The Idea of Publicness in Public Administration: Episodes and Reflections on European Group for Public Administration 40th Anniversary
The chapter revisits the idea of “publicness” in public administration. It notices, crucially, that for many decades since the (conventional) establishment of public administration as a science through Wilson’s most famous article, the term “public” has almost never accompanied “administration”. Woodrow Wilson never wrote the article “The Study of Public Administration”. He did write seminal pages titled “The Study of Administration”; but the addition, in the title, of the adjective “public” is posthumous. For decades “administration” has been nearly synonymous to public administration. It is only later on, after World War II, that a distinction between public as opposed to private administration (business administration and management) took roots. The chapter argues that we cannot explain this semantic change only through the appearance of new forms of “private administrations”. The fact is that also the state’s structure and functions had in the meanwhile undergone substantial changes, extremely relevant to the dialectic public/private. In order to capture those changes, the chapter reviews, necessarily briefly, institutional and economic developments that affected public administration.