n Journal of Public Administration - Science of public administration : critiquing the past, recognising the present and imagining the future

Volume 50 Number 3
  • ISSN : 0036-0767



"If nature abhors a vacuum, historiography loves a void because it can be filled with any number of plausible accounts." These are Nicholas Howe's words, which we find apt to punctuate the article's reconsideration of the question: is Public Administration a science? This is an old question in the historiography of the discipline, which just doesn't go away. It emerged in the 20th century to seemingly frame the rejoinders to the contentions that Public Administration is a science. In the 18th century, Cameralism had been preoccupied with what it referred to as the science of government. Did this refer to Public Administration? In other words, is the science of government the same as the science of Public Administration? To some, these questions are pedantic, bordering on trivialities. This cannot be true. On the contrary, they are important for seeking conceptual clarity, especially in the discourse, and as important as the science of a discipline. The reconsideration of the science of Public Administration in the contemporary discourse inevitably invokes nostalgia. For, it has been hotly contested in the evolution of Public Administration as a field of study. This article is intended to contribute to the discourse on the science of Public Administration, starting with a critique of some of the perspectives that emerged in the 20th century scholarship, contesting the idea of Public Administration as a science. This is followed by a recognition of the contemporary scholarly endeavours aimed at the "epistemological introspection" of the disclipine. Towards the end, the future of the discipline is imagined. The logic of the article is framed with the intention to critically review the past, recognise the present and imagine the future of the discipline. Based on the critique of the 20th century scholarship and the analysis of the contemporary scholarly endeavours, with insights from the theory of evolution and African scholarship, the article contends that Public Administration is a science. The purpose of the article is simply to add to the contestations.

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Article metrics loading...


This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error