n Journal of Public Administration - The South African public administration as a profession

Volume 48, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0036-0767



Despite claims that the practice of public administration is, or can become, a professional activity, this paper argues that the South African public administration (SAPA) lacks the hallmarks of a true profession, and faces immense challenges if it wants to become one. The public service in South Africa, however, as in many countries, has become professionalised, not because of its contributions to the field of public administration, but rather because the contributions of scientific and other professions have come to dominate in the upper level echelons. The author suggests that this dominance and lack of professional stature of public administration have important implications for schools of public administration and management. In the light of current scholarly views on the nature of professionalism, the practice of public administration can hardly be ranked among the professions. It exhibits few, if any, of the attributes commonly associated with professional status. First of all, its stock of systematic, coherent knowledge is slim indeed. Despite attempts at the establishment of public administration as a discipline, public administration as a field of intellectual inquiry has yet to develop a body of systematic scientific theory or knowledge.

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