Institutional Approach to Public Administration

The instructional approach to the study of public administration concerns itself with the institutions and organizations of the State. The core area of this method lies in detailed study of the structure, the functioning, rules, and regulations of the executives, legislatures and the departments of the Government. The scholars who practice this approach consider administration to be an apolitical and technical function which lies only in the aspect of policy implementation.

Now, there were many authors like L D White and Luther Gulick who concentrated their effort in describing what an institutional structure was and did little to build any theory actually. The reader may be intrigued as to why this special attention was paid to define institutions.

The present day definition of institution encompassing all kinds of rules, regulations and organizations is argued as inaccurate by many authors like B Guy Peters and Jon Pierre. Institutionalization of an organization takes time.

An organization keeps getting complex by adding informal norms and practices which happens through its interaction with the external environment and they are in a sense independent of the individuals who make an organization at a given point of time.

However, according to Selznick (1957), any organization which is complex needs to be infused with value which is beyond the technical requirement of the tasks that are performed by that organization. This means that an organization has a distinctive sense of self and identity and its way and its beliefs become important for the society as well. It also starts representing the aspiration of the community and in turn influences the community with their own values and beliefs.

A real institution becomes a symbol for the community in many ways, like the very building in which it is housed.

It can be interestingly explained and seen all through the History that the revolting group often occupy the presidential palace or offices or the parliamentary buildings or pose a threat to the powerful and symbolic structures like the terrorist threat on the Pentagon during 9/11 and the 26/11 Taj Hotel attack in India.

The above discussion becomes relevant with respect to the study of public administration because Government organizations are institutional in many ways and represent the needs and aspirations of the community. Therefore, studying and understanding their administration becomes important to make them more efficient and result oriented.

The traditional study of public administration emphasized on the knowledge of History and Law but this institutional approach focuses on the organizational structure, goals and principles as primary. So, a lot of attention was given to the problems related to the functioning of an organization like delegation, coordination & control and bureaucratic structure.

The main drawback to this approach was that little or no attention was given to the external sociological and psychological factors. These factors affect the organization in ways which are not always subtle, but have strong ramifications on the health and well being of an organization.

With this new approach the older approach and theories to the study of public administration also underwent a few changes. There were serious questions raised on the politics- administration bifurcation. The premise that the basic principles of administration can be applied universally was also challenged with the emergence of diverse administrative environments.

The administrative goals of economy and efficiency were supplemented with social and economic progress. And also, a lot of management principles came into the field of public administration. We shall explore a couple of more approaches to the study of administration in subsequent articles.

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