Saturday, September 18, 2010

Public Administration: A Literature Review


In the late 19th and early 20th century, the world has been shaken by great events, among others are World War II and the Cold War. After those shocking events, the world began to reform. Each country restore their state order. Notwithstanding that, the needs of people in each country increases. The state is in charge to take care of the problem. In situation like this, it takes a guide for the government to carry out its functions properly. One of the guidelines is the state administration/public administration.

1. Meaning of Public Administration

Public administration is the branch of administration science. Therefore, to understand the meaning of public administration, we first review what is administration. Etymologically, the word administration derived from the Latin words, ad (intensive) and ministrare (to serve, to take care). In simple language it means the management of affairs or to looking after people. Some thinkers have expressed their thoughts about the definition of administration. In my view, the clearest definition that describes what the administration is the definition given by Nigro. He stated that administration is the organization and use of men and materials to accomplish a purpose. However, from each definition given in “A Text Book of Public Administration”, all show that administration is consists of ‘getting the work done by others’, ‘use of materials/resources’, and ‘done to achieve common goals’. Since the administration made to achieve common goals, it is clear that man as a social animal can’t be separated from administration, and in my opinion every individual in the modern society totally linked with administration.

Similar to the definition of administration, some thinkers also gave their view on the meaning of public administration. In my view, the clearest definition that describes what the public administration is the definition given by Marshall E. Dimock. Highlighted from his view, he said that administration is law in action, it is the executive side of government. However, if we look closer, it can be found that the definition given by the thinkers divided into two senses, the wide and the narrow one. In the wider sense, it include all the activities of the government, regardless in the sphere of legislative, executive, or judicial. In the narrow sense, public administration is concerned with the activities of executive branch only. In my opinion, as it remarked before, to administer is to serve, and it means the administration tends to the action, not about policy making or the judiciary, so administration tends to be the executive.

Public administration is the systematic execution of the will of the people which has been discovered, formulated, and expressed in the form of laws by the legislature, so public administration is distinguished from the political one. However, in my opinion, it is not necessarily, because the implementation of public administration depends on the existing political system in the country concerned. Public administration could provide good service to the people when its political system is stable, which means there aren't any friction with the administrator’s/bureaucracy’s political interests. Therefore, the political system should be able to regulate the relationship between the three state institutions (legislative, executive, and judicial). However, basically we can not separate administration with politics, because both are closely intertwined as an integral part of the governmental process. So, I think the best way is either administration or politics have to specialize in their respective functions. Politicians deal with policy making, while administrators are dealing with policy executing.

2. Nature of Public Administration

There are two divergent views regarding the nature of public administration, they are integral view and managerial view. Each view hold by some thinkers. Integral view, hold by LD White and Dimock, stated that public adimistration is a sum-total of all the activities undertaken in pursuit of and in fulfilment of public policy whereas the managerial view, hold by Luther Gullick, Simon, Smithburg, and Thompson, stated that public administration concern to the work of only persons who are engaged in the performance of managerial function in an organization.

From those views, I prefer to agree that admisitration can be perceived as a process, as it is said by Dimock and Koening. It I all the steps taken between the time an enforcement agency assumes jurisdiction and the last break is placed. So, we can understand that administration is a series of sustainable activities, and the core is the goods and services that produced or tendered.

3. Scope of Public Administration

Several writers have defined the scope of public adminstration in varying terms and lengths, but a more comprehensive account of the scope of public administration has been given by Walker, which divide it into two parts, they are administration theory and applied admnistration which consists of political, legislative, financial, defensive, educational, social, economic, foreign, imperial, and local. But it should be emphasized that the scope of public administration varies with the people’s conception of good life, which will increase along with the times. So that the scope of public administration will continue to spread widely. So that the rigid formula of the scope of public administration as given by Luther Gullick with his POSDCoRB, deemed no longer relevant, because public administration is the science that will continue to grow following the development of the state itself.

4. Public and Private Administration

There are basic differences between public and private administration, among aothers are:
a. Political direction
Private administration is not subjected to political direction save in times of the gravest emergency, because its objectives do not depend upon political decisions. The administrator under the public administration has to carry out the orders which he gets from the political executive with no option of his own.
b. Profit motive
Public administration is conducted with the motive service while the motive of the private administration is profit-making.
c. Service and cost
Public administration only such amount of money is raised by taxation, therefore we can fund that generally, government has deficit budget, while in private administration there is an attempt to exact as such money from the public as possible, so usually they have surplus budget.

If we take a look closer, then we’ll find that basically, all the differences between private and public administration exist because there are different intersest and capacity between them. Private sector may not meet all the needs of society because there will be market failure or they do not have enough resources, particularly the state-controlled resources. So does the public sector may not meet all the needs of society because of the budgeting problem, entrepreneurship, or about to give the private chance to do their business. In my view, the differences between private and public administration should be used as a chance to work together developing the state.


1. Man, as social animal can’t be separate with administration things, because man has a lot of needs, and administration act as a tool to met all those needs.
2. The term public administration is restricted to the organization and operations of the executive branch only.
3. Politics and public administration ar two interrelated things. Politics dealing with policy making and public admnistration dealing with policy executing.
4. Nature of public administration is depend upon the context in which it is used.
5. The scope of public administration will continue to change dynamically, following the development of the state itself.
6. Though both private and public administration conduct according to the same principles, there are basic differences between them, because basically, they have different interests and capacity.


A text Book of Public Administration
Ekologi Administrasi Negara