Public administration in an age of austerity: the future of the discipline

Josie Kelly, Anneliese Dodds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Reflecting changes in the nature of governance, some have questioned whether Public Administration is now an historical anachronism. While a legitimate debate exists between sceptics and optimists, this special issue demonstrates grounds for optimism by indicating the continuing diversity and adaptability of the field of Public Administration. In this introduction, we first sketch the variety of intellectual traditions which comprise the field of modern Public Administration. We then consider institutional challenges facing the subject given considerable pressures towards disciplinary fragmentation, and ideological challenges arising from a new distrust of public provision in the UK. Despite these challenges, Public Administration continues to provide a framework to analyse the practice of government and governance, governing institutions and traditions, and their wider sociological context. It can also directly inform policy reform - even if this endeavour can have its own pitfalls and pratfalls for the 'engaged' academic. We further suggest that, rather than lacking theoretical rigour, new approaches are developing that recognise the structural and political nature of the determinants of public administration. Finally, we highlight the richness of modern comparative work in Public Administration. Researchers can usefully look beyond the Atlantic relationship for theoretical enhancement and also consider more seriously the recursive and complex nature of international pressures on public administration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-211
Number of pages13
JournalPublic Policy and Administration
Issue number3
Early online date30 Mar 2012
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012


  • administration and democracy
  • administration in transition
  • administraive organization and structures
  • administrative theory
  • public administration
  • public management


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