Ecology of Public Administration

Ecology of Public Administration:

In the traditional studies of Public Administration, little attempt was made to examine the relationship between the administrative system and its environment. The deficiency was responsible both for the inadequate and non-systematic research in Public Administration as well as for the lack of comparative Public Administration studies. It also acted as a big hindrance in the way of really productive and efficient action on the part of Public Administration. It had made it very difficult to identify the sources of and reasons behind the differences among various administrative systems, which were at work in various states of the world.  This defect was sought to be removed by undertaking the study of the socio-economic-politico-cultural environment of the Public Administration systems working in different societies.

Studies undertaken after the Second World War started looking specifically at the similarities and dissimilarities among the environmental settings prevailing in different nations. These studies began making an attempt to examine the impact of the environment on the administrative system on the one hand and the influence of the administrative system on the environment of the other. The exercise got the name, the Ecology of Administration, and presently it enjoys an important place in the scope of Public Administration studies.

Man is the product of his environment and this is also true of and applies to his social, political, economic, and administrative institutions. All institutions and systems of work, including Public Administration is influenced by the society’s environment and culture. Public Administration being a subsystem of the social system naturally interacts with other social systems. Likewise, in every society, political, social, cultural, and economic sub-systems interact with the administrative system. Public Administration influences the social system as well as all its subsystems. Likewise, the social system and its subsystems influence the nature and operation of Public Administration. Each constitutes the involvement of the other.

Hence, the study of Public Administration can never be complete and really useful without a study of its environment i.e., the Ecology of Public Administration. It has been precisely such a conclusion that he has compelled all comparative studies of public administration after the Second World War to take into view the environment of administrative systems working in different states. The main emphasis of all such studies has been on an analysis of the impact of the environment on Public Administration.

Meaning of Ecology:

Before studying the Ecology of Public Administration, let us be clear about the meaning of Ecology. Ecology refers to the study of the environment and the interdependence and interaction among the various parts of the environment as well as the relationship between the people and their institutions and the environment. As such the term, Ecology of Public Administration, means its relation with the environment.

The term ecology stands borrowed from Biology where it means the interdependence between an animal species and its natural habitat. Sociology takes the word ecology from Biology and refers to it as a study of man’s spatial relation in urban settings.

Ecology in Public Administration is taken to mean the examination of the interactions between an administrative system and its external environment. Thus the impact of the political system, economic system, social system, and cultural system on the structure and behavior of the administrative system as well as the influence of the administrative system on these environmental structures is investigated in the study of the Ecology of Administration. Such an outlook is also characterized as the Ecological Approach to Public Administration and it is most fruitfully used in comparative Public Administration.

John M. Gaus employs the term ecology of Public Administration for studying the necessary interdependence of public bureaucracy and its environment. Robert A. Dahl also uses this term to examine the environmental effect on administrative structures and behaviors. In 1961, Fred W. Riggs in his book “The Ecology of Public Administration” explored the interactions between Public Administration and the environment in which it works and develops. He came to the conclusion: “The significance of each pattern (of administration) lies in its setting (environment).

According to Ramesh K. Arora and Augsto Ferreros, “The basic premise of the ecological approach in Public Administration is that “public bureaucracy may be regarded as one of the several basic institutions of society.” Thus, in order to understand its structures and functions, it must be studied in the context of inter-relationships with other institutions. The working of every sub-system involves continuous interactions with the economic, political, administrative, social, and socio-cultural sub-systems of the society. The study of interactions between the social institutions and sub-systems and their environments is the basic feature of the Ecological Approach. Such an approach alone can enable us to understand and analyze clearly the actual operation of Public Administration in its environment.

The Study of the Ecology of Public Administration can be undertaken by examining the relationship and interactions of Public Administration with the social, economic, political, and cultural environment of the society.

Social Environment and Public Administration:

Political Environment and Public Administration:

Economic Environment and Public Administration:

The economic environment affects the form, structure, and functions of public administration. No administration can be effectively organized and operated without adequate finances. A low economic position generally goes to low administrative capability. In turn, a lower administrative capability generally reinforces a low level of goal attainment in the economic sphere. That is why for enhancing the capability to attain developmental goals, the administrative system usually has to adopt a new set of values. The economic environment prevailing at a particular time is a determinant of the ability of the Public Administration to attain the assigned targets and goals. A low level of economic development always leads to a low level of development administration. Likewise, public administration also influences the economy of the state. In every country, public administration regulates the economy through licenses, quotas, fixing of prices of commodities, preventing monopolies, preventing unfair trade practices, regulating imports and exports, and other such economic policies. Civil servants and specialized agencies like the Planning Commission, the Reserve Bank of the State, etc. play a deterministic role in fiscal planning. Thus, the economy in the present age cannot survive without the administrative system, and the latter is itself determined, in many respects, by the requirements of the economy. Economic backwardness leads to administrative backwardness. Poverty and illiteracy breed corruption in the administration.

Culture and Public Administration:

There is a continuous interaction between the culture of a society and its administration system. Such interactions play a leading role in determining the role and effectiveness of public administration. In all the developing countries of the world, several factors like emancipation from colonial rule, the presence of neo-colonialism, the need for rapid economic growth and modernization to pull their societies out of mass poverty and ignorance, the rising expectations or frustration of their people, etc., affect their traditional culture and also the administration. Public administration is bound up with cultural values, traditions, and orientations. It follows that the structure of the public administration of one environment setting cannot be transplanted into other cultural milieus. The efforts of the Americans to export scientific public administration have met with negative responses not only in far-fledged places like Pakistan, Vietnam, Philippines, and India but also in European countries like Italy and Turkey.

Thus Public Administration is always conditioned by the socio-politico-economic-cultural environment of the country. The environment determines the behavior of the Public Administration. However, the process is not one way. Public Administration also plays an important role in changing or reshaping the socio-economic-cultural environment of the country. It plays a deterministic role in the formulation and implementation of developmental policies and plans. The study of the system of interactions and relations between public administration and the environment as well as a comparative study of the environments of public administration systems working in various countries of the world, have been emerging as an important and interesting area of study in Public Administration. The Ecological Approach has been becoming increasingly popular with researchers and administrators.

The Ecological Approach examines the process of interactions between the administrative system and its external environment. The impact of the political system, economic system, social system and cultural system on the structure and the behaviour of the administrative system as well as the influence of the administrative system on these environmental structures are the objects of study in the Ecological Approach. However, studies undertaken after the Second World War have been specifically looking at similarities and differences among the environmental settings prevailing in different nations and cultures. They have been attempting to examine the impact of environment on the administrative system on the one hand and the influence of the administrative system on the environment on the other. The Ecological Approach concentrates upon the study of the inter-relationship between the administrative system and its environment. Popularly, the exercise stands designated as the study of the Ecology of Public Administration.

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