The evolutionary perspective must include an account of the New Public Administration movement which marked a turning point in the growth of the discipline.The disciplinary orthodoxy of public administration has certainly boosted up the ego of public administration experts. But the discipline’s from political science has caused concern to scholars in both political science and public administration. It has been argued that unless the two disciplines mix freely without losing their identities, understanding of government would be lopsided and inadequate. The basic purpose and cohesion by closer association with political science. One forceful view has been that ‘the study of administration is just another expression for the study of politics.’
In the late 1960s, some of the best of the younger generation of American scholars pioneered a new movement in American public administration which came to be known as the ‘new public administration’. The young academics, although nurtured and schooled in the era of positive government, were actually sensitive to the failings of American democracy. The scholars gathered at Minnowbrook under the patronage of Dwight Waldo and challenged the ‘givens’ of orthodox public administration and pluralist political science.
It was a time of turbulence when the young scholars vociferously demanded restoration of values and public purpose I government. Affected by the turbulence of the war in Vietnam and the urban riots, the younger generation expressed their concern about all institutions, especially government. Two volumes were produced to herald a new brand of public administration oriented toward political theory. As Wallace Sayre has summed up the sentiment, “public administration is ultimately a problem in political theory.”
The new counter-culture has demanded the primacy of politics in administration. There has been an ideological conviction that in the USA “the bureaucratic instruments of power utilized by the political establishments and studies with academic detachment by the intellectual establishments are among the most oppressive institutions of American society.”
The literature on new public administration lays emphasis on four major themes: Relevance, Values, Equity and Change.
The theme of relevance is more a reinterpretation than an original quest. Public administration has traditionally been interested in efficiency and economy. The new public administration movement discovered was that the discipline had little to say about contemporary problems and issues.
Management-oriented public administration curriculum was found ‘irrelevant’ and the demand was to deal explicitly with the political and administrative implications of administrative action.
Another aspect of the ‘relevance’ issue relates to the character of the knowledge itself. The question that was asked was: public administration knowledge for what? Is it the purpose of public administration to facilitate use of administrative knowledge for the perpetuation of political power?
Some of the important questions raised at Minnow brook about New Public Administration were:
(a) What standards of decision do we use to select which questions ought to be studied and how to study them?
(b) Who defines our questions and priorities for us?
(c) To what extent are we aware of the social and moral implications of knowledge in Public Administration?
(d) What are the uses of Public Administration as a social and political science?
(e) Does Public Administration presently yield knowledge useful to certain institutions in society (usually the dominant ones) and not to others?
These are obviously very disturbing questions, challenging the status quo in public administration. The new movement demanded radical curriculum change to facilitate meaningful studies oriented toward the realities of public life.
Values in New Public Administration
The new public administration explicitly announced its basic normative concern in administrative analysis. It openly rejected the value-neutral position taken by behavioural political science and management-oriented public administration. Value-neutrality in public administration is an impossibility and the discipline should explicitly espouse the cause of the disadvantaged sections in society. The champions of the new movement advocate openness about the values being served through administrative action.
This, they thought, would help unmask the “neutrality” position of actual administration and facilitate evaluation of impact of administrative action and outcomes. As one spokesman of the new movement comments:
“The new public administrator” is less ‘generic’ and more ‘public’ than his forbear, less ‘descriptive’ and more ‘prescriptive’, less ‘institution-oriented’ and more ‘client-impact oriented’, less ‘neutral’ and ‘more normative’ and it is hoped, no less scientific.”
Social Equity in New Public Administration
The protagonists of new public administration do not hesitate to demonstrate their open partisanship. In their view, the distributive functions and impact of governmental institutions should be public administration’s basic concern.
One manifestation of this philosophy seems almost neo-Benthamite:
“The purpose of public organization is the reduction of economic, social and psychic suffering and the enhancement of life opportunities for those inside and outside the organization.”
Frederickson has gone a step further and adopted a bod social-equity attitude:
“A Public Administration which fails to work for changes which tries to redress the deprivation of minorities will likely be eventually used to repress those minorities.”
This is an aggressive action-oriented stance inviting public administration analysis to work for the removal of the wrong of society and openly taking side with the socially deprived groups. The new Public Administration movement thus challenged public administration to make it more proactive to major social issues.
Change in New Public Administration
To serve the cause of social equity is to actively work for social change. This is the motto of new public administration. The attack is on the status quo and against the powerful interests entrenched in permanent institutions. The new public administration is unwilling ‘to allow enslavement to permanent institutions’ that steadily grow into self-perpetuating power centres of dominant interests. The Minnowbrook participants explored ways of institutionalizing change and remedying the bureaucratic tendencies of big organizations.
This movement that started at Minnowbrook has been criticized as anti-theoretic, anti-positivist and anti-management (in the manipulative sense). Its positive value lies in bringing public administration closer to political science. In fact, the movement has been successful in integrating public administration with the basic concerns of political theory. The client oriented, normative and socially conscious public administration, as advocated by the new movement, is of direct relevance for the ‘third world’ countries as well, where public administration is in dire need of de-bureaucratization and basic, qualitative transformation.
The essential message of ‘new public administration’ has not been missed by mainstream scholars of public administration. There is, in this movement, a streak of idealism, a concern for quantity of life and ‘a desire to ameliorate the lot of the more deprived members of society’