Public Administration: Traditions of Inquiry and Philosophies of Knowledge

Public Administration: Traditions of Inquiry and Philosophies of Knowledge

Public Administration: Traditions of Inquiry and Philosophies of Knowledge

Public Administration: Traditions of Inquiry and Philosophies of Knowledge


Is public administration an art or a science? This question of whether the field is driven by values or facts will never be definitively answered due to a lack of consensus among scholars. The resulting divide has produced many heated debates; however, in this pioneering volume, Norma Riccucci embraces the diversity of research methods rather than suggesting that there is one best way to conduct research in public administration.

Public Administration examines the intellectual origins and identity of the discipline of public administration, its diverse research traditions, and how public administration research is conducted today. The book's intended purpose is to engage reasonable-minded public administration scholars and professionals in a dialogue on the importance of heterogeneity in epistemic traditions, and to deepen the field's understanding and acceptance of its epistemological scope. This important book will provide a necessary overview of the discipline for graduate students and scholars.


To doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally con
venient solutions; both dispense with the necessity of reflection.

—JULES HENRI POINCAREÉ, La Science et l'Hypothèe
(Science and Hypothesis)

The field of public administration today supports and promotes a variety of research traditions. Some are wholly quantitative, whereas others are qualitative. And some are mixed, relying on both qualitative and quantitative methods. In addition, some research is empirically based, whereas other studies are strictly normative. In fact the various journals of public administration and its subfields are bound to or characterized by these research traditions. For example, one of the leading journals in the field, Public Administration Review (PAR), publishes articles ranging from postmodern critiques (e.g., Spicer 2007) to the testing of hypotheses in regression models (e.g., Bretschneider 1990). Other journals, such as the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory (JPART), more recently have published articles relying on complex quantitative techniques and analyses. Administrative Theory & Praxis (ATP), conversely, publishes normative and theoretical dialogues on public administration. In addition, some journals are geared toward both practitioner and academic audiences (e.g., PAR), whereas others are pitched exclusively to academics (e.g., JPART and ATP). All this research, notwithstanding the methodological approach taken, adds value to the field's literature and theoretical base. One journal is not superior to the other; nor is one research approach more desirable than another. And because of its disciplinary basis (i.e., applied) and related history, as will be seen in this book, public administration will always support a range of different research traditions.

To be sure, there continues to be conflict and dissonance among scholars as well as practitioners over the relevancy and applicability of the various research or epistemic approaches. On the one hand, there is a pragmatic . . .

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