The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Political Science

Authors: Bogdanor
Summary: In just over 2000 words, this entry describes administration conceptually, analyzes three functions of administration, and discusses the politics/administration dichotomy. The entry describes administration generally as "the typing-up side of life." Conceptually, administration refers to the place where paper is pushed around, and is quite distinct from the 'real' work of an organization. Administration generally includes a few types of work that can be grouped into three categories: (1) format, which refers to the actual paperwork necessary to organizational survival; (2) subject-matter, which means the work relates to some organizational output or process; and (3) function, which is really a synonym for organizational control.
Originally, administration referred primarily to paperwork done by the highest echelon of an organization's support staff. However, as government activity has expanded so has its administration, and this growing administrative role has huge implications. One significant consequence of burgeoning administration is its increased politicization. It is now necessary to consider the politics/administration dichotomy, which is an invented or constructed one, when analyzing administrative activities. This dichotomy provided the theoretical platform for limiting the US federal government's spoils system and also spurred the development of public administration as an academic field.
The entry concludes by exploring the politics/administration dichotomy in terms of the British experience as well as those of some other countries generally. One common theme is a fear that administration is out of control. This fear, which in large part sets the future agenda for studies of public administration, has spurred scholars who study such issues to seek new ways to understand and harness administrative energy.