A Research Agenda for Public Administration
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A Research Agenda for Public Administration

Edited by Andrew Massey

This book addresses salient current issues in public administration research. It seeks to suggest where future research may or indeed ought to be focussed. To advocate the future routes for the development of research, this book is divided into themes, with a clear overlap between different approaches. The book has contributions that will assist students of public administration/public sector management and public policy, especially new PhD students, but will also be a useful resource for more established researchers to understand the major emerging issues within the field.
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Chapter 14: After public administration scholarship

Wolfgang Drechsler


The chapter begins by critiquing current US (and Dutch) public administration scholarship and journal publishing for being narrow and asserting a ‘One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church’ positivistic approach to the study of the discipline. It argues that ‘the focus of PA today is gaming the real idea of PA as a scholarly discipline or area, is focusing at best on producing shadows on the wall of the cave, so that content – one could argue – summarily falls to the side’. This is similar to political science and economics, but in those subjects, it doesnot matter as they have only a tenuous relationship to reality. In public administration, however, it does matter as the purpose of research in public administration is to connect theory and practice; to be useful. The problem is that the application of method has become the point, not the tool, privileging form over content. He calls for a recognition of methodological and cognitive diversity, especially in regard to Non-Western Public Administration and the resurrection of the study and development of public administration philosophy. After all, he ponders, if we cannot do things differently to machines then his apocryphal Dutch Professor could write papers using a computer algorithm; perhaps some already do.

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