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Public Administration as a Discipline Notes

Updated: Apr 4

A. Ancient Roots of Public Administration: Perspectives from India (Kautilya’s Arthashastra)




Introduction

  • Public administration is an old discipline that dates back to ancient civilizations.

  • Indian administration is one of the oldest administrative systems in the world.

  • The history of ancient Indian administration dates back to the Harappan times and continued up to the establishment of the Mughal administration.

  • In ancient India, village administration was more important than state administration, and it was rooted in the Vedic times.

  • The Ramayana and Mahabharata mention administrative officers and departments.

  • Kautilya's Arthashastra provides a detailed description of the administration of the state, which was divided into provinces, districts, villages, and urban and rural centers.

  • Modern principles of administration have their roots in ancient Indian administration, and coordination between departments and hierarchy were present.

  • Kautilya's Arthashastra is the most important work on public administration in ancient India, written between 321 and 300 B.C.




EVOLUTION OF INDIAN ADMINISTRATION


  • Indian Administration traces its earliest known form to the tribal system which later evolves into a monarchical system.

  • The early Vedic period saw many tribes electing their own chiefs to handle their responsibilities and administration.

  • The first form of the 'State' in India can be traced back to the times of Manu, the first King according to Hinduism, who was appointed to bring order to society and ensure mutual benefit and justice.

  • The Ramayana and Mahabharata/Later Vedic times portray the role of the King as the whole and sole of administration being helped by principal officers such as the Purohit and Senani.

  • Other figures of administration were Treasurer, Steward, Spies and Messengers, Charioteer, and Superintendent of Dices.

  • Custom of the country prevailed as the law, and trials took place where justice was delivered by the King in consultancy with the Priest and Elders.

  • By the time Kautilya wrote the ArthaShastra, the Indian Administrative system was well-developed, and the treatise of Kautilya gives a detailed account of the same.



KAUTILYA'S ARTHASHASTRA

  • The Mauryan period, from ancient Indian history, saw major development in Indian Administration, with decentralization and village units being a key part of efficient administration.

  • The Arthashastra, written by Kautilya between 321 and 300 BC, details the functioning of the chief executive, bureaucracy, and public welfare in an autocratic agrarian state.

  • The State was viewed as an institutional necessity for human advancement, and its prime function was to maintain law and order.

  • The empire was divided into a Home Province and outlying provinces, with a feudal-federal type of organization.

  • Corruption was dealt with severely, and there were two courts, the civil cases court and criminal cases court.

  • Agriculture was the mainstay, and taxes on goods were levied. The King was the head, and his functions were military, judicial, legislative, and executive, similar to a modern state's President.


WEAKNESSES OF THE KAUTILYAN STATE:

  • Over charged with supervision - too much of checks and balances.

  • Prominence on individuals instead of institutions.

  • Fundamental mistrust of officials.

  • The Guptas carried forward the Mauryan legacy of administration in many respects.




KAUTILYAN ADMINISTRATION AND MODERN PERSONNEL ADMINISTRATION AND PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION


  • Kautilya's Arthashastra provides a clear system of recruitment, job permanency, salaries, and terms and conditions of service for government officials.

  • The King appoints and dismisses personnel, divides the work of government into different ministries, and stresses the need for specialist and generalist personnel at different levels of administration.

  • The Arthashastra also emphasizes on the importance of division of labour, coordination, and full accountability to the King for efficient administration.

  • It discusses local self-government that resembles a precursor to the modern state local self-government model.

  • Kautilya's approach is practical, focusing on amorality, rationality, and efficiency, with a great deal of focus on accountability, honesty, and vigilance in running a neutral administration.




METHODOLOGY


  • About the hermeneutics research methodology, which involves interpreting and understanding ancient literature and religious texts as well as contemporary texts and systems of meaning.

  • Hermeneutics extends beyond written documents to any object subject to interpretation.

  • The hermeneutic system includes investigating and interpreting human behavior, including language, social institutions, and ritual behaviors. Kautilya's Arthashastra, written in Sanskrit, is interpreted in this paper in the context of management.

  • The sutra or aphorism system of teaching with any body of language is a unique system developed and used for many thousands of years.

  • The text translates some of Kautilya's sutras or aphorisms into the context of modern organizational management and provides interpretation and explanation of the terms used in the Arthashastra, such as the state as an organization, the king as the CEO, ministers as department managers, kosh as finances, danda as the administrative or management system, durg as the security system, and bal as the workforce.



Management and Kautilya’s Arthashastra


  • It discusses how management is an interdisciplinary field that draws on various fields such as psychology, sociology, and economics.

  • It also highlights how understanding organizational behavior is crucial for human resource management, and how effective management requires an in-depth knowledge of past and present management models and theories.

  • The Kautilya's Arthashastra is presented as a text that deals with various aspects of management, including strategic management, financial management, accounting, human resource management, corporate governance, and social responsibility.

  • The first five sutras of Kautilya's text provide basic lessons in the foundations of management, emphasizing the importance of ethics, resources, organizations, self-discipline, and training.

  • To conclude, it also touches upon the Indian cultural emphasis on ethical behavior, equitable distribution of wealth, and the happiness of the many.




 

B. Modern PA: An overview of the theoretical journey



The theoretical journey of modern public administration, organized by major eras and movements:


1. Era of Scientific Management and Classical Administration (1890s-1920s)

  • This era was characterized by a focus on efficiency and effectiveness in government operations, inspired by Frederick Winslow Taylor's principles of scientific management in industry.

  • Key figures in this era include Woodrow Wilson, who emphasized the need for a trained and professional civil service, and Max Weber, who introduced the concept of bureaucracy as a rational and efficient form of organization.



2. Era of Behavioralist (1930s-1950s)

  • This era shifted the focus of public administration from a mechanistic view of bureaucracy to a more humanistic view, emphasizing the role of individual behavior and motivation in organizational performance.

  • Key figures in this era include Mary Parker Follett, who advocated for a more collaborative and participatory approach to management, and Chester Barnard, who emphasized the importance of informal organizations and communication within bureaucracies.


3. Era of Systems Theory (1960s-1970s)

  • This era expanded the focus of public administration to include a systems perspective, which viewed organizations as complex and interconnected systems that interact with their environment.

  • Key figures in this era include Herbert Simon, who introduced the concept of bounded rationality and the importance of decision-making processes in organizations, and James Thompson, who developed the concept of organizations as open systems.



4. Era of Public Choice Theory (1970s-1980s)

  • This era brought a focus on the economic principles of decision-making to public administration, emphasizing the role of incentives and self-interest in government decision-making.

  • Key figures in this era include James Buchanan, who developed the concept of public choice theory and the importance of analyzing government decision-making in terms of individual preferences, and Anthony Downs, who introduced the concept of rational choice and the importance of understanding the incentives that drive individual behavior.


5. Era of New Public Management (1980s-1990s)

  • This era brought a focus on the application of business principles to public administration, emphasizing the importance of performance measurement, accountability, and market-based solutions.

  • Key figures in this era include David Osborne and Ted Gaebler, who introduced the concept of reinventing government and the need for government to focus on results and customer service, and Christopher Hood, who developed the concept of new public management and the importance of performance measurement and accountability in government.



6. Era of Public Value Theory (2000s-present)

  • This era has brought a renewed focus on the public value of government, emphasizing the importance of public participation, ethical decision-making, and social equity.

  • Key figures in this era include Mark Moore, who introduced the concept of public value and the need for government to focus on outcomes that matter to the public, and Elinor Ostrom, who developed the concept of collaborative governance and the importance of involving stakeholders in decision-making processes.


Overall, the theoretical journey of modern public administration has been characterized by a shifting focus from efficiency and effectiveness to human behavior and motivation, from mechanistic views of bureaucracy to systems perspectives, from economic principles of decision-making to performance measurement and accountability, and from market-based solutions to public value and social equity.

 

C. Principles of Public Administration


Public administration is the study and practice of managing government operations and policies. Principles of public administration are a set of fundamental beliefs that guide the decision-making and actions of public administrators. These principles are essential for effective and ethical public service delivery. In this article, we will discuss the key principles of public administration.



1. Responsiveness Responsiveness is a key principle of public administration that focuses on the need for public officials to be attentive to the concerns and needs of the public. It is the responsibility of public administrators to respond to the needs and expectations of citizens and stakeholders. The principle of responsiveness is closely linked to the concept of accountability, which requires public officials to answer to the public for their actions.


2. Efficiency Efficiency is another important principle of public administration. Public administrators must ensure that government operations are conducted in the most efficient and effective manner possible. This requires the efficient use of resources, such as time, money, and personnel. The goal of efficiency is to maximize the benefits of government services while minimizing waste.





3. Effectiveness Effectiveness is a principle of public administration that emphasizes the importance of achieving desired outcomes. Public administrators must ensure that government policies and programs are effective in achieving their intended objectives. This requires the use of evidence-based decision-making and rigorous evaluation methods to measure the effectiveness of government interventions.





4. Equity Equity is a fundamental principle of public administration that requires the fair and just treatment of all citizens. Public administrators must ensure that government policies and programs are designed and implemented in a way that promotes fairness and equal treatment. This requires the identification and elimination of discriminatory practices and the promotion of social justice.


5. Rule of Law The rule of law is a principle of public administration that emphasizes the importance of adherence to legal and constitutional principles. Public administrators must ensure that government policies and programs are in compliance with relevant laws and regulations. This requires the promotion of transparency, accountability, and the protection of individual rights and freedoms.



6. Transparency Transparency is a principle of public administration that emphasizes the importance of openness and accountability. Public administrators must ensure that government operations are conducted in a transparent manner, and that information is readily available to the public. This requires the promotion of open and accessible government processes and the protection of public information.


7. Accountability Accountability is a principle of public administration that emphasizes the importance of public officials being held responsible for their actions. Public administrators must ensure that government policies and programs are accountable to the public, and that there are mechanisms in place to hold public officials accountable for their actions. This requires the promotion of ethical standards and the enforcement of legal and regulatory requirements.



Thus, the principles of public administration are essential for the effective and ethical delivery of public services. Public administrators must adhere to these principles to ensure that government operations are responsive, efficient, effective, equitable, transparent, and accountable. By following these principles, public administrators can build trust with the public and promote good governance.




 

D. Theorizing Public Administration



1. Theorizing Public Administration is a crucial aspect of the study of public administration, as it provides a framework for understanding and analyzing the complex nature of the public sector.


  • Public administration involves the management of public policies, programs, and services by government entities. Theorizing public administration, therefore, involves the study of the theories and concepts that inform how public administration functions.




2. The Importance of Theorizing Public Administration

Theorizing public administration helps to provide a deeper understanding of the complexities of public administration. It also helps to inform the development of policies, programs, and services that can effectively address the needs of citizens. By studying public administration theory, scholars and practitioners can better understand the underlying values, principles, and assumptions that inform public administration practice.



3. Key Theories of Public Administration

There are several key theories of public administration that have emerged over time, including:

  • Classical Theory: This theory emerged in the late 19th century and was focused on developing a scientific approach to management. Key proponents of this theory include Frederick Taylor, Henri Fayol, and Max Weber.

  • Behavioral Theory: This theory emerged in the mid-20th century and focused on the importance of human behavior in public administration. Key proponents of this theory include Chester Barnard, Herbert Simon, and Mary Parker Follett.

  • Systems Theory: This theory emerged in the mid-20th century and focused on the interconnectedness of different parts of the public administration system. Key proponents of this theory include Ludwig von Bertalanffy and Kenneth Boulding.

  • New Public Management: This theory emerged in the 1980s and focused on the application of private sector management practices to public administration. Key proponents of this theory include David Osborne and Ted Gaebler.



4. The Evolution of Public Administration Theory

Over time, public administration theory has evolved to reflect changes in the political, social, and economic context of public administration. For example, the emergence of the New Public Management theory in the 1980s reflected a shift toward a more market-oriented approach to public administration. Similarly, the development of e-government has led to the emergence of new theories focused on the use of technology in public administration.



Conclusion

In conclusion, theorizing public administration is an essential aspect of the study of public administration. By understanding the underlying theories and concepts that inform public administration practice, scholars and practitioners can better develop policies, programs, and services that effectively address the needs of citizens. Additionally, the evolution of public administration theory over time reflects the changing context of public administration and the need for ongoing adaptation and innovation in the field.





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May 08, 2023
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