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The Politics of the Administrative Process

Drawing on the democracy theme and discarding the link to the executive branch, Patricia M. Shields asserts that public administration “deals with the stewardship and implementation of the products of a living democracy”.[14] The key term “product” refers to “those items that are constructed or produced” such as prisons, roads, laws, schools, and security. “As implementors, public managers engage these products.” They participate in the doing and making of the “living” democracy. A living democracy is “an environment that is changing, organic”, imperfect, inconsistent and teaming with values. “Stewardship is emphasized because public administration is concerned “with accountability and effective use of scarce resources and ultimately making the connection between the doing, the making and democratic values”.[15]

More recently scholars claim that “public administration has no generally accepted definition”, because the “scope of the subject is so great and so debatable that it is easier to explain than define”.[16] Public administration is a field of study (i.e., a discipline) and an occupation. There is much disagreement about whether the study of public administration can properly be called a discipline, largely because of the debate over whether public administration is a subfield of political science or a subfield of administrative science“, the latter an outgrowth of its roots in policy analysis and evaluation research.[16][17] Scholar Donald Kettl is among those who view public administration “as a subfield within political science”.[18] According to Lalor a society with a public authority that provides at least one public good can be said to have a public administration whereas the absence of either (or a fortiori both) a public authority or the provision of at least one public good implies the absence of a public administration. He argues that public administration is the public provision of public goods in which the demand function is satisfied more or less effectively by politics, whose primary tool is rhetoric, providing for public goods, and the supply function is satisfied more or less efficiently by public management, whose primary tools are speech acts, producing public goods. The moral purpose of public administration, implicit in its acceptance of its role, is the maximization of the opportunities of the public to satisfy its wants.[19]