Comparative Public Administration – Paper I

Comparative Public Administration

The concept of public administration is applicable across different countries and their respective governments. therefore comparison between different countries is important for better administration. The nature and scope of comparative public administration are wide and to study it thoroughly one needs to understand the challenges of comparative public administration. Check this out to now different models of comparative public administration including the relationship between administration and politics in different countries, and Ferrel Heady’s contribution to

Administration And Politics In Different Countries

Man is a comparing’ animal: he compares himself with other fellow beings. He has always been curious about how others live and act and behave.

The resultant comparative interest stems from three basic desires:

i) to know how others are and act.

ii) to discover similarities and dissimilarities between oneself and others, and us gain an enriched perception of one’s self; and

iii) to accept what is perceived to be the best in others – a reformist motivation, in other words.

What is true of man is also true of man’s creations; and Government is certainly among the best, if not the best among such formations. Comparative government (politics and administration) has become a field of growing importance in all countries.

Today, geographical boundaries have disappeared. They are many occasions where an individual comes in contact with the political and administrative systems of various countries. There is a visible interest in acquiring some knowledge about how other political and administrative systems work. In short, comparative politics and administration assist a citizen to gain knowledge of other politico-administrative systems and thus become more self-enriched and mature.

The interest in the study of foreign politico-administrative systems flows from a desire to get new ideas for the development of one’s institutions. Likewise, knowledge about ones owns institutions may help others. But higher reasons are pointing to the need as well as the desirability of studying comparative politics and administration i.e., to raise the study to a scientific level. The students of comparative politics and administration collect, classify and interpret data about a given topic under study and thus they generate generalizations and abstractions. They use the empirical method of research and build up theoretical knowledge of the political phenomena. (This was the desire which made ‘Aristotle’go comparative in his study of revolutions. By studying the 158 constitutions of the Greek city-states, Aristotle arrived at the generalization about what caused instability and what promised stability).

No less is the significance of comparative politics/administration for policy formation and implementation. For instance, it may be possible to predict trends by a careful study of the politics of foreign countries and further to analyse their implications for one’s own country. (The pioneering work in this connection in ‘Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America’ in which the author analyses what the pushing wave of democracy would mean for his own country, viz. France).

Today, there is an increasing interest on the part of the people to know more and more about others political life. While many efforts have been made towards developing comparative studies, the contribution of Ferrel Heady is pioneering and noteworthy.

The Contribution Of Ferrel Heady Study Of Administrative Systems

Ferrel Heady in his book “Public Administration a “Comparative Perspective’ has conducted an elaborate study of various administrative systems across the world. His basic postulate can be summarized as follows: “Public Administration of a country is influenced by political and constitutional set up of that country Even when a similar type of administrative system is adopted by two countries, it functions quite differently because of varying political and constitutional systems”.

Ferrel Heady’s study categorizes countries across the world into ten broad categories of meaningful study. They are :

  • France and Germany
  • Britain And America
  • Japan
  • Soviet Union
  • Traditional Autocratic Systems
  • Bureaucratic Elite Systems, Civil And Military
  • Polyarchal Comparative Systems
  • Dominant Party: Semi Competitive Systems
  • Dominant Party Mobilisation System
  • Communist Totalitarian Systems

The first four countries fall under the category of developed countries and the remaining six have been placed in the category of developing countries. They are briefly described below:

France and Germany

Ferrel Heady refers to France and Germany as ‘classic’ administrative systems. For the last two centuries, both these countries have faced a situation of political instability. Far-reaching and violent changes have taken place but in both countries, there has been remarkable administrative and bureaucratic continuity. In these countries the administrator is not considered a ‘public servant’ but as a public official…… “speaking for the State and acting on its behalf, the bureaucrat considers himself as possessing a bit of sovereignty which entitles him to respectful attention and this view is also shared by the citizenry”. Public administrators join the civil service at a comparatively young age and continue to hold their positions till they retire. They are given extensive training. Their representatives sit in the committees which take disciplinary action against them, They are consulted in matters of promotion and change of status, The public servants actively participate in politics.

Britain and America

Almond and Verba referred to the political characteristics of Great Britain and the United States as the ‘civic culture’. They describe the culture’ as “participant and pluralistic, based on communication and persuasion, a culture of consensus and diversity, a culture that permitted change but moderated it”. The political and cultural background of both these countries is almost similar — they enjoy political stability and a well-established constitutional system. The political system in both countries has gradually evolved and so also the administrative system. In both, countries senior civil servants and administrators are actively involved in decision-making. Bureaucracies in both countries are under social pressure and the citizens contribute extensively in public administration activities.


Ferrel Heady refers to the administrative system of Japan as Modernising Administration’. ( Japan had undertaken a mammoth programme of modernization which converted it into a highly modernized and developed country. In this transformation the bureaucracy, both civil and military had played a leading part). All government servants are regarded as representatives of the society as a whole and not of any particular group or category. Senior public service administrators take an active part in political decision-making and remain actively associated with public activities. After retirement from service, a public servant can hold any elected political office and start a new career.

Soviet Union

After the revolution of 1917 changes of far-reaching importance came in the country. The Communist Party was all-powerful and monopolised all the powers of the state; Every administrative activity was dominated by political ideology and was taken up as per the dictates of the party bosses Political party units looked after the work on any administrative unit and organization. Even at the local level, public servants were accountable to local party leaders for all their activities. Public servants were supposed to promote communist ideology. The Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991 and more administrative systems fielded to a new one. The hold of the Communist Party over administration has relaxed but the public administrators still have a stronghold over administration.

Traditional Autocratic System Countries

In this category have been included some countries of near east such as Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Morocco etc., and South American countries such as Paraguay and Peru etc. Some of these countries are large and densely populated. Their administrative system is traditional, Administration is headed by a hereditary ruler or the aristocracy but in either case, the people have no share in it. These societies are not yet modernized though change is promoted. There is no room for competitive politics. Political parties and interest groups do not exist here. Privileged classes T do not start any political movement or take interest in spreading a political ideology. It is believed that awakened political leaders can create problems for rulers and ruling classes so no efforts are made to propagate education. Ruling classes look after their interests only and for this purpose use both civilian and military agencies. All activities are undertaken by the administrative system but its effectiveness is reduced because of its traditional characteristics and problems. Efforts are made from time to time to remedy it.

Bureaucratic Elite System Countries

Developing countries are surrounded by statęs where political power is in the hands of military rulers or public administrators. This category includes countries like Myanmar, Indonesia, Iraq, South Korea, Sudan, Syria and Thailand etc. The influence of traditional powerful elites has very much reduced to a great extent The military leaders claim that they are trying to bring modernisation but the masses are not convinced by their claim. People do not participant in administration. Opposition is not tolerated in these countries and even political parties which support the government do not have any solid programme. The vacuum thus created is filled by public administration. Its main aim and activity are to maintain law and order and to provide protection to the people. Those in power in these countries try to consolidate their power and position.

In this system, military officers play a more important role than public administrators. They have sufficient resources to have a hold over politics and civil administration, To capture political power both military and civil administrators reach an understanding. This develops a professional outlook, encourages collective loyalty and inspires activity. The relationship is established between nation-building and economic development. This system has its weaknesses. It has no faith in political relations and fails to develop any clear ideology or theories. No systematic efforts are made to educate and enlighten the masses.

Polyarchal Competitive Systems

In this category counties like the Philippines, Greece, Malaysia, Chile, Costa Rica, Israel, Lebanon, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Turkey etc. are included. They have political systems almost similar to those which prevail in Western European countries and the U.S.A. these countries have organized political parties which try to capture power. But these do not exactly function on the same pattern on which political parties in West European countries function. Political leaders appeal

to the masses to win their cooperation and also make several promises. Political principles change very quickly depending on the circumstances and past experiences. Pressure groups very often influence the activities of the government. The programmes and policies of the government are prepared to keep short-term objectives in view. Objectives of social service areas like education welfare and health etc. are so set that these are easily understandable and are very much appreciated by the people. Economic and social reforms planned on a long term basis remain ineffective here. In this political system, the government does not have enough power to implement laws and levy taxes. The administration itself becomes a cause of competition between rival poetical groups.

Dominant Party: Semi Competitive System

In a dominant party semi-competitive system, one party has held a monopoly of actual power for a substantial period of time, but other parties are legal and do exist. The dominant party has a record of overshadowing all other parties and is victorious in virtually all elections. It is nondictatorial. The most clear cut example of such a dominant party is Mexico’s Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI). The PRI has been able to monopolise the electoral process and control all branches of the federal government and state government. In such a regime, the most significant political competition takes place among ideological, regional, and interest-oriented factions within the dominant party. There is pre-eminence of executive leadership in both the political and administrative spheres. (India and Malaysia have also been considered as examples of dominant party regimes, however with contrasting features to Mexico).

Dominant Party

Mobilisation System Scholars have placed Algeria: Bolivia, Egypt, Ghana, Guinea. Male and some other West African countries under this system. The countries in this category differ from those placed in the previous category In politics here there is less obedience and more possible suppression. Only the powerful political party is legally recognized. If some other political parties are allowed to function, many restrictions and limitations have been imposed on them so that these remain weak and their position is only in name and not in effect. In it, ideology is venerated and the masses are made to appreciate – “that everyone is expected to be loyal to the state which in effect means government”. The youth are highly urbanised, educated and lean towards secularism and progressive nationalism. Any influential and active (Charismatic) person can become the leader of the movement. But he has no fixed tenure and his future is always insecure and he always tries to get mass support in his favour so that he can remain in power for both as long a period as he can.

Communist Totalitarian System

All communist countries including USSR can be put under this category It is controversial it all the countries included in this category can be called developing. Considering the large size of China and its prestige in the communist world, it can be placed in a category of its own East-European countries that were also sufficiently developed. Communist regimes in Romania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Albania and collapsed by 1991 and these countries shifted to western-style democracy. Their status is not lower than Span or Portugal. Only North Korea, North Vietnam and Cuba etc. may be classed as developing countries like the communist countries of Africa Asia and Latin America. Though the level of development differs from one country to another, the most important common feature of all these communist countries is that they all subscribe to the philosophy of Marx and Lenin and their approach is totalitarian. This ideology dominates everything else and repression and suppression are considered essential methods of bringing about social change. Being totalitarian states the communist party dominates the whole political show and none who opposes this domination is tolerated. In this system, every aspect is governed by the dominant political party and all the centres of the preceding independent authority are crushed out of existence.

Current Status And Future Of Comparative Administration

As a subfield, Comparative Public Administration cannot claim a long history. S o me writings of Aristotle, interest in comparative governmental systems has been a no of academic and practical enquiry. Nations have been interested in organizing their executive branch of government, and as they tried to innovate administratively they studied and adopted practices of other countries. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, revolutionaries and reformers in Europe looked across boundaries for institutions to copy or reject. Undoubtedly the most important comparative research was earned out between 1895 and 1920, not by comparative law professors or participants in an international congress, but by a sociologist, Max Weber. We owe to Weber the core concept of the field bureaucracy – as part of a comparative typology of the forms of domination: tradition, charisma and legal rationality. Since then major comparative studies in the USA had been made by European – trained scholars whose central focus was: the role of bureaucracies in modern government.

Comparative Public Administration has been widened and deepened by scholarly interest in the administration of third world countries, especially after World War II. But the field had its earlier cultivators in Europe and America (e.g. Finer, Carl Friedrich).

Comparative Public Administration is interested in cross-cultural Public Administration. The founding fathers like Leonard White thought that cultural factors did not make any difference in administrative settings, as in their view, there were universal principles’ applicable to situations anywhere and everywhere. But, writers like Robert Dahl and Dwight Waldo pointed out that cultural factors could make public administration in one nation different from that in another. As Dahl has explained, “The comparative aspects of public administration have largely been ignored, and as long as the study of public administration is not comparative, claim for a ‘science of administration sounds rather hollow.

Comparative Public Administration got its real impetus in 1962 when the Comparative Administration Group (GAG) of the American Society for Public Administration received fairly lavish funding from the Ford Foundation at a time when the Cold War was at its height.

Ford funding was terminated in 1971, as the research activities were oriented more towards theory-building rather than empirical and practical problem-solving.

The Comparative Administrative Group was disbanded in 1973 and merged with the International Committee of the American Society for Public Administration. Reflecting on the gradual decline of CPA, Golembiewski wrote “Public administration should take note of the fact that comparative administrations failure rests substantially on a self-imposed failure experience. It set an unattainable goal, that is, in its early and persisting choice to seek a comprehensive theory or model in terms of which to define itself.

Future Prospect Of Public Administration

Lack of financial support, for a time, reduced academic interest in comparative administrative research. The real work of public administration has, however, presented many opportunities, in recent times, for innovative comparative studies. For instance, there is today increasing inter-state, interactions due to globalisation’ and liberalisation policies dictated by international economic transactions. The interactive efforts in the performance of states can thus be a good theme for comparative analysis. The issue of human rights is currently engaging the attention of international institutions and national governments. Comparative studies of human rights’ enforcement could be another major area of comparative study. There is yet another trend noticeable in governmental circles-the co-production of results in the public sector. Public bureaucracies private firms, voluntary agencies and community-based organisations are coming together more and more, blurring the distinction between public’ and ‘private’ management. Now in different situations, the nations are promoting co-production and creating a climate of networking cf ‘governance’. All these go to constitute a new thrust toward comparative governmental analysis. This optimistic climate of comparative administrative studies has been aptly described by Robert Fried in the following words: “The international interdependency of bureaucracies….. the universalizing of demands for human rights; the crucial role of publics in resisting or promoting reform; chancy the nature of status as a member of first, second or third worlds – all of these present students and practitioners of comparative public administration with unexpected challenges to understanding, unexpected opportunities for research and conceptual development, unexpected excitement”.

It seems CPA is poised today for resurrection, as the situation worldwide is getting more and more propitious for comparative administrative analysis.

Check out public administration notes in detail.

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