Management or Business Administration and Comparative Public Administration


When Wilson said that administration was “removed from the hurry and strife of politics,” the stress was to curve out an untarnished field essential for proper and efficient management of government’s business. His objective was clear but his statement was possibly naive. His basic argument was the administrators could concentrate on operating the government rather than on substituting their judgement for that of elected representatives. It was this idea that came to be called the politics – administration dichotomy. He sought to make a distinction between ‘political activity’ and ‘administrative activity’ in public organization. Management or Business Administration, in his view, lies outside the sphere of politics and administrative issues are not political questions.

Although Wilson is regarded is the originator of the idea of politics – administration dichotomy, it will be unfair to present only an one-sided view. As other scholars have pointed out, Wilson was well aware of the fact that public administration was essentially political in nature. He wrote later in 1891 : “Administration cannot be divorced from its connections with the other branches of Public Law without being distorted and robbed of its true significance. Its foundations are those deep and permanent principles of Politics.”


Wilson wanted to make government business “less un-businesslike’. As he wrote, “Administration is business and like business it does not involve itself in question of politics.” Analysts have pointed out that the ‘basic premise of Wilson’s argument was that the affairs of public administration were synonymous with those of private administration. The central concerns of business or management administration. The central concerns of business administration viz., economy, efficiency and effectiveness, should also be the concerns of public administration.

Again, there are others who are quick to observe that what Wilson wanted was that “administrators could study mechanisms or administration not only in use by other governments but also by those employed in private industry.”

Wilson knew it very well that government was different. As Wilson himself wrote, “Business like the administrations of government may and should be – but it is not business. It is organic life.” While professionalization was advocated in the management or business administration of government, Wilson was well aware of the wider agenda of public administration.


Wilson may be regarded as the founder of comparative public administration. He became a student of German so that he count study the practices of the then leading (Prussian) government in the development of public administration techniques. Despite his advocacy of comparative method, Wilson was clear in his mind that administration stands on different based in democratic and other states. He recognized that lessons. Learned from other countries would have to be “filtered through the cultural lens of the person seeking to learn those lessons and borrow techniques. One need not accept Prussian government and life styles to learn from their public management experience.”

To conclude, Wilson was a scholar – administrator who was deeply engrossed both in the theory and practice of government. His writing were conditioned by the tone and temper of his times. Peter Self observes, his basic postulate was that “it was possible to achieve a self-sufficient ‘science’ of administrative means, so constructed as to leave administrators perfectly amenable to political leadership (of any type) while remaining free of political considerations in the conduct of their work. Wilson’s theories may have been naive, but they provided an ideological basis for measures which most people approved: namely the curbing of political patronage, the advancement of professional skills and a tighter framework of internal administrative co-ordination.”



About Sneha Sharma 26 Articles
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