Public Administration: Meaning, Scope, and Its Nature

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Public Administration Meaning, Nature, Scope & Importance

Administration as an activity is as old as society itself. But as an area of study, it originated, with the publication of Wilson’s essay on the study of Administration in 1887.

As a process, administration occurs in both public and private organizations.

It occurs in such diverse institution settings as business firms, labor unions, religious or charitable organizations, educational institutions, etc.

Its nature is affected by the sphere with which it is concerned. The administration is commonly divided into two types, Public and Private Administration.

As an aspect of government activity, it has existed since the emergence of the political system(s).

While public administration relates to the activities carried out by the government, private administration refers to the management of private business enterprises.

It is important to understand the functioning of administration for in this lies the understanding of the government.

In this Unit, an effort has been made to bring the concept of administration, public administration in particular, closer to you.

This understanding will take you through the entire course of Public Administration. In what follows, we will examine the meaning, nature, and scope of public administration.

What Is Administration?

The word ‘administer’ is derived from the Latin word administered, which means to care for or to look after people, to manage affairs.

Administration may be defined as “group activity which involves cooperation and coordination for the purpose of achieving desired goals or objectives”.

Broadly speaking, the term administration appears to bear at least four different meanings or different senses depending upon the context in which it is used:

(1) As a Discipline: The name of a branch of learning or intellectual discipline as taught and studied in colleges and universities.

(2) As a Vocation: Type of work/trade or profession/occupation, especially one that involves knowledge and training in a branch of advanced learning.

(3) As a Process: The sum total of activities undertaken to implement Public Policy or policies to produce some services or goods.

(4) As a Synonym for ‘word’ Executive or Government: Such other bodies of persons in supreme charge of affairs, for example, Manmohan Singh Administration, Bush Administration, etc.

Noted below are definitions by a few famous writers. E.N. Gladden “Administration is a long and slightly pompous word, but it has a humble meaning, for it means to care for or look after people, to ADMINISTRATION, ORGANISATION, AND MANAGEMENT.

Before we discuss the meaning, definition, nature, scope, and importance of public administration we will try to know what is administration, organization, and management.

As these terms are often used interchangeably and synonymously, it is pertinent to know the differences and distinctions between these three terms.

According to William Schulze Administration is the force, which lays down the object for which an organization and its management are to strive and the broad policies under which they are to operate.

An Organisation is a combination of the necessary human beings, materials, tools, equipment, and working space, appurtenances brought together in systematic and effective co-relation to accomplish some desired object.

Management is that which leads guides and directs an organization for the accomplishment of a pre-determined object.

To put the above in simple terms, the administration sets the goal, management strives to attain it and the organization is the machine of the management for the attainment of the ends determined by the administration.

Some scholars have different views on administration and management.

According to Peter Drucker management is associated with business activity, which has to show economic performance, whereas administration is associated with nonbusiness activities like activities of the Government.

The other view is that administration is associated with performing routine things in known settings in accordance with certain procedures, rules, and regulations.

Management is associated with performing functions like risk-taking, dynamic, creative, and innovative functions. Some scholars of Public Administration are closely associated with the first view that is, the administration is a determinative function.

Management, on the other hand, is an executive function that is primarily concerned with carrying out the broad policies laid down by the administration.

Organization is the machinery through which coordination is established between administration and management.


White observes that although public administration varies in form and objects, and although the administration of public and private affairs differs at many points, there is an underlying similarity, if not identical.

As an integral aspect of such a generic concept, public administration could be related to that type of administration, which operates within a specific ecological setting.

It is a means to carry out the policy decisions made by the political executive.

To be seen along with it is the ‘Public’ aspect of Public Administration, which attributes a special character and focus to it.

‘Public’ can be looked at formally to mean ‘government’. So, public administration is government administration, the government in action, or a socio-economic and politico-administrative confluence, the focus being especially on public bureaucracy.

Encyclopaedia Britannica defines public administration as ‘the application of a policy of a state through its government.’

Public Administration, therefore, refers to that part of the administration, which pertains to the administrative activities of the government.

Now we will try to look into the definitions of Public Administration provided by various scholars.

Language English
No. of Pages25
PDF Size0.4 MB

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