Week Two Videodirect Video Public Administration

Week Two Videodirect Video Public Administration


  1. Defining public administration
  2. Understanding the differences between public and business administration
  3. Identifying values and conflicts of public administration and the complexity of the work
  4. Understanding why one should study public administration
  5. Understanding the issues that underlie the intellectual and practical context of public administration
  6. Exploring the controls exerted by the separation of powers on administrators
  7. Understanding the motivations for contemporary administrative reform movements
  8. Examining how NPM and reinvention are related to issues of quality and productivity
  9. Exploring the impact of advances in technology on government and governance

What is Due?

Part 1: Discussion Board Post:Woodrow Wilson and many others believed that government organizations would be most efficient by adopting the business principles and hierarchical models of the private sector. However, the authors note that this concern with efficiency must be placed within the context of democratic government, which emphasizes individualism, equality, and liberty. In this part, discuss how these two ideas are at odds with one another and how this leads to tension between bureaucracy and democracy—what are the characteristics of each, and why do they lead to this tension? What examples of this can we see in public administration today?

Shafritz, Jay and Albert Hyde.2012.Classics of Public Administration.7th edition.New York, NY: Cengage.(8th edition is also great)

Part 2: Respond to the Case Study by Stillman “The Blast in Centralia No. 5” and submit your reponse on the discussion board: Based on the readings for the case, what do you see as the central causes of the tragedy in the “The Blast in Centralia No. 5”? why did these problems develop? After reflecting on the seven schools identified as the end of the still’s essay (e.g. the reinventors, communitarians, etc.), how would each analyze the Centralia case? What were the problems? What recommendation would you make to solve the problem? How would any of your recommendation have change the outcome of the case.

Stillman, Richard J.2010.Public Administration.Concepts and Cases.


The purpose of this week’s readings is to introduce students to the complexity of public administration and the work of the public administrator. Approaching the topic from both a theoretical and practical point of view. The readings include a definition of public administration along with a brief history of the field, with a special emphasis on how the values of democracy affect the practice of public administration.

In addition, the chapter explores the differences between public and business administration, particularly in the areas of ambiguity, decision-making processes, and visibility. Emphasizing the concept of “publicness,” the readings address the inevitable tension between efficiency and responsiveness that is central to the work of public administrators and also highlight the increasing importance of understanding the activities of political and administrative officials in a global context. A key component of these readings is a focus on what public and nonprofit managers actually do, including a discussion about the characteristics of the most effective and responsible public and nonprofit managers and the kinds of skills the work of public administration requires.

The readings also discuss the reasons why various people who study public administration and how the study of public administration can help prepare for administrative positions. The readings touch on the interaction of government and business and the importance of public administration in everyday life and emphasize that understanding the world of administrative action not only is the basis for good scholarship but also for making things happen in the public service.

This week explores the political context in which public administrators operate, including things administrators need to know in order to operate effectively. Three themes characterize the readings, focusing on the structure of the three levels of government and the resulting relationship with public administration. The readings point out that the complexity of the policy process in this country derives from the Founders’ fear of concentrating power in too few hands, which they tried to allay by organizing the federal government into three branches. Thus, the relations between and among the various branches remain a central issue in the creation and management of public agencies and programs. The readings offer insight into the relationship between public administrators and the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary as they work together to achieve policy goals.

The first theme concerns the history, powers, organization, and activities of the executive branch at all levels of government in the United States. The readings include a discussion about the development of the president’s role as chief executive officer as the increasing size and scope of the government created a need for greater attention to management and organization, along with a growing understanding of how the work of government might be accomplished more effectively. The organization and structure of state and local governments are contrasted with those of the federal government, exploring both the commonalities and distinctive features. The readings emphasize that understanding the role of executive leadership in administrative organizations will enable public administrators to act with greater confidence and authority.

The second theme provides an account of the structure of Congress, its operations, policy roles, and interactions with administrative agencies. Particular attention is devoted in this context to the stages in the policy process and the differences between various types of policy. The readings also include an examination of sources of bureaucratic power and, in turn, the controls exerted by the legislative branch over bureaucratic agencies. An understanding of these issues is crucial to public administrators, whose work centers on the implementation of public policies and who often are involved in designing and evaluating policy as well.

This week’s material examines the role that the courts play in administrative systems. Like the executive and legislative branches, the judiciary also serves as a check on the conduct of public agencies by interpreting legislative mandates and delegation to agencies and reviewing the appropriateness of agency actions. Because the involvement of the courts in the work of administration is both intense and inevitable, public administrators’ understanding of the legal system and their ability to interact with legal and judicial officials is necessary in order to improve their effectiveness.

With respect to contemporary administrative reforms and the role of technology in changing the way in which government works. The readings note that the field of public administration as a discipline emerged during the Progressive Reform Movement, which sought to reduce corruption and increase professionalism in public service. Since that time, the field has undergone an ongoing series of reform efforts that represent, at least in part, an attempt to reconcile the often-conflicting needs of administrative efficiency and democratic accountability. The readings discuss efforts aimed at increasing administrative efficiency and productivity.

Contemporary reform efforts embodied in New Public Management (NPM) and the “reinventing government” movement are among the most impactful ideologies upon the practice of public administration. These movements, based on the idea that the systems underlying public organizations lack the capacity to meet twenty-first-century challenges and opportunities, focus on issues of performance and accountability in government and are concerned with improving government quality and productivity without increases in costs. This discussion traces the evolution of NPM, which has emerged in several countries over the past several decades and is aimed at creating public organizations that are mission-driven, decentralized, and incentive-based, and the “reinventing government” movement, which is based on many of the NPM principles. “Reinvention” is centered around the concept that more entrepreneurial forms of government—more streamlined, flexible, and responsive systems of public policy and administration—are needed to enable public administrators to deal with public problems effectively and to capitalize on opportunities in contemporary society. Included here is an overview of how these approaches have been incorporated, in varying degrees, into the management agenda at the federal level and how it has driven calls for reform in the nonprofit sector as well. These readings provide a discussion about results achieved by these reforms and the concerns expressed by critics of these approaches.

Watch the Week Two Video

Direct Video Link: Politics and Administration: Discipline and Political Context opens in new window (27:25)

Reading Assignments

Read: The following from Shafritz et. al: Topical Contents The discispline of Public Administration and Public Administration in Context

  • Politics and Administration (1900) Frank J. Goodnow.
  • The Problem with Municipal Administration (1904) Jane Addams
  • Report of the President’s Committee on Administrative Management (1937) Louis Brownlow, Charles E. Merriam, & Luther Gulick.
  • Administrative Decentralization and Political Power (1969) Herbert Kaufman
  • The Study of Administration (1887) Woodrow Wilson.
  • Towards a New Public Administration, H. George Fredrickson.
  • Public Administrative Theory and the Separation of Powers (1983) David H. Rosenbloom.
  • The Search for the Scope and Purpose of Public Administration, Richard Stillman

ObjectivesDefining public administrationUnderstanding the differences between public and business administrationIdentifying values and conflicts of public administration and the complexity of the workUnderstanding why one should study public administrationUnderstanding the issues

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