Public Administration Definition and Theories

The central purpose of creating the paper is to inform readers about the existing perspectives on public administration and theories associated with the given concept. In contemporary society, the importance of this element cannot be doubted because of the critical role public services play in the life of citizens regardless of their status, income, culture, ethnicity. At the same time, the complexity of this branch might result in the emergence of multiple misunderstandings and conflicts. The existing lack of knowledge about how the functioning of this sphere is organized and what are the core components that precondition its evolution might also result in negative outcomes. For this reason, it is critical to reveal the topical approaches to public administration, including the most relevant theoretical framework that can be utilized by people working in the sector with the primary aim to achieve the main goal and align the effective cooperation at all levels. For this reason, the paper provides a deep insight into the given topic and familiarizes readers with the major concepts.

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First of all, it is essential to provide an understandable definition of public administration as the complexity of the term might precondition the emergence of multiple misconceptions or gaps in knowledge. Following the most popular approach, it is a set of actions aimed at the successful implementation of government policy via the effective management of public programs and integration of existing regulations with real-life conditions (Shafritz and Hyd 12). Public administration might also be taken as an academic discipline that studies the processes described above and is responsible for preparing civil servants that will be working in the sector and help align the successful social intercourse. As it comes from this definition, it becomes a critical element of any state and society as cooperative human action can be created only through a chain of specific activities that support the existence of the government and provide it with an opportunity to manage people effectively. The critical importance of the issue preconditions multiple attempts to investigate it from various perspectives to understand the core components and its nature.

Today, public administration theory is divided into three branches in accordance with the main ideas suggested. These are classical public administration, new public management, and postmodern public administration theories (Fry and Raadschelders 19). All these offered theoretical frameworks offer their unique vision of the discussed idea and offer various ways in which a citizen or a worker can understand the current duties, rights, and obligations. The analysis of these approaches will help to generate an improved understanding of the discussed topic.

Classical Public Administration Theory

Classical public administration theory is the oldest perspective that emerged on the way the sphere should function and its basic peculiarities. In accordance with the given approach, a bureaucracy peculiar to the functioning of any government should be managed as any business (Shafritz and Hyd 22). The model presupposes the existence of a particular hierarchy that becomes the main tool to achieve goals. Formally written rules and procedures should be used as the main guidelines regulating the work of public servants and guaranteeing a high level of cooperation between various actors (Shafritz and Hyd 34). At the same time, there is a critical need for the division of labor or specialization that should be introduced to achieve the best possible outcomes by delegating duties and guaranteeing outstanding performance levels because of optimal performance (Shafritz and Hyd 34). Being considered founders of classical theory, Wilson and Weber emphasized the necessity to create a potent bureaucratic apparatus as it is the most rational form of administration that might help people to engage in meaningful cooperation and achieve the best possible results (Fry and Raadschelders 78). This idea creates the basis of the whole paradigm.

There is also a critical need to create coordination committees that will help monitor the work of the basic elements of the system and avoid flaws. Moreover, the classical theory presupposes the adherence to decentralized schemes to avoid overreliance on a particular department or unit as it might precondition the collapse of the whole system (Shafritz and Hyd 45). In such a way, the given approach cultivates bureaucratic, decentralized schemes characterized by the strict hierarchy. The primary aim is to assist people in their cooperation on terms established by existing regulations.

New Public Management

The further development of the scientific approach to public administration and society preconditioned the emergence of new perspectives on how this sector should function. At the same time, the increased importance of the ideas of the free market and its values shaped existing attitudes towards the given sphere and preconditioned the introduction of critical alterations (Fry and Raadschelders 110). For this reason, the new public management emphasized the importance of citizens as the main recipients of all services offered by the public sector. In this regard, the achievement of positive results can be accomplished by the creation of a quasi-market environment characterized by the rivalry between private and public services trying to provide better and more effective assistance (Fry and Raadschelders 111). The given competition is expected to become a basis for the improved work of the sphere and its ability to offer customers the best possible options. At the same time, there are several core elements of the model, such as a focus on financial control and money value to constantly increase efficiency and create better conditions for both administrators and citizens (Fry and Raadschelders 122). This idea will also help the sector to remain beneficial.

As for the bureaucracy, it should be replaced with more effective entrepreneurial approaches similar to those utilized in the sphere of management. It will help to meet the modern requirements of the administration sector and ensure its further stable evolution and functioning. It will help to meet demands to the work of the public administration and provide specialists with more tools needed to align the successful cooperation between all agents involved in critically important processes (Fry and Raadschelders 129). For this reason, the new paradigm utilizes the ideas that have become topical in the 20th century and are devoted to clients’ needs.

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Postmodern Public Administration Theory

Finally, the postmodern public administration paradigm is the framework that emerged based on concepts popular in the new era and its values. In accordance with this very theory, previous approaches to this sector remain outdated today as they are not able to satisfy new emerging challenges and issues. For this reason, there is a new model resting on the economic utility that can explain all events and factors traditionally impacting the sphere (Theodoulou and Roy 112). In accordance with the given theory, the majority of issues peculiar to the work of public servants are dialectic, which means that there are multiple opportunities for their resolution and generation of the most beneficial outcomes that would help to satisfy diverse needs of people affected by the proposed actions (Theodoulou and Roy 123). Additionally, postmodern public administration theory promotes the concept of deterritorialization that presupposes disregard of existing boundaries with the primary aim to create new forms of international cooperation, increasing the quality of people’s lives in all regions (Theodoulou and Roy 125). It will help to create more effective approaches to the work of various authorities.

Anti-state and anti-jurisdiction appeals peculiar to the paradigm also contribute to the creation of a particular framework that is characterized by the necessity to consider the real needs of individuals instead of the adherence to regulations that gradually lose their effectiveness (Theodoulou and Roy 126). That is why the traditional approach to organizing the work of public servants should be replaced with innovative ones that promote an improved understanding of current issues and their importance in the modern world.


Altogether, the three proposed theories of public administration can be taken as the basis of the sphere’s work. The existence of critical differences in them is preconditioned by the utilization of alternative approaches while cogitating about the important factors that impact the creation of a certain method and its promotion in terms of the existing goals. However, regardless of these radical divergences, the given paradigms remain topical for the modern world as they are utilized at multiple levels and in various states. That is why it is critical to acquire their improved understanding and be able to cogitate about the major concepts proposed in terms of these theoretical frameworks to remain effective and choose between the option that fits the existing context and satisfies topical needs.

Works Cited

Fry, Brian, and Jos Raadschelders. Mastering Public Administration: From Max Weber to Dwight Waldo. 3rd ed., CQ Press, 2013.

Shafritz, Jay, and Albert Hyd. Classics of Public Administration. 8th ed., Cengage Learning, 2016.

Theodoulou, Stella, and Rave Roy. Public Administration: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2016.

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StudyCorgi. "Public Administration Definition and Theories." July 25, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Public Administration Definition and Theories." July 25, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Public Administration Definition and Theories'. 25 July.

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