5 Interesting Facts About the History of Public Administration

Although you may not think it, public administration has been an active part of society since Alexander the Great ruled the Greek kingdom of Macedon. With a history that dates back all the way before Christ, there’s bound to be some pretty interesting public administration facts. With societal management in mind, here are five compelling historical facts about public administration.

1. Administration in the Antiquity Era

The first signs of public administration date back to 8th and 7th century BC, which is better known as the Antiquity Era. During this time the kings, pharaohs, and emperors that ruled ancient Greece chose citizens to act as their “eyes and ears” for public affairs.

This led to the concept of democracy, which was thrust into the social spotlight by Plato around 400 BC. Plato’s democratic efforts made way for a Greek empire that chose leaders based on the opinion of the people. This is also the time when politicians began campaigning to the people, which further developed the public administration atmosphere.

2. Machiavelli’s Organizational Efforts

Fast-forward ten centuries to 1525 AD when politician and philosopher Niccoló Machiavelli starts organizing public administration into an actual government position. Instead of loosely assigning citizens as public reporters, Machiavelli proposes a cohesive, organized public administration system with government groups who dedicate themselves to administrative causes.

3. Woodrow Wilson’s Famed Essay

More than three hundred years later, well after Adam Smith’s discussions on the notion of the public administration specialization, Woodrow Wilson pens “The Study of Administration” in 1887. The essay highlights certain aspects of the administration process and earns Wilson the title “Father of Public Administration.”

Among other points discussed, Woodrow’s essay covers the separation of administration and politics as well as ways to improve the public service sector by training qualified civil servants. Although the essay wasn’t widely accepted by government officials initially, Wilson’s later presidency helped him further the idea of an established public administration system.

4. World War II and the Expansion of Public Administration

Directly following World War II, society as a whole decided that the current public administration system was ineffectual. As a result, the idea of public administration expanded to include analysis and policy-making practices throughout the government.

Instead of focusing on the bureaucratic side of administration, the new policy-making practices set forth would concentrate on the public sector. This led to public administration’s inclusion of psychology, anthropology, and other social sciences.

5. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

Although it’s hard to believe, the Americans with Disabilities Act didn’t fall into place until 1990. The act, which protects disabled Americans in the workplace, was largely set in motion due to the efforts of numerous public administrators.

As with many community programs brought about by the public administration system, the ADA is a public policy that is now prevalent throughout every aspect of society, not just the workplace.

Based on this short walk through history, it’s plain to see that there’s more to public administration than you might think.

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