n Journal of Public Administration - Modern science for governance in the democratic South Africa : attempts to breathe life in the elephant's carcass

Special issue 1
  • ISSN : 0036-0767



This article puts forward a conceptual argument that in as much as modern science in its positivist form is necessary for governance in the post-apartheid South Africa, ensuring proper governance requires analysis that is beyond the realm of modern scientific rationality. Modern science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organises knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe. It is through modern science that problems are broken apart for proper rational analysis. Of course, in public administration practice such problems are huge to an extent that they can be metaphorically likened to an elephant. If indeed such problems are an elephant, does it mean that we have to divide that elephant in pieces in order to understand each part separately with a view of understanding the whole elephant? The same fallacy in dividing an elephant into two halves does not result in having two small elephants. The article concludes that modern science has of course presented a breakthrough in the development of humankind. Consciously so, the utilising of modern science for governance within public administration practice proves to have limitations. Therefore trans-disciplinarity that will eventually shift the ontological stance remains an option.

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