Democratic and Socialist Goals of Public Administration

The role and functions of the Government and the bureaucracy is that which keeps constantly evolving in the wake of developments and changes in and around the world. During our discourse we have seen how the academic discipline of public administration has evolved. It has undergone reforms and has been influenced by developments in other sciences like social and behavioral.

Democracy is a representative form of Government chosen by the people. The entire idea of public administration in a democracy is contradictory. Public administration as described by Frederick Camp Mosher is three steps removed from the people. According to Berkeley and Rouse public service and democracy are both opposing in nature yet complement each other.

In a democratic state, the spirit of democracy needs to be maintained in the manner in which the public services are administered. The public administration of a democratic state needs to be transparent, efficient and most importantly should be open for public scrutiny and criticism. It should ensure scope for incorporation of public opinions and ideas for improvement and delivering better services. It needs to be representing the general interest of a large section of people rather than personal interests of specific few.

In a diverse country like India where the social denominators like caste, religion, language etc pose barriers at so many levels, the public administration should be such that it rises above and transverses all differences.

According to Richard C Box in his book Democracy and Public Administration, there are several important roles that public administration plays in a Democracy, like:

  • Preserving and upholding democratic values and delivering democracy by ensuring the access to the fundamental and other rights of the citizens
  • Ensuring that the general interest of the public is addressed through the routes of public services
  • Administering all government institutions as per the democratic values
  • Following the instructions of the legislative bodies carefully while implementing policies, laws, rules and regulations
  • Acting as a role model of reliability, morality while being ethical and professional

We have read Karl Marx slamming bureaucracy as a government tool created and controlled by the dominant class to cater to their interests. Antonio Gramsci Italian socialist theorists states that bureaucracy is a narrow minded and conservative force and it becomes dangerous when it detaches itself from the mass of members that constitute it and starts functioning as an independent entity.

So if the resources and the power of their distribution lie with the state, the role that bureaucracy has to play can be:

  • Ensuring equitable distribution of goods and services
  • Improving the quality of living standards of people
  • Expanding the scope of administrative function to include all
  • Associating with people in more ways to make them a part of the administrative process

A reader may find these goals to be quite similar to that of a democratic set up and indeed it is. The only difference in a socialist set up is that the government tends to have more and centralized power. Critics have argues that democracy involves planning which means that the freedom and liberties of some will have to be given up for the greater good. However, in the long run, even to achieve socialism, certain level of democracy becomes essential.

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