Woodrow Wilson


Woodrow Wilson is regarded as the father of public administration courtesy his special attention to the art of public administration in his seminal essay mentioned above.In the U.S during the last two decades of the nineteenth century there was a movement started that was a response to increasing Urbanization, immigration, the seeming loss of traditional values, inefficiency, Corruption, etc. The spoils system in administration was given the patronage of president jackson and thus loyal supporters of the victorious party were given plum administrative posts whether they merited it or not.
Wilson was influenced by this movement and thus published his essay that insisted on major reforms in the govt. and administration to make it efficient and also this gave birth to the thought of public administration holding enough substance in itself to be a seperate study/discipline independent of Political Science which was popularly referred to as ' politics - administration dichotomy'.
He defined public administration as the detailed and systematic application of law. He believed that politics is about policy formulation and public administration is concerned with the execution of the same. And if both are mixed up then it will only lead to confusion,
overlapping, inefficiency and not a stable administration.He stated that public administration was businesslike and mechanistic and not laced with the ups and downs of politics. He asserted that politics did not have answers to most of the questions of administration and thus is to be out of the sphere of administration and vice versa
To Wilson administration is to be technically competent and politically neutral for a democracy. Politicians were elected by people whereas civil servants were trained for the job and were technically sound to carry out the job in the best possible way.
Thus for Wilson, it is said, the Study of public administration, derived from the Study of politics, was to be distinguished from it, but never divorced from its “maxims” and “truths”. To Wilson, public administration was much more than technical detail and it was to be conducted in a political context .Thus he treated “politics and public administration as two sides of a coin”.
The essay, published in the Political Science Quarterly in July 1887, advocates a trained bureaucracy that has the expertise and the will to oppose popular opinion when they deem it necessary. In contrast to the founding principle of equality—meaning that claims to superior wisdom cannot justify rule and that legitimate government is based on the consent of the governed—Wilson argues that expertise is a title to rule.
Wilson’s faith in the rule of experts is coupled with a profound distrust of republican self-government: “The bulk of mankind is rigidly unphilosophical, and nowadays the bulk of mankind votes.” Democracy has empowered thousands upon thousands of the “selfish, ignorant, timid, stubborn, or foolish,” who come from a mix of different nationalities. All hope is not lost, however, since there are “hundreds who are wise.” Wilson’s charge is to recruit for the bureaucracy from these wise hundreds, produce more of them, and “open for the public a bureau of skilled, economical administration.”
Wilson realizes that such a view of administration is a hard sell to Americans, who prefer democracy to “officialism.” Thus, reformers must eschew “theoretical perfection” and defer to “American habit” and know-how. In turn, Americans, Wilson admonishes, need to rid themselves of “the error of trying to do too much by vote. Self-government does not consist in having a hand in everything, any more than housekeeping consists necessarily in cooking dinner with one’s own hands” (emphasis added). Wilson would replace amateur cooks with professionals. Eventually the entire household will be run by professionals. The practice of self-government through elected officials will be lost as “considerate, paternal government” fulfills all needs. The master of the house will become utterly dependent on his professional retinue.
The trained servants will tutor the people by improving public opinion and thereby even ultimately ruling them. The bureaucracy would educate the electorate. Wilson modestly claims that his ideal is “a civil service cultured and self-sufficient enough to act with sense and vigor, and yet so intimately connected with the popular thought, by means of elections and constant public counsel, as to find arbitrariness of class spirit quite out of the question.” Yet once the bureaucracy, aided by the universities, asserts itself against the elected branches and the people in the name of its expertise, the people could no longer defend themselves.
Wilson’s Own Writing
One of the main evidences about Wilson’s ideas of the politics-administration dichotomy is his own writing—The Study of Administration published in 1887. In his famous article, Wilson (1887, pp. 209-210) stated that: “The field of administration is… removed from the hurry and strife of politics; [and that] it at most points stands apart even from the debatable ground of constitutional study”. He went further to argue that “administration is a part of political life only as the methods of the counting-house are part of the life of society; only as machinery is part of the manufactured product”. Most importantly, Wilson viewed civil-service reform as “clearing the moral atmosphere of official life by establishing the sanctity of public office as a public trust, and, by making service unpartisan, it is opening the way for making it business-like”. Wilson’s argument that “administration lies outside the proper sphere of politics” and that “administrative questions are not political questions” is best expressed in his argument that “Politics is state activity in things great and universal, while administration, on the other hand, is the activity of the state in individual and small things” (Wilson, 1887, p. 210). According to Wilson, “Politics is thus the special province of the statesman, administration of the technical official. Policy does nothing without the aid of administration; but administration is not therefore politics”. Wilson stamped his authority on the authorship of the theory of politics-administration dichotomy in his statement that “we do not require German authority for this position; this discrimination between administration and politics is now, happily, too obvious to need further discussion” (Wilson, 1887, pp. 209-210; Murphy, 2002, p. 72; Shafritz, Hyde, & Parkes, 2004, p. 28).
Wilson championed the ideas of the politics-administration dichotomy because, according to him, an “apolitical bureaucracy” was necessary in order to meet the economic and efficient implementation of the popular will (i.e., the will of the American people according to the Declaration of Rights and the Constitution) and the needs of a democracy operating in an increasingly industrialised economy (Wilson, 1887, 1941; Van Riper, 1990).
Politics-Administration Dichotomy
Historically, Woodrow Wilson (1887, p. 1, 1941) was considered as the author of the separation of politics and administration in government (i.e., the politics-administration dichotomy). Thomas Woodrow Wilson (December 28, 1856 to February 3, 1924) was the 28th President of the United States (1913-1921). Among his main contributions, Wilson served as President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, as the Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913 and was elected President as a Democrat in 1912 (Woodrow Wilson’s Biography, n.d.). Literature also shows that Woodrow Wilson was enormously successful as a doctorate graduate of Johns Hopkins University in 1883 and the author of The Study of Administration which he published in 1887. It is in this master piece that Wilson’s ideas and passion about the politics-administration dichotomy are succinctly presented. A careful analysis of literature shows that any understanding or misunderstanding of Wilson’s intentions about the politics-administration dichotomy is based on different interpretations or misinterpretations of this famous article.
Although the understanding and concept of the politics-administration dichotomy varies from writer to writer, depending on the historical period in which they write and the context they are writing about, the term dichotomy as applied here refers to the separation of politics and administration in policy design and implementation. The politics-administration dichotomy envisages public employees who can be said to be “impersonal” and “apolitical”, in the sense of having no political interests or political affiliations (Wilson, 1887). Writers and politicians who are also considered to be the pioneers in the advocacy of Wilson’s ideas of politics-administration dichotomy include Goodnow (1900) and Taylor (1912). Like Wilson, these two writers also see the attempt to create a bureaucracy with a distinct separation of the organisational and the political lives of bureaucrats or public administrators as underpinning this dichotomy. The apolitical public employee is also what Max Weber envisioned when he developed his famous “bureaucratic” model in 1948. The ideal model of Max Weber’s bureaucratic structure was characterised by a clear division of labour, a well-defined authority hierarchy, high formalisation, career tracks for employees, and most importantly, “impersonality” and a total separation of members’ organisational lives from their personal lives and interests (Gildenhuys, Fox, & Wissink, 1994, p. 51; Fox, Schwella, & Wissink, 2000, p. 79; Robbins & Barnwell, 2002, pp. 42, 487). Following are Wilson’s own views of the politics-administration dichotomy.

Tuesday, 12th Jan 2016, 04:50:30 AM

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Barouk Almaw Gari
This is plagiarized
Apr 06, 2016 09:19 AM
Do you think good governance is a throwback to the classical theory of ‘one best way of governance’? How is it, if any, different from neo-Wilsons? will you help me to find the answer
Sep 12, 2018 10:30 AM