Public Administration: Meaning And Scope

Administration is a part and parcel of our daily lives. The food we eat, the clothes we wear, the goods we buy, the streets and highways on which we travel, the automobiles in which we ride, and the many services we enjoy – education, medical care, housing, facility, entertainment, protection of our lives and property, and many others – are made possible by administration.

Public administration, at least in its embryonic form, was born primarily and principally to regulate group action and behaviour. When a group of people started living together and emerged as a community some common problems made themselves felt which needed collective resolution. One such concern has been the maintenance of peace and prevention of crime. It was in this category of needs that for the first time public administration was born.

Regulation of group action was as inescapable a necessity as was the need for group living. It was only at a much later stage in the course of its evolution that it found itself engaged in carrying out positive functions intended to promote happiness and welfare of the people.

Origin Of Public Administration

Public administration in the beginning was necessarily measly in size, its functions being absolutely minimal. We do not have figures of the government employees in India when the crown took over the East India Company in 1858. What we know is that the Government of India employed nearly 11 lakh just prior to the year 1947, when the country had not become partitioned and divided. The United States of America could perhaps be an apt example.

Public Administration is as old as our ancient civilization. But as an independent discipline Public Administration cannot claim for a long history.

Public Administration as an academic discipline is barely 131 years old but as an aspect of governmental activity, public administration has been co-existing with every political system as the action part of government for the fulfillment of the objectives set by the political decision makers.

Meaning And Definitions

L.D. White defines Public Administration in the broader terms. He said, “Public Administration consists of all those operations having for their purpose the fulfillment or enforcement of public policy.”

Luther Gulick, on the other hand, views Public Administration as embracing the executive branch of government only. “Public Administration”, he writes, “is that part of the science of administration which has to do with government and, thus, concerns itself primarily with the executive branch, where the work of government is done though there are obviously administrative problems also in connection with the legislative and judicial branches.”

John M. Pfiffner defines it as “Public Administration consists of doing the work of government, whether it be running X-Ray machine in a health laboratory or coming money in the mint.”

Woodrow Wilson, the father of Public Administration defines, “Public Administration is the detailed and systematic application of law. Every particular application of law is an act of administration.”

Significance of Public Administration

Public Administration plays an important role in the modern society. First of all, it is an instrument for providing services. It protects the life and property of people by maintaining law and order. It provides a number of services for people such as public health, education, housing, and social security, among others.

The various services provided by public administration affect the life of every citizen from birth to death.

Public Administration is also responsible for implementing laws and policies of the government. It is an instrument of socioeconomic change and national integration. It is the public administration that translates the decisions of the government into reality.

To sum up, public administration plays an important role in modern society.

It is an instrument to formulate and implement public policies. It maintains law and order. It is an instrument of social change and economic development.

In the era of liberalization and privatization, there is a change in the role and scope of public administration. Now it has to promote and encourage as well as regulate the private sector in order to protect public interest.

In Public Administration, good sense would seem to require that public expectation be kept at the lowest possible level in order to minimize eventual disappointment.

John Kenneth Galbraith

1. Public Administration In A Globalizing World By Chakrabarty and Kandpal
2. Public Administration By Avasthi and Maheshwari

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