Origin and Evolution:

As an academic discipline it has its origin in the work of Dr. Woodrow Wilson of USA who published an article “The Study of Administration” (1887). However, soon after a tortuous and unending debate started on its disciplinary character.

It has taken several strides in the form of scientific management movement followed by Human Relations approach of Elton Mayo, decision-making approach of Herbert Simon as well as system and structural functional approaches. But Public Administration has been retaining the dynamism with need of the hour.

The sources of dynamism have been the actual changes in the world of governance under the sweeping social changes and the effort of scholars for new conceptual and methodological tools in the discipline. The instances have been such that to some Public Administration is dead and to some the discipline is now full blown and autonomous. For a student of discipline it is logical to analyse the stages of its growth.


Phases of Evolution:

Prof. Woodrow Wilson is said to be the father of discipline. In his article entitled “The Study of Administration (1887)”, he emphasized the need for a separate study of Public Administration as a distinct from Political Science. He thus initiated Polices – Administration dichotomy which dominated the scene for quite some time.

In 1900 Good now published his work ‘Politics of Administration’ in which he developed this idea further. He said that Politics has to be concerned with the laying down of the policies which administration has to execute. In 1914, American Political Science Association published a report recognizing Public Administration as an important sub-area of Political Science.

In 1926, L.D. White wrote the first text book on the subject by ‘Introduction to the Study of Public Administration’. It stressed the point that politics and administration are two different activities and the latter has to emphasize efficiency and economy in executing policies.


Second Phase-1927-1937:

The dominant theme of the period was principles of Public Administration. The main belief was there are certain principles of administration and the main thrust was to try to discover them, to apply them. In 1927, W.F. Willoughby were ‘Principle of Administration’, followed by a most of publications, e.g. H. Fayol’s Industrial and General Management; Mooney and Principles of Organization Mary Parker Fouler creative experience Gullic and Erick published ‘Papers on Science and Administration’ (1937), they coined the acronym POSDCORB.

Scientific management to efficiently means the business of administration was emphasized Politics as practiced by politicians became irrelevant structure and process of organization were put on rigorous analysis.

This period is called the Golden Age of Principles and in this period Public Administration achieved high degree of respectability. Its products were in great demand.


Third Phase-1938-1947:

The universality of the principles of administration was soon challenged. It was a period of continuous and mounting challenge and questioning.

Chester I. Bernard in his ‘The Functions of the Executive’ (1938) did not uphold the stand taken by earlier writers.

Herbert Simon ‘The Proverbs of (articles) Administration’ (1946), Administration Behaviour (1947) held that there is no such thing as principle of administration, what have been taken as to be such principles are in fact Proverbs of administration.


In 1947, Robert Dahl also challenged the proposition that Public administration is a science on following grounds:

Science is value-free, but administration cannot be so,

Human personalities differ, and

Social framework differs.


Fourth Phase-1947:

This period had been one of crises for the public administration. The brave new world promised by the thinkers of the ‘Principles’ era stood shattered in future appeared to be little uncertain. The rise of new nations added to the problem.

Many scholars wanted to return to the fold of science viz., Political Science but found not there was Domination of Political Science over administration. They also felt that the political science not only discouraged the appearance of the public administration as a separate discipline but is not encourage the growth and development of the discipline within its own fold.

Public Administration however enhanced its condition with other disciplines and outcome was Comparative Public Administration-1952 Development Public Administration-1923.


Fifth Phase-1970-1990:

The scientific or logical positivist approaches ahead public administration of its goal making, welfare and social justice available to the man, women, children in the course of achieving overall socio-economic development. Outcome was Minnow brook conference in 1968 and the birth of the Public Administration. It was also thought that a generation gap between the practitioners of the Public Administration was also creating a lag.

The term New Public Administration gained currently with two publications in 1971. Towards a New Public Administration: “Minnowbrook Perspective” edited by Frank Marini (1971).

“Public Administration in a time of Turbulence” edited by Drumright Waldo (1971). However, the seeds of these publications can located in-

The Honey Report of Higher Education for Public Service 1967. The Conference on the Theory and Practice of Public Administration 1967. Chief Features of the New Public Administration: The chief characteristics of New Public Administration are:

1. Relevance:

There had been renewed emphasis on being sensitive to the societal problems. The scholars were of the opinion that Public Administration cannot be instrumental in vacuum. Instead it should actively engage itself in the problem confronting society.

2. Values:

New Public Administration brought values back into the realm of Public Administration. It emphasized on achieving right things in the right way through right techniques.

3. Equity:

The performance of public administration was to be judged not in terms of growth but it had to be sensitive to the aspect of equity. It had to see that no one was left behind in the affairs tackled by administration.

4. Change:

As opposed to status quo, the new Public Administration emphasized change. It included reorientation of policy issues and decisions, affecting citizens.

The concept of cutback management was ushered with emphasis on terminating unneeded or ineffective organisation.

An active and participative citizenry is recognised as the benchmark for effective Public Administration. George Frederickson in ‘New Public Administration’, 1980 points out “organizations function fundamentally in the realm of values”, The New Public Administration was concerned with client ‘needs as expectations’ as well as assessment of impact of program’s effects. This required involvement of values in the policy making.

Freedom and individual dignity were to be protected through administration.

However, the so called NPA movement, which had triggered hopes and aspirations of the Negroes and feminists in America, proved to be monstrously unsuccessful in catering to the expectations of the socially deprived class.

Minnowbrook conference II in 1985 to facilitate a general examination of the future of Public Administration and to determine whether important discipline differences exist between people who entered Public Administration in 1960’s and those who entered in the 1980’s.

Watergate Scandal increased the already existing cyculcism towards government, and propelled the students to think in terms of ‘less of government’ moves to cut out waste corruption and control over bureaucracy were emphasised. The concept of positive state started giving way to regulatory state.

More privatisation, contracting out more voluntarism, more third party government became watchwords.


The, study and practice of public administration has taken many strides from classical, politics, administration dichotomy to contemporary New Public Management. Apart from certain setbacks on account of its temptations to be exclusive, it has shown results.

If it is to remain relevant in the Globalized world, Public Administration needs to take cognizance of multidimensional aspect of administration. It needs to acquaint itself with new tools to analyse the impact of culture and ethos of the society where it is instrumental. This has become more warranted in a globalized world.