Monday, February 17, 2014

Public Administration is Science or Art


The base of declaring Public Administration as a science was himself propounded by the Father of Administration Woodrow Wilson when he said that "there should be a science of administration". Woodrow Wilson was of the view that if developed, the science of politics will go a long way in solving the problem of widespread corruption and violence which pervaded the that time American society significantly. He said that American administrative practice involved scientific methods also. He also said that the growth of science of administration was slightly slower in America owing to the fact - PUBLIC OPINION. Wilson was of the view that Public Opinion was responsible for slow growth of science of administration in America. Wilson said that the real challenge was not simply how authority would be defined but how it was to be actually used on regular basis by those administrators who must operate the ongoing functions of Government and implement new policies.

There are diverse views regarding the debate about whether Public Administration is a Science or Art. Robert Merton and LD White hold the view that Public Administration is a Science however FW Taylor and Lindall Urvey say that discipline of Public Administration will become a Science in coming future. Barring these few exceptions it is widely believed that Public Administration is not a Science subject and it can not be a Science Subject.

Robert Dahl gave his own reasoning explaining why he believed that Public Administration is not a Science. His reasoning is explained later in this article. Most of the scholars who believe that Public Administration is not a science hold the view that it is an art subject and some believe that it can be given the status of a Social Science Subject or Humanity Subject.

Now coming to a question under how many unique subject heads can the topic of Public Administration be divided. The answer is - 

1. Pure Science
2. Social Science
3. Science
4. Humanity
5. Arts
6. Spirituality
7. Abstract

Robert Dahl said that for a subject to be taken up in the stream of science it should have three basic conditions fulfilled. These are - 

1. Principle of Universality
2. Principle of Impersonality
3. Principle of Predictability

After some time 2 more conditions were added in the above two in order to categorize a subject in the field of science. They are - 

4. Cause and Effect
5. Demonstrability

Now if we talk about Principle of Universality. Different regions of this world have their own unique set of cultures and values and their administrative systems while governing specifically keep in mind the prevalent local conditions and govern accordingly. So it is quite clear that the same set of rules of governing are not applicable to all the regions of the world. So clearly here we can say that in the field of Public Administration it is almost impossible to prove the Principle of Universality owing to the fact that different levels of development, different cultures and values, different languages, different mindset, different geographical conditions etc. create very different conditions which can not be governed by a single set of rules. So Principle of Universality can not be present in the case of Public Administration globally.

However taking a slightly differing view point saying that different countries of the World are ruled in different ways in accordance with the rules that are usually codified in a compact form termed as the Constitution of that particular country. In these Constitutions of various countries there governing procedure, rules, fundamental rights, procedure established by law and many other provisions are mentioned in detail. The gist of all these provisions is almost the same throughout the world hence here we can some up that on a macroscopic level we can say that the Principle of Universality and Principle of Impersonality are satisfied. Hence on the basis of this reasoning we can sum up that it would not totally be correct to declare Public Administration as an Art subject. On a macroscopic level some elements of scientific nature are also found in the study of Public Administration. 

So so far on the basis of first two principles of Robert Dahl it can be said that some part of Public Administration comes under the discipline of art and some comes under the discipline of science.

Coming to the last three principles - Principle of Predictability, Cause and Effect and Demonstrability. 

Now if in the stream of Science we look at some fields like Space Science, Oceanography, Astrology, Astronomy, Radioactivity etc. there are still a lot of things that are left to be found out and at present it is widely believed that it is almost impossible to find out some of them as they are very much out of the range of human imagination and reach. They are for the time being out of the general ambit of science. So comparing this situation with present day Public Administration, the cause and effect of the decisions that we make can be predicted and seen.

So on the basis of all of the above points it had been concluded that "Public Administration is Science in theory and Art in practise". In the practical world of Public Administration what matters is Good Governance and not whether Public Administration is a Science or Art. This discussion of whether Public Administration is a Science or Art is fully intellectual in nature and is studied in accordance with the views of the various noted Public Administration scholars. 

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