March 9, 2012
MPA5001: Foundations of Public Administration
Administration-Politics Dichotomy represents the existence of a contradictory and exclusive relationship between that of political policies and administrative processes. Our 28th President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson saw the country through World War 1 and was unable to convince the US that the League of Nations was a viable effort. The models of Administration-Politics Dichotomy vary; the orthodox model emphasized strict separation of politics and administration, with each having its own distinct functions. As politics determines the goals and the policies of government, and administration implements those goals and policies, and added to this the administrator should be neutral politically. Whether defining partisan politics or formulating policy, neutrality applies to politics, in its minimal form, it applies to that of partisan neutrality. This version of the dichotomy then puts stress on the fact that there is to be insulation from politics, posting that elected officials are not allowed to interfere with the administration or any implementation of policies, therefore, administrators must rely on their technical effectiveness in order to develop the best ways to administer policy and goals that are set out by the elected officials, and they must remain insulated from all political pressures in exercising their discretion based on their professional competence in order to carry out those policies set by the legislature. In evidentiary fact based on the articles read, the administration-politics dichotomy is normally attributed to that of two public administration scholars from long past, that of Woodrow Wilson and Frank Goodnow, who were often very misrepresented, especially Goodnow. Their works give us some lay ground for suggesting that they advocated strict interpretation of the dichotomy, by example, Wilson wrote “The field of administration is a field of business. It is removed from the hurry and strife of politics; …” (1887, 209). Wilson further argued that the “administration lies outside the proper sphere of politics. Administrative questions are not political questions. Although politics set the tasks for administration it should not be suffered to manipulate its offices” (p.210, emphasis in the original). The latter part of the statement illustrates the insulation from politics along with the separation of the two functions of government. Later, Woodrow Wilson stated that “the broad plans of governmental action are not administrative” (p. 212). Woodrow Wilson also exposed an empowered administrator, on that possessed considerable flexibility in executing governmental action. He also went on to write that “large powers and unhampered discretion see to me the indispensable conditions of responsibility” (p. 213).
Wilson also desired to separate politics and administration, and it probably came from his need to persuade others to accept reforms of administrative practices that were drawn from European nations, who at that time were not rich with the legacy of democratic practices, he wanted to import those administrative practices and leave behind the non-democratic politics. Frank Goodnow was the second most intellectual ancestor of the dichotomy and he wrote the first length of book about public administration in 1900. Goodnow notes that “politics has to do with policies or expressions of the state will, and administration has to do with the execution of these policies” (1900, 18). However, Goodnow's view is considerably more nuanced according to Lynn (2001) and Svara (1998, 53). Svara, a student of local government management argued that the council manager reform movement, at least at times throughout its history, “was clearly unambiguously embracing the administration-politics dichotomy” (Svara, 1998). The articles combined efforts demonstrate...