Numerous experts were developing theories aiming to explain fundamental regu-larities of the public administration functioning. This theoretical sphere is complicated because systems of public administration differ in various countries and even in regions of one country. The institutions of public administration use their executive powers to deliver these functions, organizing an activity in such a way to provide the population with comfortable living conditions. Modern institutions of public administration face different challenges because a lot of spheres and social issues are a part of their competence. Therefore, theoretical exploration of public administration, paying attention to its organization, opportunities, and challenges is necessary to develop a correct understanding of the issue.

Theory of Public Administration

The assumption of the concept of public administration is changing together with the develop-ment of political systems in different states. The idea of public administration also experienced numerous shifts because of the changing global political environment. In its generic meaning, public administration is currently considered from two different perspectives. First of all, public administration is a part of political science or administrative law that is aimed to explain the mechanisms of various governmental programs implementation at different organizational levels of a country (Farmer 132). People studying public administration are expected to become civil servants working in particular state institutions. The second meaning of public administration refers to its practical part and indicates the process and the subjects of the governmental policies organization and implementation. It is significant to understand that public administration is a national system of municipal departments and agencies, in which public administrators or civil servants are providing appropriate functioning of governmental projects.

In 1947, Paul H. Appleby, a well-known American theorist of public administration in democracies, developed the most popular definition of a public administration. Appleby deter-mined the concept as civic leadership of public affairs conducted through and responsible for ex-ecutive action. However, this definition is often considered as too general and appropriate exclu-sively for the democratic states as Appleby wanted the public administration institutions to be provided with too broad powers. Gordon Clapp suggested another e definition of public admin-istration in 1948. It indicated that the public administration should be accepted more as a general instrument used to implement government programs based on the principles of justice, liberty, and fair economic opportunities (Farmer 132). During this period, two different definitions of public administration were developed based on the difference between countries and their politi-cal orders. The North American Industry Classification System represented the most modern and detaily developed definition of the public administration concept. According to this institution, the idea is a system of measures, mechanisms, and processes (including national defense, taxa-tion, public order, legislative activities, foreign affairs, immigration services, and safety) that are working to enact governmental regulations and administrative programs (Farmer 132). Generally speaking, the issue of public administration is quite complicated to explain theoretically due to the wide variation of its forms. Being correct in an understanding of the concept, one should es-timate it as a system of people, documents, regulations, mechanisms, and processes.

A lot of experts and researchers have considered the issue of public administration with the aim of developing the most effective and multipurpose system of public administration. The general theory of the public administration can be divided into three branches, including Classical Public Administration Theory, New Public Management Theory, and Postmodern Public Administration Theory (Frederickson 162). Every approach to the consideration of the issue is unique because it is based on different perspectives changing through the years. New countries often have a specific system of public administration that can not always be explained by one separate theory but with their combination.

Classical Public Administration Theory is based mainly on the works of Max Weber and Woodrow Wilson. These academics are representatives of different countries that were preserv-ing opposite ideologies, but their theoretical frameworks of public administration are often ac-cepted as the elements of one approach. Max Weber considered that public administration is a bureaucratic system that should be organized based on the factor of dominance (Farmer 95). Ide-as of Weber can be characterized as a complicated intertwining of capitalist economic theory, social rationalism, and secularization. He tried to represent the public administration as a tool used to spread a state power and regulate the social order in a country.

The theory developed by Woodrow Wilson is considered to be one of the most effective approaches to public administration. The fundamental idea of Wilson was interconnected with the differentiation of the public administration sphere into two sectors, politics and administra-tion. According to Wilson, the primary purpose of public administration is the execution of na-tional civil law. His theory was based on the assumption that the public administration should be accepted similarly as a sphere of business with the supply and demand concepts (Frederickson 162). As a result, the approach offered by Woodrow Wilson was successfully implemented in the system of the United States, whose public administration is now estimated as one of the most effective in the world.

The New Public Management Theory was developed based on the experience of the United Kingdom. The theory is rooted in ideas of capitalism aiming to save the interests of elites, which lead to the transformation of the social and economic spheres into a politically regulated. This approach had a profound influence of supranational organizations (in the case of the United Kingdom, it refers to the impact of the European Union). In fact, such a system of public admin-istration is based on appropriate financing of all social spheres and the provision of necessary expenditures for implementation of governmental regulations (Frederickson 162). This theory is more concentrated on the way it is implemented in practice, often through the creation of compe-tition in different state spheres. In these conditions, residents of the country receive an opportunity to choose a comfortable performer of national regulations.

The third theory of public administration is the Postmodern Public Administration, an idea that describes modern systems in terms of globalization. The central element of this theory is the fragmentation of the state and authority. This process develops under the influence of con-sumerism and flexible economic systems. The fragmentation represents the public administration as a complicated process that depends on the work of every man and woman in its institutions. Public administrations are accepted as specific entities that function based on the team of people that differ by their culture, vision of the process, and personal features while their cooperation results in the more or less successful implementation of governmental regulations.

Public administration is a complicated sphere that can be divided into several specific ar-eas, including community development, sustainability, environmental management, crisis man-agement, and public safety. The issue of community development is a significant purpose of the civil servants’ activity because they are implementing actions aimed at the improvement of community residents’ lives. The general strategy of community development can include both attention to local necessities and the national welfare goals (Frederickson 162). What is more, the aspect of sustainability is intimately interconnected with community development because people can feel comfortable only in sustainable conditions. Environmental management is an extremely significant aspect in terms of the public administration because the protection and preservation of nature should be under control of the local authority. One of the essential functions of the public administration is crisis management because it has to provide adequate services ready to deal with any damaging situations. In addition, this issue also includes preventive measures that are aimed to maintain safety and provide specific mechanisms of reaction.

The theory of public administration includes numerous ideas and approaches to the issues. Experts were developing these concepts aiming to create an effective system of public ad-ministration that could be used by various states. The theoretical background is significant in this context because it allows analyzing multiple countries’ or individuals’ experiences. Generally speaking, the primary purpose of the public administration functioning in the maintenance of a state’s system with all its elements functioning at various levels.

Challenges of Modern Public Administration

Modern changing international environment and the process of globalization make public admin-istrations face numerous challenges. These issues have a significant influence on the sphere of public administration so that the system should be adequately adjusted and prepared for the chal-lenges of current years. Among the most spread challenges that the public administration faces are ethical issues, political environment, contracting, technology, social equity, and transparency.

The ethical challenge to public administration refers to the decision-making process and communication with people. However, the interests of the community residents often differ, and it is impossible to satisfy all sides. The ethical issue can also be interconnected with other aspects, including differentiation of values, administrative discretion, corruption, public accountability, policy dilemmas, and also nepotism. Public administration is a sphere determined by conditions created by the government, but still, the human factor can become a challenge to the structure.
Speaking about the other named challenges, it is necessary to emphasize that these issues differ between various regions and countries. The political environment can cause problems to public administration because public servants often have to adjust to the position of the party in power. The main aim of this process refers to the establishment of effective cooperation between all levels of political hierarchy in a country (“Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities in Public Administration”). The aspect of contracting refers to the current tendency among public admin-istration institutions to use private contractors for the completion of specific tasks. As a result, it requires more costs, while the work of private contractors can be less qualitative than expected.

Currently, the public administration sector works predominantly through data-oriented operations that require specific technologies. Maintenance of security and open orientation of all transactions can be challenged with ineffectiveness or mistakes in the work of various devices. One more problem in the work of the public administration sector refers to the establishment of social equity and its support by appropriate governmental programs. Social equity is a compli-cated sphere because it requires attention to numerous issues, including also interests of different social groups. The final point that public administration often faces is transparency. This tenden-cy transforms the public administrations into open and accessible institutions that have to inform the public about all initiatives. In fact, this issue can be evaluated as a positive change because people receive more information about the work of public administration. However, civil servants are often challenged because their private position also becomes public.

Opportunities for Public Administration Development

The sphere of public administration entirely depends on the political system, the requirements of the government, and the necessities of the local population. Opportunities in its development can be defined due to the current tendency of more power delegation to local public administrations. This process refers to the extension of duties and abilities of civil servants aiming to approach local issues more closely.

First of all, the sphere of public administration has become a more popular professional area currently because significant amounts of students are entering this specialization at universi-ties. Such a situation provides a sustainable flow of specialists able to improve the system and implement positive changes in its functioning (“Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities in Public Administration”). In addition, problems of local communities also are in the area of their interests because modern students pay additional attention to the area of the administrative law.
The tendency for public administration development refers to the possibility of these in-stitutions to implement active initiatives at the local level. The primary purpose of the public administration’s work is the development of a community because the institution can support the process, both implementing governmental initiatives and promoting local programs. Public ad-ministration appears to be quite a sustainable sphere, the element of a political system that works in terms of specific powers. However, local issues and problems of communities often differ de-pending on the situation in political, economic, social, cultural, environmental, and other spheres. Hence, the public administration sphere is continuously developing because solving different problems gains new mechanisms, and its workers receive useful experience.

Works Cited
“Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities in Public Administration.” National Academy of Public Administration,

Farmer, David John. Public administration in perspective: Theory and practice through multiple lenses. Routledge, 2015., P. 272

Frederickson, H. George, et al. The Public Administration Theory Primer. Routledge, 2018., P.321

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