Educating Public Administrators in Delivery of Social Justice

Published 15 Feb 2017

The essence of public administration or governance is to enlarge public good in society by contributing to social justice thereby creating a civil community. This differs from the classic concept of public administration which is seen as the most efficient and economical delivery of services. Frederickson’s (Shafritz, 2003) vision of New Public Administration on the other hand appends social equity as an additional aim of classic public administration. Thus in addition to provision of better services within the available resources most economically, New Public Administration addresses the issue of overcoming the bane inherent in classic administration that of bureaucratic perpetuity and deprivation of equal rights to the larger community as against the powerful minority by including social equity as a means of increasing political clout as well as economic privileges of deprived classes in society.

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Continuous transformation through sensitivity and adaptability to change is another unique facet of Fredrickson’s concept of new public administration. (Shafritz, 2003). The focus of the process of programming, planning and budgeting is thus designed to achieve equity in society rather than internal efficiency of the organization delivering administration.

In building institutions the focus is on problems and removal of social deficiencies rather than padding establishments for internal growth. Coming to the distributive process, Fredrickson indicates that the new public administration adopts an equitable pattern in distribution to ensure that all parts of the system get resources they deserve. (Shafritz, 2003). This may create organizational conflict, which is considered as a part of the process of public administration. As an integrative progression, new public administration will go beyond the hierarchical pattern to more innovative structures such as project or matrix organizations. In decision making preference will be for decentralization and group decisions with greater autonomy at each level.

This will also lead to a new pattern in boundary exchange where there would be greater involvement of the deprived minorities in the process of decision making. This would also include a new pattern of socioeconomic process where in there will be greater need for sensitivity training, tolerance of conflict and risk taking. Thus Frederickson envisages a totally new paradigm of public administration to achieve the goals of social equity. (Shafritz, 2003)

Comparing Frederickson’s concept with the views of some prominent proponents of the theory of public administration should provide comparative rationale for his views. Woodrow Wilson is considered the doyen of public administration in America and is seen to have advanced the concept in general. Woodrow Wilson would have strongly approved of the concept of New Public Administration indicated by Frederickson. While a direct correlation of the two may be difficult to establish a detailed analysis of Wilson’s article would denote the relevance. (Shafritz, 2003).

Wilson (Shafritz, 2003) has carried out a historical analysis of the growth of public administration and his salient conclusion denotes that he sees in the administrator a person who is an instrument for providing social good on behalf of the state. Giving the example of the stern and strict Frederick the Great, Wilson denotes that he was an enlightened king who considered himself first to be a servant of the people rather than the master or the king.

Elaborating this in the current context thus, Wilson advocates a strong need to introduce all elements in society to political science and fully train and educate the core of public administrators in the subject. (Shafritz, 2003) This will enable them to better deliver governance. Wilson has emphasized on functional education and has also alluded that the real challenge was to ensure that the public administrator was accountable to not just his superior but the community as a whole which provides basis to the surmise that he would have strongly approved Frederickson’s espousal of education of public administrators in delivery of social justice.

Spicer and Terry (1993) is another duo who is critical of the constitutional notion of the role of public administration and would have endorsed Frederickson’s views. They have indicated that that there is a larger scope for envisaging the role of the public administrator than the purely constitutional one. Attempting to explain this through a purely regulatory or legal function is thus highly inappropriate. The authors have also indicated that the Constitution is not about empowering the public administration but is about restraining their power.

This argument supplements the need for public administrators to be involved in imparting social justice rather than exercising power on behalf of the State as given in the constitution. Spicer and Terry (1993) would thus support Frederickson’s points of view on evolving a new public administration system responsive to social equity and that students of public administration should be advocates of social justice, for their job goes beyond the mechanics of governance to delivery of social good.

Given the proposal put forth by Frederickson, outlined above and its congruence with the writings of established authorities on the subject it is agreed that good public administrators need to be advocates of social justice because they are the key elements for delivery of governance to the masses, have a powerful role to play in strengthening institutions and abdication of this responsibility is likely to lead to a cycle of militancy and repression.

In the evolved model of human social existence, it is the modern state which is the key to effective governance in an orderly fashion to a wide spectrum of humanity. A modern state could be said to comprise of three main facets, the law making authority, the executive and the adjudicating personas of the judiciary. Given that the first and the last are either making rules or denoting their effective implementation, it is the executive who is the key instrument for delivery. The public administrator be it in the government or the non government field is thus involved in implementing social justice.

The accepted dimension of public administration used by Frederickson includes representative ness, neutral competence and leadership in execution. (Shafritz, 2003) These values are universal. While the services provided by the administrator may not directly relate to provision of social justice, the final product is not in the field of administration but includes a broader spectrum of creating equity in society through efficient and equitable distribution of services. Where there has been deficiency of delivery not just of services but of social justice by the government administrators, the role is naturally taken up by non government agencies thus providing a balance. Thus in the overall perspective a public administrator needs to be trained to deliver social justice and other capabilities will follow.

In adopting equity, the public administrators is seen to be flexible in pursuing change, he would in fact be the first to note the need for transformation and could seek change through legislation or judicial intervention. As is commonly understood, people’s representatives charged with making laws are more concerned with interests of the majority as they have been elected through active intervention of the popular vote. There is a possibility that these would neglect interests of the minority unless this is located within pockets of influence.

On the other hand the judiciary is seen to act in a fair and just manner and to that extent could be said to represent the interest of the disadvantage minority. It is the public administrator alone who can ensure that an appropriate balance is maintained between the two so that social equity is maintained at all times. Developing such an attitude and approach requires training which can come about only through a structured approach.

Public administration attains effectiveness through the ability to build institutions. Institution building enables overcoming public problems. In the classical school of thought public administration is seen to outgrow the problem thereby there is greater focus on the institution rather than overcoming the problem. Frederickson has provided the example of the Defense Department, wherein the role of administration is not defense but protection of turf and sustaining bureaucracy of the defense department within the complex maze of the US federal governance system. (Shafritz, 2003) From institution building for resolution of problems, the aim is now merely institutional protection.

However a public administrator who is from the new school will be more concerned about defense thereby indicating his leaning towards provision of social justice. The student needs to understand how an institution can impact on the social phenomenon for which it was created in a scientific and social model.

Discontinuities in public administration are likely to create a distorted communal order. Thus unless public administration creates social equity it can result in widespread social ills such as unemployment, disease and spreading penury. This in turn will lead to growth of militancy which may be followed by repression. Public administration is charged to ensure that this cycle of inequity does not set in through not just efficient delivery of services but also by ensuring that these are spread equitably through all spectrums of society.

The need for good public administrators to be advocates of social justice because they are the key elements for delivery of governance to the masses, have a powerful role to play in strengthening institutions and abdication of this responsibility is likely to lead to a cycle of militancy and repression has thus well supported and is fully agree to.


  • Spicer, Michael W. Terry, Larry D. (1993). Legitimacy, History, and Logic: Public Administration and the Constitution. Public Administration Review, Vol. 53, No. 3 (May – Jun., 1993), pp. 239-246.
  • Shafritz, Jay M. Hyde, Albert C. Parkes. (2003). Classics of Public Administration (Paperback). Belmont CA : Wadsworth.
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