In the recent decades, several scholarly disciplines, as well as professional fields, have participated in search for the link between public administration and political issues. The most researched area has been the link between public administration and political agendas that define the goal of improving service delivery. This kind of connection is seen in the dimension that citizens have direct or first-hand experience of public services, considering the relationship in terms of efficiency, adequacy, accessibility and reliability (Paul & Sekhar, 2006). Studies have indicated that the way public perceives an administrative office about political environment differs, irrespective of the development initiatives that have been carried out by the same political office (Bond & Fleisher, 2000; Gadot & Cohen, 2008). This is especially significant in terms of the political power struggles, tactics in political influence as well as ethical decisions in political decision making (Gadot & Cohen, 2008). For instance, nations or states that are seen as more politically charged in their day-to-day operations are considered ‘less fair or less ethical’ (Laurence, 2004).
Public Administration’s Role
Citizen’s perceptions have a big significance, particularly, as Paul & Sekhar (2006) explains, when the explicit pattern comes out from an analysis of many individuals or groups’ or personal experiences. In a scenario where citizens have pointed out specific areas of the public management as problematic in its operations, and that they are in a position to articulate them in the glare of media or any government channel, it gives that government opportunity to investigate and finally find a solution, or, change the perceptions of the citizens in case there was a misunderstanding (Paul & Sekhar, 2006). Many governments have concentrated on the idea that the citizens’ perceptions on the management of public affairs are determined by several socio-economic activities that stimulate production as well as enhancing the societal wellbeing about healthcare provision, education, infrastructure, agriculture, etc. According to Baumgartner & Bryan (1993) however, the role of government is changing from the traditional provider of services and development to promoter of political cohesion among the divergent groups of the society.
Again, according to Gadot & Cohen (2008), the perception of the citizens on public administration’s role, whether as the facilitator of socio-economic development or promoter of political cohesion, is different since the political decisions may be viewed as skewed or biased against a particular group. In executing the roles of public administration, studies have suggested that it is important to acknowledge the covert side of the individual or group’s interests in political agenda, which in actual sense is the basis of any political agenda or behavior (Carpenter, 2001; Cook, 1996). According to the principle of management theory, it is logical to gauge the political environment, although such a task is quite complex in nature. This is because doing so will lead to the effectiveness, efficiency, and the overall performance of that particular organization (Laurence, 2004). It is therefore important to understand the nature and role of public administration in the perspective of political ideas or political environment.
Public Policy Implementation
On almost all occasions, politicians acquire power on the dimensions of their personalities and planned programs as per the situational scenario (Bond & Fleisher, 2000). The programs to be implemented are achieved through the use of public administration, hence the direct association of the two. It therefore follows that whatever type of government is in power, public administrators have very important roles in the interpretation and implementation of the policies set by the politicians in the political office. In essence, the citizens’ political views affect their perceptions of the way public administrators, who are in many cases appointees of political office (Carpenter, 2001).
However, the literature does offer limited information on the citizens’ political views and their impact on their perception of the public administration as a whole. In fact many studies have mainly concentrated on the perceptions of organizational politics, and in particular intra-organizational politics, thus leaving a gap in literature as concerns the management of political office in favor of political views of the citizens (Bond & Fleisher, 2000; Carpenter, 2001; Gadot & Cohen, 2008). Whereas citizens emerge as very important source of information and knowledge in the management of public affairs, other stakeholders of public administration often ignore their political views. According to Carpenter (2001), the problem has been mainly on the other stakeholders’ assumptions that once given responsibility to carry public administrative role, they have expressly received political approval in terms of perception. Holzer & Callahan (1998) also observe that it is important to know the public administration’s policy implementation and execution in order to analyze the ever-increasing complex relationship between the two organizations. Furthermore, when the views of the citizens are considered, it would lead to the understanding of the perceptions as well as understanding of the political environment, which would eventually lead to more understanding of such wide range of consequences, e.g. the attitudes of the citizens towards the government of the day, how the public or citizens trust the public administrative office, and their behavior towards the operations of the office (Holzer & Callahan, 1998).
The Political Views in relation to Fairness and Ethics
As stated earlier, studies have dwelt on the organizational politics, where active participants are viewed as having the sole responsibility of maximizing their self-interest at the expense of their subjects (citizens in this case) (Krause, 1999). Cook (1996) insists that seeking political views of the citizens for the implementation of public administrative office is a negative process that would derail all the process. He argues, “If I tell a person that he or she is political person, the response would either be negative or may be taken as a mixture of blessings (Cook, 1996). Carpenter (2001) observes that when few citizens with first experience with management of public administration were asked to give their views on public administrative office in a political version, they would typically list self-serving and manipulative activities that are not perceived positively. Several studies by Laurence (2004) and his colleagues improved the study and link between the citizens’ political views and perception of public administration and its functionality. The studies observed that group politics was seen as selfish approach to seeking public administration’s favor, which in essence did not benefit the ordinary citizens, but just a few representatives (Laurence, 2004). In fact, this notion was frequently linked to manipulation of the process of administration. This kind of political perception is therefore seen as not ethical in all dimensions.
When he faced the complexity of empirically valuing the politics of public administration, Bond & Fleisher (2000) proposed that the ‘perception’ of the citizens should be used as it is an important tool to gauge the interrelationships. Baumgartner & Bryan (1993) forwarded an idea of cognitive behavior and approach by explaining that deep belief or perception politics in the organization and its members’ ideas would in most cases differ; and that the belief of imbalanced distribution of services will always cause disquiet among the citizens. More recently, Gadot & Cohen (2008) have applied the “theory of procedural justice” to launch the case that group politics is directly linked to the efficiency or deficiency of the decision-making within the set structure. Shortage of minimal fairness in the administrative system was revealed to be the top cause of poor political perception of the citizens on the public administration, thus limiting the organizational functionality (Carpenter, 2001). In essence, the whole structure of the available studies is drawn from the classic work of Lewin (1936, cited Bond & Fleisher, 2000). According to Lewin, people normally “respond to their perceptions of reality, not to reality itself” (Bond & Fleisher, 2000, p.157). He therefore advises that, politics in groups should be understood as related to what the people or the citizens themselves think, instead of “what it actually represents” (Bond & Fleisher, 2000, p.158).
Whereas the above studies have indicated the interrelationship between the citizens’ views as concerns politics of public administration, it is important to note that the thinking of many other stakeholders, who are citizens too, have important impact on the structure and operations of the politics of public administration. In fact, according to Meier & O’Toole (2003),these specific perceptions must be looked at in the view that public administration is a reflection of other “significant groups”, which in most cases are the owners of the public administrative agency or the public administrative office (Meier & O’Toole, 2003). As a result, the political views or perceptions of being “fair and ethical” stems from politics of organizations and are basically informed by one’s attitudes towards elements that one sees as in charge of political environment (Laurence, 2004).
It is almost certain that the most fervently debated subjects of political science in the recent years have been the association of bureaucratic office with politics. The debate has ranged from somber, articles in the scholarly journals to anguished editorials in the right-wing press (Cook, 1996). Many public administration scholars have researched the perceptions of citizens on the public administration; a great many investigations have been carried out to examine the nature of this linkage, with reliance on theory of administration, which is based on the behavior of individuals towards political setting (Laurence, 2004). And yet in this aspect, there have been few attempts to develop a theory behind this public view on the political perception. In fact, many have viewed public administration to be directly related to politics of the day. While we are aware that the president is normally given powers in the constitution to exercise, albeit, with some checks and balances, no one has ever mentioned the presence of bureaucracy in this system.
The establishment of the administrative state in the 1948 was the beginning of the immediate recognition that something was not settled in the views of the citizens (Laurence, 2004). According to Krause (1999), first the administrative state constitutes the inner part of the modern government, according to the belief of many scholars, hence the need to monitor its democratic orientation and nature. However, Baumgartner & Bryan (1993) claims that the proceeds of the status quo arrangements are the only desirable approach to management of public office. How does the perception of the citizens on bureaucracy affect the public administration process? Many studies have supported the idea that political orientation of the people should be taken as a prominent factor that defines the structure and composition of the public administrative office to play a fair political card with the stakeholders. Building on other studies that have emphasized the relationship between political perception and performance of public administrative office is also important in the development of a clear understanding of the resultant views of the public.
The recent findings reveal that politics contributes to our understanding of organizational dynamics and outcomes (Gadot & Cohen, 2008). On many occasions, politics may function as the silent influential factor within the administrative setting, hence complicating the functionality of the office in question. Krause (1999) observes that it’s even more complicated for the public sector employees, who in most cases do not tend to give up work security and tenure even if they feel that politics is all around and sometimes personally harms them. In most cases they choose to respond with more passive behaviors like neglect or apathy, which are less risky in terms of their job security (Krause, 1999). Due to political alienations, the public sector may comprise more ‘unsatisfied personalities’ in the ranks of administration officers who in essence represent the views of their fellow citizens (Krause, 1999). It is therefore important to note that this silent discomfort among the specific public administrators could be derived from their political views or association, and can significantly spill over beyond the formal boundaries of public organizations. Attitudes, as well as behaviors of public servants towards citizens, partially reflect the effectiveness and efficiency of public administration. It can therefore be hypothesized that the citizens’ political views do have a significant effect on their perceptions of the public administration and its functions.
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Bond, J.R., & Fleisher, R. (2000). Polarized Politics: Congress and the President in a Partisan Era. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press.
Carpenter, D.P. (2001. The Forging of Bureaucratic Autonomy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
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Meier, K. J., & O’Toole L.J. (2003). Public Management and Educational Performance: The Impact of Managerial Networking. Public Administration Review 63: 689–99.
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