Georgia Southern University
The administrative cultures and management practices of governments within the United States.
The tradition of public administration in the United States is the griffin in the globe's menagerie of national managerial traditions: mythical and improbable, but fierce in demeanor and capable of occasional flight. To phrase it more prosaically, the core of the American public administrative tradition may be reduced to a single word: constraint.
A tradition is not, we should note, the same thing as a profession, that is, a largely self-regulating practice and self-aware field of study. "Tradition" is, to borrow a definition from Webster's, "Belief, habit, practice, principle, handed down verbally from one generation to another, or acquired by each successive generation from the example preceding it" (p. 1574). Compared to a profession, a tradition is more visceral than intellectual, more cultural than practical, more grassroots than grand, more encompassing than specializing.
As the title of this encyclopedia indicates, we shall focus on the American administrative tradition as it is found in the public sector, not in the private sector. Whereas "constraint" is the watchword in explaining the American tradition of public administration, it is not a term that comes readily to mind in describing the national tradition of business administration ; in the private sector, "aggression" is perhaps the appropriate moniker of the American administrative tradition. It is difficult, after all,