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Fritz Sager, Christian Rosser, Céline Mavrot and Pascal Y. Hurni

In the sense of inherited ideas about the history of government in a specific national context, intellectual traditions are commonly regarded as cultural variations, historical legacies, or path dependencies. In our book, we contest the dominating perspective of path dependent national silos. We show that learning from other traditions is in no way a new phenomenon and has happened before New Public Management entered the stage. Therefore, we propose to conceive of intellectual administrative traditions as hybrid and open for exogenous ideas. Using a very different case scenario, our book concentrates on the USA, Germany and France, since the Anglo-American, Germanic and Napoleonic traditions find their purest manifestation in these countries. Accordingly, the first chapter introduces the transfer-of-ideas approach, claiming that the Anglo-American and Continental European paths have met at significant road junctions.

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Fritz Sager, Christian Rosser, Céline Mavrot and Pascal Y. Hurni

This chapter discusses how the concept of intellectual traditions has been used in comparative Public Administration. The Continental European traditions of Germany and France are recapitulated before the discussion turns to the US tradition. It is argued that German and French Public Administration were traditionally dominated by law, whereas US scholars have always drawn on several neighboring disciplines of the social sciences and law. The chapter also discusses to what extent Public Administration in Continental Europe and the US are different in terms of the strong-state tradition of the former and the weak-state tradition of the latter.

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Fritz Sager, Christian Rosser, Céline Mavrot and Pascal Y. Hurni

This chapter explains the main theoretical concepts used throughout the book as well as the method applied to ‘measure’ the transfer of ideas between Germany, France and the USA. It discusses how the appropriate body of sources has been identified and classified and then analyzed to arrive at thoughtful conclusions regarding the empirical substance of intellectual traditions in Public Administration.

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Fritz Sager, Christian Rosser, Céline Mavrot and Pascal Y. Hurni

This chapter presents an exemplary analysis of the transfer of ideas. The development of US Public Administration from the late nineteenth century until roughly the 1970s is outlined first. The chapter then looks eastwards by showing how some of the most important American scholars of late 19th and 20th-century Public Administration were influenced by Hegelian administrative scholarship and the seminal works of Henri Fayol and Max Weber. The findings have relevance for contemporary Public Administration that refers to neo-progressivism, New Public Management and the neo-Weberian state literature.

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Fritz Sager, Christian Rosser, Céline Mavrot and Pascal Y. Hurni

In Germany, public administration preceded Public Administration. Whereas the public administration was strongly influenced by the contemporary political order, Public Administration had a normative and empirical goal. As administrative law was rather focused on legalistic prescription, a social science approach was demanded to model public administration to contemporary needs. The USA and US administrative science were hardly noted at the end of the nineteenth century. In the course of the twentieth century, the receptiveness for the USA increased considerably, until referencing US administrative science became a standard case. The transfer of ideas took effect in three ways: first, US Public Administration served as a symbolic point of reference to promote an administrative science. Second, US administrative science was referenced as state of the art concerning theoretical concepts, research methods or research questions. Third, the USA was a role model of democracy which was considered a beacon or a cautionary tale depending on the scholars’ political beliefs.

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Fritz Sager, Christian Rosser, Céline Mavrot and Pascal Y. Hurni

In France, the well-established administrative law has had a long-lasting influence on administrative studies since the end of the nineteenth century. This chapter analyzes the transformations of administrative studies in France after World War II. It shows first that a group of comparative administrative law scholars attempted to create a new ‘administrative science’ based on the US Public Administration model in order to complement administrative law. However, the reference to the US remained rather vague and general. Second, another shift in post-war French administrative thought is examined, with the importation of Anglo-American productivity techniques by practitioners within the French administration. Third, this chapter studies the importation of US behaviorism within French administrative studies by sociology of organizations scholar Michel Crozier from the 1960s. In conclusion, the chapter highlights how a foreign discipline can be used as a source of legitimization for a scientific project at the national level.

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Fritz Sager, Christian Rosser, Céline Mavrot and Pascal Y. Hurni

We find nine transfers of major ideas that took place in the USA, Germany and France. Our cases reveal three forms of transfers with partly overlapping characteristics. The dominant form is transfer driven by historical dilemmas, be they political, social or global. The second is a sociological form, in which transfer is driven by a given community of administrative professionals or scientific authors as a means of identity building and academic boundary delineation. The third form is transfer motivated by sheer intellectual curiosity. Considering the observed forms of the transatlantic transfer of administrative ideas in the nineteenth and twentieth century, there is clear evidence that the notion of administrative traditions prevails at a general historical level. The transfer of ideas does not lead to scientific revolutions but to incremental and gradual changes at the level of paradigms and ideas rather than in the abrupt changes in traditions themselves. Hybridity, therefore, is a phenomenon at the meso level rather than at the macro level.

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Fritz Sager, Christian Rosser, Céline Mavrot and Pascal Y. Hurni

The book has shown how ideas travel and under what conditions recipient traditions adapt and change. However, change is not a dichotomous concept and adaptation is best understood as incremental learning, eventually leading to gradual change rather than a full turnaround. The implications of these findings are threefold. First, our study strongly indicates a prudent treatment of administrative traditions as an explanatory variable in comparative Public Administration. Second, the core conditions for adoption of transferred ideas in administrative practice are threefold: demand for novel ideas, supportive actor networks and the institutionalization of the new idea. Finally, relevant Public Administration must thus keep in touch with public administrative practice. New concepts may fail in administrative practice. The inductive study of new theories has the important potential of preventing frustration when this happens. We therefore claim a concrete practical relevance of the historical study of administrative theory.

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Fritz Sager, Christian Rosser, Céline Mavrot and Pascal Y. Hurni