Public Administration and Democracy

PAI 755, 3 credits

Public administration is as much an art as it is a science. It requires far more than the rote application of managerial skills. Public Administration and Democracy is primarily normative rather than skills-oriented in nature. In contrast to many other courses in the public administration curriculum, this course does not teach students how to carry out particular management functions. Rather, it is based on the presumption that only those public administrators who are broad-minded and self-reflective, who are cognizant of the environments in which they operate and of the principles that ought to drive their decisions, can be effective in a truly meaningful way.

This course provides students with the opportunity to grapple with fundamental questions about the relationship between public administration and democracy. Each session is grounded in questions such as: What is democracy? What are the tensions between bureaucracy and democracy? And, to whom are public administrators responsible? Each question is seemingly simple, but actually quite complex. Reasonable people can and do disagree on the answers.

In addition to classroom sessions, students will participate in role-play exercises that offer insights about how their answers to these questions will affect the way they practice public administration. The primary goal of this role-play is to enable students to experience and understand the tensions between bureaucracy and democracy as manifested in a situation characterized by ambiguity, expectations for collaboration, and organizational politics.

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Analyze the social and political context of public administration.
  • Identify and apply the principles that ground good public administration practice.
  • Describe and analyze the ethical and normative issues that public administrators face as they seek to make effective decisions.