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selecting and retaining personnel." This is a broad view of the political but a constricted view of political theory's potential value. We need not devoutly hope for a triumph of political science over other disciplines, to the end of teaching all managers how to gain and use power, to whatever purpose. Kirwan (1977) traced the public administration "identity crisis" to the politics-administration issue. He concluded that public administration is political and so its study must be value oriented, not vainly modeled on natural science. Practitioners require prudence, not instrumental rationality.
10. NASPAA guidelines emphasized academic structure. Baldwin (1988, p. 882) concluded from a study of MPA program directors' perceptions of their own Is there one best way to study public administration, and is it the interdisciplinary way? Perhaps a parallel exists. Just as there is more than one persuasive model of a good person or a good life, there may be more than one fruitful way to understand a subject or problem. Rejection of a single form of virtue or of truth, however, need not lead to nihilism or relativism. We may appreciate diverse styles of life and modes of understanding yet insist on distinctions between moral good and bad and between significant truth and trivial or untrue expression. Openness usefully invites varied truth tellers; discrimination adds that not all truth seeking is equal. Does an interdisciplinary approach provide the well-wrought theory that public administration study requires?
Although practice should be guided by judgment, the study of public administration should be guided by theory. Theory gives meaning to activity in public administration, for experience is not directly translated into explanation.(1) Many persons are able to do something decently well without being able to explain adequately how they do it. Their theories are ill developed, unrecognized, or even denied. Theory orders in telling the chaos of life as lived, as Joyce showed in telling in a day the artfully disciplined story of a lifetime. Without good theory as a guide, study may focus on what is trivial or at best secondary in significance, even when explanations are excellent. In administrative action, however, we must keep a cool eye on theory because good judgment in particular situations (practical wisdom) is essential to responsibility.(2) Those strictly guided in their actions by a theory may act foolishly, following abstractions that trample on the facts or persons of the particular situation. Good theory for public administration insists on the limits of theory and appreciates good judgment in action.
Good theory recognizes the necessity for but limits of theory. It insists that an excellent student or discipline is different from an excellent practitioner, agency, or program. The distinction, full of respect for practice well done, also respects the contribution of a discipline that affords understanding. Insight is intrinsically valuable, as we know from our love of the telling line in poetry. It is to be cherished by persons in the realm of practice so that they may better understand their own actions and lives. We need both practical wisdom and good theory.
Theory has consequences beyond satisfaction in understanding the world and our own actions. Theory influences actions, shaping public administration practice.(3) For academics, strengthening the theory of the discipline is a fundamental challenge. We need not insist that there is one true theory--which seems unlikely--to hold that a muddled discipline forms a bad base for any profession. Observe the sincere quack or the convinced astrologer. For academics, the theory enterprise is their best contribution to the battle against confusion and humbug, which otherwise flourish wonderfully in the poppycock-flowering fields of management and politics. Morgan's (1986) fine analysis of metaphors of organization shows for organization theory, as distinguished from public administration, that each theory makes a valuable but partial contribution to our understanding. Ability to use varied metaphors to fit varied situations permits managers to become skilled in reading situations and acting appropriately, adapting organization form to internal needs and to environment, Morgan argues. Inspired by Morgan's work, Kass and Catron (1990) present varied influential images of public administration.(4) Such writers recognize that differences in value and consequences exist among different theories. Theory vitally affects understanding and action; various incongruent theories are valid, and some theories are better than others.(5)
Wide agreement (not unanimity) prevails in public administration literature that (a) the contemporary study of public administration lacks any agreed-on integrating theory and (b) public administration is properly an interdisciplinary study, not a single discipline or subdiscipline with its own basic theory (paradigm). I attend briefly to the first proposition, focus on the second proposition, and open a further argument: Public administration is well founded in normative political science.(6)
THE ALLEGED SICKNESS OF PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION
The generally accepted picture of American public administration study seems to be a movement from agreed-on theory to disarray. From Eaton, Wilson, and Goodnow during the late 19th century through L. D. White, Gulick, and the President's Committee report of 1937, there was a more or less agreed-on theory. It included a politics-administration dichotomy, efficiency as the essential test of any organization, and a formal (structural) description of governmental organizations as hierarchically coordinated sets of positions that are best filled by neutral, expert, career civil servants. A small group of politically responsible officials, including an accountable chief executive, is at the top (of an imaged pyramid). After World War II, this orthodox theory was widely rejected as naive, although its influence persists. But no new theory conquered the field. The result is theoretical diversity (including contributions from political science, management, economics, and elsewhere) and disarray. We lack any agreed-on theory on which to base an academic discipline. Fortunately, many say, the theoretical void is not disastrous. What we require and can achieve is a professional field, or an interdisciplinary study. According to this orthodoxy, public administration either is a sick discipline or is not a discipline (or a coherent component of one) at all. It is a field, a profession, an enterprise, an interdisciplinary study and practice.
It is true that major critics who rejected the old orthodoxy insisted on a new disciplinary theory. Herbert Simon (1958) wrote of "the homely wisdom that has passed for organizational analysis in the past". He demonstrated a "fatal defect of the current principles of administration that, like proverbs, they occur in pairs" that lead to opposite organizational recommendations. The traditional principles of public administration are "essentially useless". He offered instead a theory of organizational decision making. Equally damning, Vincent Ostrom (1974), examining The Intellectual Crisis in American Public Administration, found that the traditional theory does not work in predicting consequences or prescribing action and that it is not convincing to contemporary students of public administration. We have had, since World War II, "a crisis evoked by the insufficiency of the paradigm inherent in the traditional theory of public administration". The crisis will be resolved only if an alternative paradigm is used, drawn from the political economists "who use the criterion of efficiency to assess performance in the provision of public goods and services". Simon and Ostrom each argued the weakness of traditional theory and offered an alternative (decision-making) theory rather than denying the need for an integrating theory. More recently, Barzelay (1992, p. 117) has urged that we adopt a "post-bureaucratic paradigm" for public administration, with concepts of customer and service at its center. Such writers commend a new truth.
There is, as well, a lively public administration literature based on political analysis. Norton Long (1965, p. 116) wrote of "malaise" in schools of public administration. With the erosion of the politics-administration dichotomy, "the intellectual basis of their profession disintegrated." But he pointed to a theoretical solution. He insisted that "an even partially successful divorce of politics from administration" is not possible in our fragmented political system (Long, 1962, p. 52). Power, he warned, is the element most overlooked in public administration theory, as he argued for realistic political pluralism. This taps a major post-World War II stream in political science, focusing on interest group politics. Like decision-making and public choice economists, interest group theorists have been major contributors. The work of such scholars reflects confidence that their respective guiding theories are true and sufficient, whatever they or others may say of reigning confusion.
A postpluralist political perspective in public administration has been exemplified by authors such as Rohr (1986) and Wamsley et al. (1990) and their Virginia Polytechnic Institute colleagues. They emphasize public administration as a central, legitimate governing authority within American constitutionalism and the ethical responsibility of public administrators as state crafters. Such a theory, Wamsley (1990, p. 19) wrote, is needed to rescue "public administration theory that has been trapped in an intellectual cul-de-sac created by behavioralism, the micropolitics of the discipline of political science, and the power of Herbert Simon's writings." Their work demonstrates, as do essays in leading journals (e.g., Public Administration Review, Administration & Society), that a normative political science of public administration is very much alive.(7)
Despite such claimants as economic rationality, interest group pluralism, and public administration as state craft, the theme of theoretical disarray has been sounded time and again. LaPorte (1971, p. 21), in the New Public Administration volume growing from the Minnowbrook 1968 conference, wrote, "The major problem of Public Administration as an intellectual enterprise is this: Contemporary Public Administration exists in a state of antique or maladapted analytical models and normative aridity." Most of it, he said, is simply irrelevant to practical concerns. Savage (1974, p. 147) reported to British political scientists that "American public administration has long suffered from an identity crisis, to the extent that rarely do people who profess to study it share even a rough working agreement about what it is and how to study it." N. Henry (1975) characterized public administration as having been "eighty years in a quandary" (through successive paradigms) from which it may yet emerge, synthesizing concepts from political science and administrative science, with "a distinct epistemological identity".
Dwight Waldo (1980), a wise and esteemed elder, argued in his valedictory lectures that public administration is neither a discipline itself nor a subdiscipline of political science. We are not likely to be able to replace with new certainties the old consensus of the 1920-1930s, centered around the politics-administration dichotomy. Nor ought an agreed-on theoretical fundament be our goal. "Neither a generally accepted theoretic base nor firm boundaries for the field have ever existed," according to a reasoned assessment (reflecting experience in the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration [NASPAA]) by Poore (1982, p. 86). He endorsed a multidisciplinary, professional approach. Robert Denhardt (1984, p. 150), an American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) leader, found "an identity problem in public administration theory . . . a crisis of legitimacy, in which the agreed-on bases of theory fail to reflect or respond to the …