The Nature of Public Administration

Topic: Public Administration
Words: 1419 Pages: 5

The scope of public administration has significantly transformed in the past through three stages: the Old Public Administration, the New Public Management, and the present-day New Public Service. Each of these schools of thought is unique and has its own peculiarities. Conventionally, the Old Public Administration entailed a hierarchical structure, whereby individuals working on behalf of the public were selected to enact policies instead of designing them.

Besides, these public officials were mandated with reinforcing the organizational structure and efficiency. The New Public Management concentrates on the self-interest of individuals in line with the public choice theory. Additionally, the latest New Public Service focused on ensuring accountability by safeguarding citizens’ interests, professional standards, and public or community values, in line with the democratic citizenship theories. In particular, Denhardt & Denhardt (2015) classifies the New Public Service as entailing the State’s function to serve its citizens, the New Public Management as encompassing the State’s steering function, and the Old Public Administration as the State’s responsibility in implementing tasks or rowing.

Whereas the New Public Management concentrated on attending to clients and relied on the marketplace and customer service, the Old Public Administration primarily focused on attending to customers. Even though upholding the quality of state services is essential, applying the client service strategy could result in theoretical and practical dilemmas or challenges. Furthermore, one significant challenge entails the minimal available options in the government.

For example, in most cases, only one police or fire department exists (Denhardt & Denhardt, 2015). Also, the state offers numerous services that the client might not require, for instance, jail sentencing or speeding tickets. Additionally, it is difficult to identify the government’s clients since every individual has distinct interests. Besides, Denhardt & Denhardt (2015) highlight that some state services such as environmental protection or foreign policy do not resonate with different clients. In this regard, once availed, they are offered to everyone, whether they prefer them or not.

However, in the New Public Service, a democratic state need to serve its citizens, not customers or clients. This school of thought establishes that comprehending the differences between citizens and customers can result in an improvement in service quality. Additionally, citizens are perceived as the owners of duties and rights in the scope of the broader society. Also, clients are different since they do not have similar goals and instead desire to maximize their individual gains.

Public interest possesses numerous definitions that fluctuate in various periods. For instance, striving to define public interest is challenging since it encompasses innumerable meanings. Evidently, public interest has multiple meanings to multiple individuals facing distinct situations, and it fluctuates over time in both substance and form. Regardless, the public interest possesses four distinct scopes: shared value, political process affiliated, abolitionist, and normative (Denhardt & Denhardt, 2015).

Concerning the Old Public Administration, political leaders and elected public officials established that public interest is overly attained by enacting legislation in the most politically neutral, scientific, and efficient manner (Denhardt & Denhardt, 2015). Furthermore, in the New Public Management, the aspect of public interest has no meaning due to the predomination of self-interest, which conflicts with the element of shared values. Besides, public theorists now perceive public interest as exceptionally adversary. Additionally, they believe that the public interest is not essential or meaningful since it is unnecessary and cannot be assessed.

However, there are some different opinions in this regard. Denhardt & Denhardt (2015) establish that public administrators in the New Public Service possess an essential and vital purpose in assisting citizens in maneuvering through the shared interest concept. Besides, individual and collective interests as well as the shared values should inform the decision-making and behavior of the public officials. Public administrators are also perceived as significant players in the broader governance structure, encompassing elected officials, distinct groups, and citizens (Denhardt & Denhardt, 2015). In this regard, all must be granted equal opportunities to participate in deliberative processes and dialogue on public aspects.

The function of public officials in the Old Public Administration was primarily to enact policies that political players embraced due to the perception that administration and policy should be distinct. Additionally, the society’s goals were solely informed by the elected political leaders, and the association between the leaders and administrators was unclear (Stillman, 2009). In the New Public Management, administrators were perceived more as entrepreneurs than officials. In particular, they were motivated to assume duty in designing policies that they perceived would improve society. At the same time, the public administrators were encouraged to offer options to the clients to help them establish market incentives.

Whereas the New Public Management concentrated on managers focusing on entrepreneurship, and the Old Public Administration focused on administrative proficiency, the New Public Service provides that public administrators need to help citizens express and articulate their desires in designing policies (Stillman, 2009). Furthermore, there are multiple reasons why public officials need to practically and theoretically motivate citizens. Some of the theoretical reasons include the administrators’ mandate to listen to the citizens’ voices, their mandate to educate and enlighten them, and the ethical necessity of the administrators in caring for citizens (Stillman, 2009). Examples of the practical aims of administrators in assisting citizens in participating in the policy process entail the accountability and transparency that emanates from their engagement, the improvement of the policies’ quality, and citizens’ anticipations of being comprehended and acknowledged.

Accountability is a dynamic aspect and challenging for public administrators, particularly in the New Public Service Paradigm. This is because administrators are indebted to numerous distinct norms and entities, encompassing citizens, non-profit and profit sectors, media, professional standards, and public interest (Denhardt & Denhardt, 2015). An increasingly simplistic perception of accountability was evident in the Old Public Administration.

In this case, administrators were accountable and responsible to elected officials and political players due to the absence of discretion and presence of a hierarchy in the administrators who were mandated to enact policies, rules, and laws (Stillman, 2009). As a result, the administrators’ mandate to citizens was not essential. Notably, administrators majorly concentrated on economy, effectiveness, and efficiency in the New Public Management framework.

Additionally, there are two principles that inform the public administration framework in serving the people in the business scope: managerial and integral. The integral segment considers all persons in government, from managerial to clerical personnel (Denhardt & Denhardt, 2015). On the other hand, the managerial segment concentrates on the particular persons at the helm of the hierarchy who regulate, coordinate, organize, and arrange public administration operations (Denhardt & Denhardt, 2015). The integral and managerial segments insinuate a multilayered aspect of public administration and its function in serving persons. Besides, the essential importance depends on the established relationships.

Public administration forms an essential component of any government since it concerns serving the citizens, fulfilling their interests, and promoting statism. The prominent institutions that constitute the government include the policing, judicial, and administrative entities. Statism refers to the ideas and doctrines that facilitate the sovereignty and functions of the government institutions (Stillman, 2009). On the other hand, antistatism relates to the principles and ideas that oppose the independence of the central state organizations, striving to undermine their functions and activities (Stillman, 2009). In this regard, the New Public Service facilitates statism by requiring public administrators to help citizens articulate and attain their mutual interests instead of steering or controlling the society.

In summary, the New Public Service entails the state’s function to serve its citizens, and the New Public Management encompasses the State’s steering function. At the same time, the Old Public Administration involves the State’s responsibility in implementing tasks or rowing. The fundamental essence of the Old Public Administration entailed utilizing control and efficiency. On the other hand, the primary worth of the New Public Management entailed using inducements and incentives to attain economic rationality. Consequently, the New Public Management fails to counter human conduct in administrations. Furthermore, in the New Public Service, inspiration entails upholding esteemed public service standards, in which persons behave in line with underlying public interest, citizenship, loyalty, and shared values.

In this regard, the New Public Service needs to conform to the humanistic features of individuals’ behaviors in organizations, for instance, caring for and serving other people. Public managers also need to handle their workers equitably and respect their necessities since they should not warrant their followers’ respect if they do not treat them in a dignified manner. Furthermore, the New Public Service facilitates establishing a consistent citizen engagement, value, trust, and democracy, enabling effective public administration.


Denhardt, J. V., & Denhardt, R. B. (2015). The new public service: Serving, not steering. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe.

Stillman, R. (2009). Public administration: Concepts and cases. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

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