The legacy of public administration: Background and review

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THE EVOLUTION OF PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION: SCIENCE AND PROFESSION IN MOTION An ordinary citizen of an ordinary modem democracy fortunate enough to undertake a journey backwards in time is likely to find meaningful similarities between public administration of our era and administrative systems of old cultures. The foundations of modem public administration can be discerned thousands of years ago, across cultures and in various nations around the globe. The Bible mentions a variety of hierarchical and managerial structures that served as prototypes for the governance of growing populations. Ancient methods of public labor distribution were expanded by the Greeks and the Romans to control vast conquered lands and many peoples. The Persian and Ottoman empires in the Middle East, like imperial China in the Far East, paved the way for public administration in the modem age, wherein European Christians, and later Christians of the New World, were in the ascendant. All these, as well as other cultures, used a remarkably similar set of concepts, ideas, and methods for governing and administrating public goods, resources, and interests. They all employed professionals and experts from a variety of social fields. They all used authority and power as the

cheapest control system for individuals, governmental institutions, and processes. All of them faced administrative problems close in type and in nature to problems of our own times: how to achieve better efficiency, effectiveness, and economy in government, how to satisfy the needs of the people, and how to sustain stable political hegemony despite the divergent demands and needs of sectorial groups. Not surprisingly, all the above cultures and nations also used similar managerial tools and methods aimed at solving problems of this kind. They all used, fairly effectively, division of labor, professionalism, centralization and decentralization mechanisms, accumulation of knowledge, coordination of jobs, complex staffing processes of employees, long-range planning, controlling for performance, and so on. Intuitively. one feels that nothing has really changed in the managerial and administrative process of public organizations for centuries, possibly millennia, but this feeling is of course exaggerated. Some major changes have taken place in recent centuries to create both a totally different environment and new rules to which rulers and citizens must adhere and by which they must adjust their operation. In fact, a new kind of governing game has taken shape in which public administration plays a central role.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPublic Administration
Subtitle of host publicationAn Interdisciplinary Critical Analysis
EditorsEran Vigoda-Gadot
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherMarcel Dekker Inc.
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9780429272646
ISBN (Print)0824707176
StatePublished - 2002


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