Public Administration Theories and Practice (PAD 500)
December 12, 2018
Theories in Public Administration that Support Effective Policy Making
Public administration is a process, not an event. It has existed since the inception of government across the globe. But, as a practice, public administration is mostly an American ideology born in the late nineteenth-century as a result of much needed government reform. Classical public administration theory is based on the scientific management and Max Weber’s bureaucratic model. (Denhardt, p. 30)
Effective policymaking requires knowledge of each of these theories to ensure that the public is truly served by the implementation of various policies. No one theory is sufficient to produce public policy. “The theory of administration is concerned with how an organization should be constructed and operated in order to accomplish its work efficiently.” (Denhardt, p. 82 quoting Simon’s, Administrative Behavior (1957a, p. xiv)). As it related to theories of public administration and analyzing public policy, the following theories will be identified and discussed herein: Political systems theory; group theory; elite theory; and institutionalism. Discussion contrasting open verses closed systems included for a well-rounded outlook of the importance of understanding how theories relate to and impact the policy making process.
Theories are usually discussed as it relates to public administration from a scholarly or academic standpoint. For example, academics may enjoy enough distance from the policy process to develop a breadth of knowledge and produced generalizable conclusions across government, while practitioners such as civil servants may develop a unique level of in-depth expertise when developing policy for a number of years. (Paul Cairney, p. 1)
Political systems theory is “The political system, as Easton defines it, comprises those identifiable and interrelated institutions and activities (what we usually think of as governmental institutions and political processes) in a society that make authoritative allocations of values (decisions) that are binding on society. The environment consists of all phenomena—the social system, the economic system, and the biological setting—that are external to the boundaries of the political system. Thus, at least analytically one can separate the political system from all the other components of a society.” (Birkland, p. 20)
In other words, the political systems theory is concerned with government behavior that leads to decisions effecting our society. It is a narrow approach to policymaking because it is only focused on the government agency’s side of the policy. Systems theory should combine its analysis with other theories, as discussed below, if the goal is to determine the overall effectiveness of a policy.
Group theory asserts that “…public policy is the product of the group struggle…Group theory rests on the contention that...