Concept of public administration


It was the American scientist Fredrik Taylor who first introduced the scientific concept of Public Administration in 1911. The science of public administration has developed dramatically since Taylor published his book "The Principles of Scientific Management" (Graft, 1966). After the Second World War, the United States of America began to regard administration as a key science that must be developed in order to win the Cold War against the Soviet Union. As a result, many administrative theories emerged simultaneously, with new branches that were born from the arena of public administration (Alsoad, 2007). Unsurprisingly, and as a tool to win the war, considerable light was shed on education, which resulted in the emergence of the field of Educational Administration.

It is worth mentioning that there were five main administrative theories that, in one or another, affected educational administration over the course of the twentieth century (Hanson, 1985). The main difference between those theories was related to the respective weights they gave to the work and the worker (Hellriegel & Slocum, 1978). For example, the classical theory, developed by Taylor, focused on the work and marginalized the workers, considering them solely as one of the tools necessary for production. Of course, this had its impact on the teacher as a worker, who was looked at as an input in the process of education. In other words, according to the classical theory, teachers were expected to obey whatever decisions were handed down by education inspectors, and they did not have the right to produce their own educational thoughts, as they were restricted to the level of higher employees in the educational hierarchy (Graft, 1966). Another example, developed as a reaction to the classical theory, was the Human Relations theory, which focused strongly on teachers' psychological and sociological needs .The educational process paid the price for this theory, as teachers became irresponsible workers and shirked their duties (Alsoad, 2007).

Each one of the five key theories of educational administration dominated for a period of time, until another theory came to replace it. Of course, this is not to say that when one theory came to the fore, its predecessor was totally neglected. Nevertheless, as summarized in the classification below, each theory had its own 'golden era'. Hence, they can be classified chronologically as follows (Alsoad, 2007):

  • The classical theory (1910-1935).
  • The human relations theory (1935-1960).
  • The participatory theory (1960-1980).
  • The situational theory (1980-00).
  • The total quality management theory (1982-00).

A legitimate question is raised here: what was the reason for the above chronology? This question cannot be answered unless the five administrative theories are positioned in their historical context. Having reviewed the literature, I found that a relationship could be built between those five theories and the two main economic theories, namely capitalism and communism. Before elaborating on this point, let us briefly outline the main features of the five administrative theories (Alsoad, 2007; Hanson, 1985), and then the two economic concepts, capitalism and communism.

The five main administrative theories

The classical theory (1910-1935)

The classical theory was pioneered by Fredrik Taylor, Henry Fayol and Max Webber. Teachers were considered as people who did not know what to do. It was believed that the best policy to be applied in dealing with them was to threaten and frighten them. Therefore, the educational administrators focused on the needs of the school, while teachers' needs were considered unimportant.

The human relations theory (1935-1960)

This theory emerged as a reaction to the classical theory, and was pioneered by Mary Follet, Gorge Mayo, Douglas McGregor and Abraham Maslow. The teachers were given priority and solutions were provided to motivate them, whereas the school's objectives were seen to be less important.

The participatory theory (1960-1980)

This theory was an amended version of its predecessor theory and was pioneered by Rensis Likert and William Ouchi. The participatory theory produced a formula that balanced the needs of both teachers and their schools.

The situational theory (1980-00)

This theory was pioneered by Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard. According to the situational theory, no single approach is best all the time. In other words, all the above theories can be used as long as the maturity of the teacher is taken into account. For example, the view of the classical theory would be suitable for a new and inexperienced teacher, while the view of the participatory theory would fit an experienced teacher (Hersey & Blanchard, 1982).

The total quality management theory (1982-00)

Although it was developed in the 1950s by Edward Deming, this theory did not dominate until the 1980s. Alongside the work and the worker, a third dimension in the production process was added - the client - and the aim of both work and workers was to satisfy the client. In the context of educational administration, students and their parents were considered as the target clients (Alsoad, 2007).

It is noteworthy that all of these theories emerged in the western world.

Capitalism & communism

During the twentieth century, there was a well-known conflict between two different economical philosophies. The first is capitalism, which is seen to be focusing on the individual because it encourages the private ownership of capital, which results in the monopolizing of wealth by the minority (Fulcher, 2004). On the other hand, communism is seen to be a reaction to capitalism, and focuses on the society rather than the individual. Moreover, communism does not recognize private ownership, and encourages the Proletariat (workers) to eliminate individuals who possess the means of production so that the private ownership of capital would become public ownership to reach a stage called the socialist state or states (Engels, 1972). Geographically, capitalism was (and still is) represented by the western world while communism spread through the east.

Research questions

As mentioned above, the five administrative theories fluctuated in terms of the degree to which teachers' and workers' needs should be met and satisfied. The same can be said for capitalism and communism with regard to workers' needs. Theoretically, the communists not only promoted the idea that workers' rights should be given to them, but also they promised the world's workers that they would dictatorially control their states: this stage is known as "The Proletariat Dictatorship". Unsurprisingly, different kinds of weapons were used during the Cold War between the capitalistic western world and the communistic eastern world. Indeed, the twentieth century witnessed military, political and media wars between the two.

As in any war, philosophers and researchers must have played a role. Therefore, legitimate questions should be posed in this context: was not the administrative philosophy affected by the latter war? Were not the five administrative theories harmonious with the effects of that war? Did teachers, under the umbrella of educational administration, gain or lose rights during that conflict?

I tend to believe that the more victories communism achieved, the more rights workers - including, of course, teachers - were given. In other words, whenever the communists achieved victory, the western world gave more rights to workers as a domestic procedure to prevent workers from thinking of adopting communistic thoughts. For example, in 1946, just after the end of the Second World War, the American Kellogg Foundation provided 9 million dollars to universities for the development of educational administration.


There was a relationship between political-economic events and the development of educational administration during the twentieth century.

The purpose of the study

Advancing our understanding of the contemporary educational administration theories might be of value in predicting the trends of future theories of educational administration.

The rationale of the study

As far as I know, no such study has been applied to position the educational administration theories in their political-economic context.

Definition of terms

In this study, the term 'Political Economy' is limited to communism and capitalism, as they were the most dominant theories during the course of the last century.

Despite the fact that educational administration has many definitions, it will be defined in this research in terms of the five educational administration theories mentioned above, which dominated the field of educational administration during the last century.

Methodology & methods

I will use the methodology of Empirical Historiography (Danto, 2008) to answer the research questions as well as to support or reject the research hypothesis. Moreover, despite the fact that this study follows an interpretivist paradigm, I will triangulate qualitative and quantitative methods to ensure the highest possible validity and reliability.

Many primary and secondary resources relevant to this inquiry are available, such as reports of international administrative conferences, oral history data from people who were teachers in the last century, educational budgetary reports from the western world and educational administration studies of West (capitalistic) and East (communistic) Germany (Roller, 1994). Furthermore, tracing the development of communist parties in the western world might provide the study with rich information.

After discussing the project with the supervisors, a suitable instrument will be developed.

Reference List

  • Alsoad, R., (2007). Educational Supervision. Second Edition. Amman: Tariq Press.
  • Danto, E., (2008). Historical Research. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Engels , F., (1972). The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. New York: Pathfinder.
  • Fulcher, J., (2004). Capitalism: A very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Graft, O. et al. (1966). Philosophic Theory and Practice in Educational Administration. Belmout, Ca: Wadsworth.
  • Hanson, M., (1985). Educational Administration and Organizational Behavior. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
  • Hellriegel, D. and Slocum, J., (1978). Management Contingency Approaches. Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley.
  • Roller, E. (1994). Ideological Basis of the Market Economy: Attitudes Toward Distribution Principles and the role of Government in Western and Eastern Germany. European Sociological Review, 10, 109-117.

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