A New Handbook of Political Science

By Robert E. Goodin; Hans-Dieter Klingemann | Go to book overview

Chapter 27
Public Policy and Administration, Old and New

B. Guy Peters Vincent Wright


I Fundamental shifts in thinking about
public administration

OF all the areas of political science, no other has undergone a transformation comparable to that experienced by public administration over the past twenty years. This reflects in large part the changing nature of the practice of governments, especially in the developed world. Almost all the essential truths that guided practising public administrators and students of administration have now been challenged and often replaced. It is unclear whether any new doctrine has been agreed upon, but it is clear that the old values and practices are now profoundly contested.

Changes in public administration also reflect changes in the intellectual approaches used to study this field. Most importantly, the changes reflect the closer linkages of many contemporary scholars of public administration with other areas of the discipline. Studies of the public bureaucracy can no longer be dismissed as "manhole counting" but are in the mainstream, and often even at the fore, of some developments in empirical political and organizational theory. The practice of traditional public administration has come under increasing attack from neo-liberal economists, interest group theorists and rational choice scholars who have provided the intellectual ammunition for receptive politicians determined to reduce the size and scope of the public sector. This is scarcely surprising, since the theoretical changes have tended to emphasize the significant extent to which public administration is political and is part of the overall

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