Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Public Affairs and Administration
Dr. Ralph C. Chandler
Dr. Michael S. Pritchard
Dr. William A. Ritchie
This study analyzes the evolution of the proper role of public administration in American government. American public administration traces its roots to the founding of American constitutional government in 1789, but divergent opinions continue regarding the discipline's proper role in a democracy. This question has never been settled in the American experiment. Considering the size, scope, and complexity of today's administrative state, it may well never be. Recent efforts have sought to define public administrations's role as proactive on behalf of clients for reasons of social equity and human dignity. Further attempts have been made to define administration as a mediating social partner with affected social groups.
This study agrees with the need for government to become more than a mechanistic deliverer of public services. However, argument questions the legitimacy of an administrative elite with broad powers and discretion. Can public administration, as an elite, withstand the realities of the political world? If public administration maintains an anti-intellectual bias and resists the application of ethical theory and moral reasoning in bureaucratic contexts, can it profess to know the public good?
Analysis is made concerning evolution of administrative thought and practice in the American republic, with emphasis given to (a) the value of efficiency, which, beginning in the early 1900s, became the discipline's ultimate value; and (b) an unresponsive, inefficient, and inhumane bureaucracy. The New Public Administration is analyzed. This concept emphasized vital and legitimate roles for administration, but the effort failed due to anti-governmental sentiment and lack of internal support. Trusteeship Public Administration followed, and defined the role of public administration as a mediating social partner with citizens. Although Trusteeship continues to promote the idea of administration as an elite, this study sympathizes with Trusteeship as an approach to accomplish responsible and humane government. However, Trusteeship needs a better-promoted plan of action, agenda, and formal program to be considered in a scholarly way. Further exploration of the concept is worthwhile.
Wieber, James Robert, "The Idea of Good Government: The Evolution of Administrative Thought and Practice in the American Republic" (1987). Dissertations. 2232.