What is the Relationship between Public Administration and Political Science?

Public Administration deals with the administrative activities of government and Pfiffner defines it “as the co-ordination of collective efforts to implement public policy.”

It covers everything the civil agencies of government do, or could do, to help the body-politic attain its purpose.

Public administration is really a part of Political Science, though it is now regarded and accepted as a separate subject of study. This dichotomy arose because of the two senses in which the term public administration was used in the nineteenth century.

In a broader sense, public administration referred to the work involved in the actual conduct of the affairs of government, regardless of the particular branch concerned. In a narrow sense, it referred to the operations of the administrative branch only, with defined functions of enforcing the policy as distinct from the policy determining function.


The policy determining function was deemed to be the political branch of government whereas the policy enforcing function its administrative branch. This distinction between the two branches of government led public administration to be regarded as a separate subject of study. Good now asserted,

“The fact is that there is a large part of administration which is unconnected with politics, which should be relieved very largely, if not altogether, from the control of political bodies.

It is unconnected with politics because it embraces fields of semi- scientific, quasi-judicial and quasi-business or commercial activities—work which has little, if any, influence on the expression of the true State will.”

But that is not exactly so. Administration is only a means to the attainment of the objectives of the State. While discussing the purpose and scope of Public Administration, Leonard D. White says, “The immediate objective of the art of public administration is the most efficient utilization of resources at the disposal of officials and employees.

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In their broader context, the ends of administration are the ultimate objects of the State itself—the maintenance of peace and order, the progressive achievement of justice, the instruction of the young, protection against disease and insecurity, the adjustment and compromise of conflicting groups and interests—in short, the attainment of the good life:”

This similarity in the ends of Public Administration and Political Science, particularly in the context of a democratic government and a Welfare State, made possible, in the thirties of the present century, an evaluation of the relationship between the two. It is now generally agreed that the attempt to demarcate clear-cut functions of government is impossible. Government is a continuous process.

It is true that the process contains phases. Legislation is one phase, administration another. But these are merged together and at certain points become indistinguishable. The distinction between policy determining functions and administrative functions is too hazy, for, as Herbert Simon says, the whole process of government and administration is one of “decision-making.” Homer Durham goes to the extent of accepting the concept of “Administrative Politics.”


This is, again, an extreme view. Yet, it is incorrect to assert that Political Science and Public Administration are separate and autonomous structures or processes. “To argue,” as White says, “That they should be separate and independent is hardly defensible, given the nature of democratic government.”

Even the traditional concept of civil service neutrality is undergoing a radical change. “The concept,” writes S. Lall, is “being rapidly transformed, without a conscious realisation, from a negative doctrine of political sterilization and neutrality to a positive, non-partisan participation in the management of the country’s affairs.” Administration today is no longer just the execution of policy; it reacts upon policy and actively participates in its making.

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