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About this book

Public administration – the practice of producing and executing government policy by bureaucrats, politicians, managers and other officials – affects almost everything we encounter in our day-to-day lives. Public administrators are – at least partially – responsible for the amount of hours we work, the quality of the air we breathe, the ease with which we can visit the doctor and the state of the roads we walk and drive down. Despite the widespread relevance of public administration however, the relative amount of government influence on society differs across the world.

This major new introduction examines public administration structures, processes and achievements, and the behavior and motivations of the administrators themselves. Internationally relevant and analyzing states at a range of different developmental stages, it examines the key themes and issues that dominate the field. Chapters are framed around a series of questions that determine the typical and the unusual features of governments. For example, focus is given to what makes for a stable government, the different definitions of management, possible solutions to corruption, the relationship between central and local governments as well as the formal strategies for policy development.

The book draws extensively on core theory in the field, and makes critical links between Public Administration and Economics, Law, Sociology and the wider subject of Political Science. As accessible for students as it is useful for practitioners looking for a comprehensive reference guide, this is an essential text for those who wish to understand the complexities of government and public administration from the inside out.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction: Understanding Public Administration

Abstract
This book’s intent is for you to think, consider and reconsider, and reflect on the business of government from a Public Administration (PA) perspective. It focuses on key questions related to working inside government as a public administrator or civil servant, on behalf of citizens. While you might not (yet) be convinced that Public Administration is an interesting subject, it is important to realize and appreciate that the actions of government affect us all.
Michiel S. de Vries

Chapter 2. Why do governments exist and why study them?

Abstract
This chapter addresses the main reasons for the existence of governments. The role of the public sector in society is a common subject of discussion and criticism, inspiring debates on topics including taxation, inefficient public service delivery, ineffective public policies and irrational decision making. This leads to the question of why governments exist in the first place. Why are people willing to pay taxes, comply with the rules as determined by their government, and even work for the government? What is it that allows a group of people to have the authority to govern a country or nation and to exercise political direction and control over the actions of the members, citizens or inhabitants of communities and societies? (cf. definition of ‘government’, Merriam-Webster dictionary).
Michiel S. de Vries

Chapter 3. What does a typical government structure look like?

Abstract
The varying regimes described in the previous chapter, as well as varying levels of socio-economic development, the different periods of time in which states emerged and their varying histories, culture and geo-political location suggest that there might be huge variance in the structure of governments. While differences are evident, remarkably, in most states around the globe — at least superficially — governmental structures are rather similar.
Michiel S. de Vries

Chapter 4. What is the role of a bureaucracy?

Abstract
The external structure of government, as described in the previous chapter, sets the context for the internal structure of government, which is the topic of this chapter. Depending on the institutionalization of central, regional and local government and their intergovernmental relations, these levels vary in terms of how they are organized, or as some would argue, bureaucratized, while others would say capacitated. This chapter addresses the organization of the public sector, with a special focus on the merits of bureaucracy as a key theme in Public Administration.
Michiel S. de Vries

Chapter 5. Who works in government?

Abstract
Like all organizations, ranks at all levels and in all areas of public bureaucracies have to be filled. Individuals need to be recruited, socialized and trained, gain experience and make careers, and they have to be managed in order to make the apparatus function well. Working in the public sector is the topic of this chapter. This chapter argues that despite the dominance of bureaucracy as the main organizational model, the way it actually functions varies all over the world. And within the public sector, working conditions, tasks and functions, and the requisite knowledge, skills and attitudes vary depending on where one is positioned in the organization.
Michiel S. de Vries

Chapter 6. What motivates government officials?

Abstract
This chapter addresses what goes on inside the minds of public officials. What motivates them to work for government and what do they strive for within the context described in the previous chapters? Are they personally motivated to provide collective goods in an effective and efficient manner, in order to contribute to the basic function of government and to solve collective problems, and are they personally engaged to help citizens and make their society a better place? Or is their work for government motivated by less noble factors, such as earning a decent salary in exchange for as little effort as possible, and an opportunity to establish a swift career, thus increasing their income, status and power? Or do they see their function in the public sector as a means to further their personal interest, resulting in an abuse of their position with corruption and fraud as the consequence?
Michiel S. de Vries

Chapter 7. When do public decisions result in optimal outcomes?

Abstract
Understanding the internal processes of government is especially important because governments make decisions that affect all of us, and these processes partly explain why public decisions are made in the way they are. A classic example is the decision by King Priamos of Troy to bring in the wooden horse that was left behind by the Greeks, who had seemingly retreated after years of siege. Priamos might have had good intentions, i.e. acquiring a beautiful trophy that would make its citizens proud of their victory, but it proved to be a devastating decision for the city; the Trojan horse was filled with Greek soldiers who conquered Troy during the night. Was this decision made due to the fact that Priamos was king and the government structure allowed him to make the decision on his own? Was the government organization perhaps structured in such a way that sound guidance from his advisors could not reach him, or did it reach him but he ignored it? Was it perhaps due to a Trojan culture in which power distance, masculinity, collectivism, uncertainty proneness and short-term strategy dominated? Or was it something inside the head of this king — personal pride, elation, and disregarding the public interest — that made him decide as he did?
Michiel S. de Vries

Chapter 8. How can public policies solve social problems?

Abstract
This chapter addresses the last key issue of Public Administration, and provides an introduction to theories explaining the varying connection between public policies resulting in collective goods and the collective problems to which public policies are supposedly an answer. It also focuses on research which aims to strengthen the relation between public policies (as answers to problems) and the problems themselves.
Michiel S. de Vries

Chapter 9. Conclusion: The need for appreciation of the public sector

Abstract
The first sentence of this book made its intentions clear. It is intended to make you think, to reconsider and to reflect on the workings of the public sector by addressing eight key themes in Public Administration. I take the liberty of using this final chapter to formulate a personal key theme in Public Administration. By now it should be clear that Public Administration means two things: it is a scholarly discipline (Public Administration) and it is the subject of that discipline, i.e., public administration as part of the public sector.
Michiel S. de Vries
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