The discipline of public administration has become an important field since its inception, but in post World war II period, the significance of public administration  has widened mainly because of the increasing complexities of society, growing functions of state and growth of government on democratic lines.

Today public administration has gained so much importance that the modern state is often described as ‘administrative state’. Public administration has gained immense importance since the emergence of the administrative state.

The success or failure of the activities of the state depends upon public administration. Here we may take a quote from Charles A. Beard. He states that

There is no subject more important…. then the subject of Administration. The future of civilized government, and even, I think, of civilization itself rests upon our ability to develop a science and philosophy and practice of administration competent to discharge public functions of civilized society. 

(Beard,1937: Page 3) 

The importance of public administration as a specialized discipline of study was well brought out by Woodrow Wilson when he observed in his article that, “There should be a science of administration which shall seek to straighten the paths of government, to make its business less un- business-like, to strengthen and purify its organization, and to crown its duties which dutifulness.”

Brooks Adam writes, “Administration is an important human faculty because its chief function is to facilitate social change and to cushion the shock of revolution.”
He further observes, “Social consolidation is not a simple problem, for social consolidation implies an equivalent capacity for administration, perfection in administration must be commensurate to the bulk and momentum of the mass to be administered, otherwise the centrifugal will overcome the centripetal force, and the mass will disintegrate. In other words, civilization would dissolve.”

Similarly, Edmund Burke writes. “You may constitute the government in the way you like it but without the proper management, your commonwealth is no better than a scheme on paper and not a living, active, effective constitution. The administration is there in all situations. There would be no existence without administration”.

Ramsay Muir writes, “While governments may come and go, ministers may rise and fall, the administration of a country goes on forever. No revolution can change it and no upheaval can uproot it”

Gerald Caiden in his book “The Dynamics of Public Administration (1971) has listed the following crucial role as assumed by public administration in contemporary society: (Caiden 1971:25) 

  1. Preservation of the polity. 
  2. Maintenance of stability and order.
  3. Institutionalization of socio-economic change. 
  4. Management of large-scale commercial services. 
  5. Ensuring growth and economic development. 
  6. Protection of the weaker sections of society. 
  7. Formation of public opinion. 
  8. Influencing public policies and political trends. 

We thus can study the significance of the public administration from the following points of view, namely,

  • Its significance as an instrument of governance; 
  • its significance as an instrument of development and change; 
  • its significance in the modern democratic welfare state.

Significance of Public Administration as an Instrument of Governance: 

The most important function of the government is to govern i.e. to maintain peace and public order and to ensure the safety and security of the life and property of the citizens. It has to ensure that contracts are honored by the citizens and their disputes settled. This most significant role of the government is to be fulfilled through the instrument of public administration.

At the beginning of the civilization, this was probably the only function performed by the public administration. As civilization has advanced, many very important functions have been taken over by the government, but, the importance of these basic functions should not be minimized. Worthwhile progress or development is not possible unless the citizens can live in peace.

It is also a mistake to think that this regulatory function of the public administration has been static. It has been growing with the growing complexity of modern civilization.

Significance of Public Administration as an Instrument of Development and Change:

The public administration has to play a very significant role as an instrument of development and change. The administration of the country reflects the genius of its people and embodies their qualities, desires, and aspirations.

Whenever the people decide to proceed on the road to development, their main instrument is the public administration. They need to be trained manpower to run schools, colleges, and technical Institutions. They need technical manpower to build roads, bridges, buildings, and to run the machines in the industry. They need scientific manpower to undertake research and development.

It is the well develop public administration which makes all this possible. It is true that part of the effort comes in from the private sector, but it alone cannot complete the task. A lot of basic infrastructures have to be developed for which the private initiative is usually not forthcoming.

In several development areas, the initial thrust has to be provided by the government. All this is not possible without a well-developed public administration. The first task of a developing country is, therefore, to develop adequate administrative machinery which can take up the diverse tasks required for all-round development. Besides economic development, public administration is also an instrument of social change and development.

Several social welfare measures have to be taken up. New laws have to be enacted and enforced. The obvious examples are anti-dowry laws and laws for the protection of weaker sections like labor, children, women, etc. While the impetus for social change may come to form the political process, somebody has to draft the laws and enforce them. This is the task of public administration.

Significance of Public Administration as an Instrument of Welfare State:

In a modern democratic welfare state, the government has to provide many services for the welfare of its citizens. It includes the provision of schooling, medical facilities, and social security measures.

The development process brings up many problems. The welfare state has to identify these problems and devise solutions for them. The formulation of welfare schemes and their implementation is another significant function of public administration.

The public administration is thus not only a protector of citizens from external dangers or internal disorders but has become the greatest provider of various services. The welfare of the people depends very much on the way the public administration functions.

No wonder today’s state has been called an “Administrative State”. Professor V.V. Donham has rightly said, “if our civilization fails, it will be mainly because of administration”.



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