Is Public Administration an Art or Science

Public administration is an art or science, this topic has attracted the attention of many philosophers. Some philosopher says public administration is an art, some say it is science. It is a debate between two sides, arts and science thinkers. From the art side, thinkers argue that public administration is based on human judgment, creativity, and adaptability in public administration to manage its organization and policies. It leans more towards being an art than a science. From the scientific side, thinkers argue that public administration is the scientific foundation, its belief in facts, based on scientific methodology. It is a big debate between arts thinkers and thinkers from science. The debate about this was from the beginning and is still going on. This has turned into a long argument. It has become difficult to call public administration arts or science. But some reasons say that public administration is also arts and science.

What Is Public Administration?

Administration, whether public or private, governs the functioning of various entities. When administration pertains to private matters such as those of clubs, shops, companies, schools, or factories, it is termed ‘private administration.’ Conversely, when it concerns the activities of society at large, it is labeled ‘public administration.’ In the context of governance, ‘public’ signifies the state, distinguishing it from private administration.

Nevertheless, Public Administration is all about the common-good of the public. In the meaning of the state that stands for the citizens in general. In other words, Public Administration is the management of governmental activities designed to implement public policies and social development.

Numerous definitions elucidate the essence of Public Administration:

L.D White defines it as “any act aimed at achieving or executing the public policy as declared by a competent authority.”

Pfiffiner considers it as “the coordination among individual efforts to bring about public policy,” highlighting the alignment of people’s activities to attain common goals.

Wilson defines it as “a detailed and systematized application of laws,” giving more importance to the execution of laws.

Walker refers to it as “the government’s task to change the law,” thus emphasizing the role the government plays in legal outcomes.

H. Simon classifies it as “the activities of the executive branch of national, state, and local governments,” by especially stressing its focus on executive functions.

Luther Gulick says, “Public Administration is focused on the executive branch, where government work is done,” thereby emphasizing its vital role in governmental functions.

These definitions collectively underscore that Public Administration is a specialized field concerned with the formulation and execution of government policies. It encompasses the endeavours of civil servants dedicated to achieving the socio-economic objectives outlined by governmental policies. In essence, Public Administration encompasses all activities geared towards advancing societal development and reform as delineated by governmental policies.

Why Public Administration cannot be accepted as a Science?

(1) Lack of Agreed Principles. There aren’t many greed principles in public administration. During an American conference, participants were asked to provide one administrative concept. The general opinion was that no one universal principle could be accepted by all thought, and no one could present even one principle that could be agreed upon by all.

(2) Lack of Uniformities– Public administration is not governed by the natural sciences’ uniformities. Its topic matter has changed throughout time and is still evolving. It can’t be definitive or scientific because it just looks at a few aspects of human conduct. Furthermore, it is not possible to validate the proposed theories or to precisely isolate, quantify, and categorise the realities of administration.

  1. Lack of Absoluteness. The outcomes of physical sciences may be objectively investigated regardless of time and location, environment, social structure, and other factors, it is also pointed out. Nonetheless, it is impossible to reach a set of consistent and impartial findings in public administration. Administration in the police and education cannot be the same. Furthermore, certain policies that work well in one region of the nation may turn out to be complete disasters in other regions.
  2. Lack of objectivity. Science’s conclusions are always objective, accurate, consistent, methodical, and reliable. These scarcely alter their nature. However, public administration always deals with humans, who are always evolving. Similarly, administration is always evolving. As a result, public administration outcomes will never be completely objective, accurate, and verifiable.
  3. Lack of rationalism. Finally, the application of administrative principles in real-world situations means that administrative activity may be a logical process that can be empirically tested and theorised. However, in practice, this is impossible since there are countless irrational elements such as habits, hopes, fears, likes, dislikes, and so on that make Public Administration non-uniform and hence unscientific. It is not, and cannot be a completely logical and empirical endeavour.
    Based on these points, some experts believe that public administration is not a science.


In contrast to the above perspective, there is another group of specialists who think that public administration is a science. These scholars offered the following compelling arguments in support of the claim that public administration is a science: There are some thinkers, who argue that public administration is science, they are Max Weber, Frederick Taylor, Luther Gulick, and Chris Argyris.

Why is public administration considered and accepted as a science?

(1) Public administration is a rational exercise. Public administration is an activity that needs sound analysis and orientation concerning other sciences. Examining, understanding, and realising the ultimate function of rational and creative action is the highest aim that man may set for himself. Public administration is based on reasonable ideas. It is a thoughtful, organised, and sensible exercise.

(2) Use of the Scientific Method. Because it employs a scientific methodology, public administration is a science. Science is more concerned with method than substance. Public administration is a systematic and rigorously regulated step-by-step examination of the operation of the system that influences public policy. It employs scientific methods of inquiry and hence qualifies for acceptance as a science.

(3) It’s a social science. Public administration is a social science. It has its procedures and ideas that revolve around the idea of action via human organisation. There are theoretical issues with it. When action is involved, it plays a crucial role in integrating with other disciplines, such as the social, psychological, and physical sciences. It is a science, just as political science and economics.

(4) Increasing uniformity. Public administration has attained a high degree of consistency in its thought on the challenges and principles of administration that exist regardless of the subject matter, service, or function performed by various agencies. If a significant degree of homogeneity in the approach to issue-solving among professionals is a feature of a science, Public Administration has a legitimate claim to be one. Public administration has its own set of clear and consistent organisational and administrative principles.

(5) Science does not imply exactness or prediction. The old definition of science as a body of knowledge marked by exactness on the basis of which predictions may be formed’ is no longer accepted. Science refers to a methodical technique of research, which is used in public administration.

(6) The presence of agreed-upon principles. There have been various agreed-upon principles of public administration that have wide applicability. Willoughby continues by stating, “In administration, there are certain fundamental principles of general application analogous to those characterising any science which must be observed if the end of administration-efficiency in operation is to be secured and these principles are to be determined only by the rigid application of the scientific method of their investigation.”

(7)The Law of Cause and Effect’s Application- The law of cause and effect also applies in public administration. The same causes produce identical results. This is also an appropriate conclusion concerning public administration.

Based on these considerations, many current scholars believe that public administration is a science. It is considered a science not because of its subject content, but because of its scientific process. It entails a methodical accumulation of knowledge. It is a social science, not a natural science. Public administration is on its path to being a flawless science. Some writers believe that public administration is on its way to becoming a science, albeit it is not yet a full science. It is growing into a science. Prof. L. Urwick is one of those who believes that Public Administration is not a perfect science at the moment, despite the fact that a vast amount of data is being gathered and major study is being conducted. He believes that Public Administration will become a flawless science shortly.

Public Administration is Art

Public administration involves both science and artistry. Here’s why it’s considered an art:

Some thinkers argue that Public Administration is Art because it leans more towards being an art than a science. they have given more importance to human judgment, creativity, and adaptability in managing public organisation and Policies. Name of the thinkers are Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Simon, Dwight Waldo, and Mary Parker Follett.

Mastering the Art: Public Administration is the practical implementation of administrative theories. The leaders must be proactive and plan beforehand for the problems they are going to encounter. As Urwick states, administrative skills are not easy to acquire; it requires a lot of dedicated study, reflective thinking, and a deep comprehension of the intellectual framework. The successful implementation of public policies requires sound administration that involves the proper management of the implementation process.

Skilled Execution: Public administration requires a high level of competence. O. Teed offers that just as painting, sculpture, or writing literature are regarded as fine arts, so is the work of facilitating the relationships between individuals and groups considered fine arts too. Administration, that has inevitably evolved into an art form, reflects the advancement of sophistication. Although some principles constitute the beacons of guidance, the true mastery implies that the administrators use their brains in every single situation, which allows them to accomplish their objectives.

Development of expertise and values: The administration has taken the shape of a specialized discipline, which is a reflection of the intricacies of social advancement and division of labour. It needs special knowledge and special techniques which are based on values. In the end, the goal of administration is to promote the value-oriented society, so that it is value-based.