Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Development and Comparative Public Administration: Past, Present, and Future

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Development and Comparative Public Administration: Past, Present, and Future

Article excerpt


Public administration is as old as human civilization and development administration has been an integral component of historical administrative traditions. In fact, development administration has always been a thriving subfield of public administration. While comparative public administration as a field of study is a more recent enterprise, its origin may also be traced to the ancient time. Both development and comparative components have constituted the twin fields of public administration theoretically and practically. Their development as fields of study has proliferated since World War II and reached a peak during the 1960s with the Comparative Administration Group (CAG) under Fred Riggs' leadership and the Ford Foundation's sponsorship. Despite major achievements, comparative and development administration experienced a major decline in both academic and funding supports in the 1970s.

However, a resurgence of interest in both subfields of public administration has emerged since the 1980s and the number of major scholarly works in these areas is impressively increasing. This trend will continue with significant contributions to the knowledge in public administration as the new millennium approaches. This article reviews briefly the past and present situation of the twin fields and discusses a number of trends, developments, and issues that will shape these subfields of public administration in the future. It is argued that, in the future, public administration will be both global and comparative.


Public administration is as old as civilization. Both have existed side by side contributing to each other's development and decline. Public administration has heavily involved "development" since the earliest time for almost all massive public works projects implemented by city states and empires were developmental in nature. Also, the concepts of government and public administration have been subjects of discussion for several millennia and both comparative governance and developmental administration components have shaped the early foundations of modern public administration. Philosophers and experts on governance and administration wrote on the nature of states and advised rulers on proper and efficient conduct of public affairs while administrative systems of the major empires and city states of the ancient world performed gigantic tasks of developmental projects through their bureaucracies and ad hoc organizations managed by the state (Farazmand, 1991a, forthcoming; Gladden, 1972; Nash, 1969). In fact, development administration has always been a thriving field of practice in the history of public administration.

However, systematic study of comparative and development administration has been a recent phenomenon. These twin fields of public administration have gone through several ups and downs since the beginning of comparative studies in government, economics, policy, politics, and administration. These are, of course, primarily the Western traditions and are exported to developing nations. Comparative studies of politics and administration are mainly a twentieth-century academic development although studies of "other" nations or politics and administration were conducted in Europe as early as the nineteenth century. However, comparative studies proliferated after World War II. Of these, the fields of comparative politics and economics have been the dominant ones.

The fields of comparative and development public administration began to develop after World War II and comparative administration in particular gained momentum immediately after the war (Heady, 1996). A number of factors contributed to this growing development: postwar occupation of nations by the United States and other leading powers; the need for extension of range and scope in public administration as a discipline; wartime experience of scholars and practitioners abroad; overseas technical assistance assignments; growth of the comparative politics section of the American Political Science Association as well as the comparative section of the American Society for Public Administration; and the increasing opportunities in the 1950s and 1960s for those interested in pursuing comparative public administration research and scholarship. …

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