views updated May 11 2018


I. The Administrative FunctionHerbert Kaufman


II. The Administrative ProcessNorton Long


III. Administrative BehaviorHerbert A. Simon


The articles under this heading deal primarily with the political aspects of administrative structures, processes, and behavior, as do also Bureaucracy; Centralization and decentralization;and International organization, article onadministration.The academic study of these subjects is discussed in Public administration. Relevant materials going beyond but not excluding the political sphere will be found in Budgeting; Business management; Decision making; Industrial relations; Organizations;and Planning, social.


One way to define the “function” of administration is to state the objective that administrative action is expected to attain. Thus, it is often said that the function of administration is to “carry out” or “execute” or “implement” policy decisions, or to coordinate activity in order to accomplish some common purpose, or simply to achieve cooperation in the pursuit of a shared goal.

Another way is to describe what administrators do and to determine the consequences and the implications of their activities. This has the advantage of avoiding an unresolvable argument about what they ought to do and what their purposes should be. It seeks to discover function, not to prescribe it.

Of course, even a description contains within itself many implicit assumptions about what is worth describing and what may be ignored. One cannot describe everything about any phenomenon, and the process of selection is an expression of convictions or guesses about what is significant for the purposes at hand. The convictions underlying this discussion of the function of administration are that administration is a process of arriving at decisions operationally homologous to other decision-making processes in large-scale organizations, and that the importance of administration lies not in the uniqueness of its function but in the increasing prominence of administrators as compared to other participants in the making of decisions. For the purposes of this discussion, “administrators” will refer to appointed officers who supervise others and will be confined, for the sake of simplicity, to administrators in governmental service, even though much that follows is applicable to nongovernmental administrators as well.

Functions of public administrators

The function of public administration is quite similar to the functions of other political institutions: legislative bodies, chief executives, courts, and special interest groups.

Administrative legislation

Administrative agencies produce large quantities of legislation, and knowing “the law” on a subject often means mastering the body of relevant administrative regulations and decisions, as well as constitutional provisions, statutes, and judicial decisions and opinions. Even in the United States, where the constitution of the nation and the individual constitutions of the 50 states specify that legislative powers are vested in the respective legislative bodies, a vast collection of administrative legislation has accumulated. To avoid violation of constitutional provisions, this product of administrative agencies, which has been called “sublegislation” or “quasi legislation,” may be invalidated by the courts if there is no specific statute authorizing its issuance and generally defining its scope. The Code of Federal Regulations, a codification of the regulations of all the federal administrative agencies in the United States, is longer than the United States Code, the codification of all federal statutes in force. In countries in which a separation of governmental powers has not been adopted, or in which legislative institutions are not strongly developed, administrative legislation may assume even larger proportions.

Administrative agencies often parallel the procedures of legislative bodies in the way they formulate and promulgate legislation. They may hold hearings, conduct investigations and commission studies, and consult informally with interested persons and organizations. Their hearings usually furnish opportunities for the ventilation of conflicting views, and their deliberations offer opportunities for reconciliation of differences. Their policy pronouncements are legitímated according to prescribed procedures and are publicized in prescribed fashion. In the U.S. government these proceedings are now mandated upon the administrators by statute. But the proceedings were much the same before the adoption of the statutory mandate, and they are commonly followed in state and local administrative agencies even when not absolutely required. One “function” of administration, then, is legislation.

Executive duties

Administrative officers appoint, supervise, discipline, remove, and direct subordinates. They prepare and defend programs for their agencies. They draw up and justify budgetary requests and make or authorize expenditures under the terms of appropriations made to them. They issue contracts and make purchases. They represent their agencies to the outside world, especially to protect their areas of jurisdiction. They find ways to appoint personal staff assistants in addition to their formally designated aides so as to assure themselves of loyal help in planning strategies and acting on plans. Collectively these activities constitute the executive function of administration.

Administrative adjudication

Administrative personnel dispose of a great deal of business essentially judicial in character. The bulk consists of rulings on appeals from administrative actions, including complaints by private citizens and pleas by public officers and employees against acts of their superiors. More of these are handled within administrative hierarchies than in the courts. In addition, administrative agencies conduct and decide proceedings by private parties against one another, including complaints by employees against employers, tenants against landlords, shippers against common carriers, competitors for licenses, and many others. Indeed, France and countries employing the French system of jurisprudence have established a hierarchy of administrative courts separate from the ordinary courts to hear cases against the government and review grievances of public personnel. In the United States the initial hearings are held within the regular administrative establishment (increasingly by specialized hearing examiners), and actions proceed up a ladder of administrative appeals until all administrative remedies are exhausted, whereupon they may usually be carried to the ordinary courts, which now tend to review the fairness of the procedures and the reasonableness of the judgments instead of trying the cases anew. Even in the United States influential sources have proposed the creation of a separate system of administrative courts. These proposals have not been adopted, however, and the judicial proceedings of administrative agencies (referred to as “quasi-judicial” or “administrative adjudication” to avoid conflict with the doctrine of separation of powers) remain review able by ordinary courts. On the whole, adjudicative procedures in administrative bodies are deliberately kept less formal than the procedures in courts of law, but there has been a tendency toward “judicialization” in recent years, and the distinctions are sometimes less pronounced than one might anticipate. So the conduct of judicial proceedings is another function of administration.

Administrators as interest groups

Public administrative officials behave much like nongovernmental interest groups. They draft and propose legislation to legislatures, testify at legislative hearings and inquiries, rally support for bills they favor, and mobilize opposition against bills they oppose. Many of them assign specialists to lobby with legislators (“legislative liaison officer” is the American euphemism) and maintain advertising and public relations (“information and education”) staffs. They enter into alliances with other public agencies and with interest groups, particularly groups representing the clienteles that the public administrators serve or regulate. Their representatives even appear as witnesses at hearings conducted by other agencies. Since administrative officers are clothed with official powers in a way that interest groups are not, they have a weapon for bargaining that distinguishes them from private groups. But this is only one of their weapons; the others are the same as those of private groups. In this respect, exerting political pressure is an administrative function.

In fact, since some administrators owe their appointments to political party connections and occasionally use their discretion over employment and over decisions for partisan ends, they must be regarded as involved in the affairs of the parties. And since administrative agencies often include advisory committees made up of spokesmen for interests regulated or served, or are headed by boards comprising members of the interests affected, and generally consult extensively with these interests before taking official action (the U.S. Department of Agriculture goes so far as to conduct referenda on crop quotas), the agencies may even be said to perform the function of representation. In other words, the functions of administration may be considered virtually as broad as the functions of government.

The development of administration

The performance of all the above functions by administrators is not a new phenomenon. It had counterparts in ancient China, for example, and in ancient Rome. Its analogue was to be found in the Ottoman Empire and in medieval Europe even under feudalism. It was a source of papal leadership in the Holy Roman Empire. It was the instrument of royal power in the emergence of many national states. The distinctive feature of parliamentary democracy was the legislature’s acquisition of control over the royal ministers and functionaries whose jurisdiction encompassed most of the activities of government. In the United States both Congress and the president have historically recognized the breadth of administrative functions, and a good part of the rivalry between the legislative and executive branches turns on the determination of each to hold administrators responsible to itself rather than to its competitor. In short, administration has never been a single, limited set of activities; rather, it has had a variety of functions so broad as to constitute the means by which most of the business of large governments has been conducted throughout history.

The broad powers of administrators have always presented problems to the formally designated leaders of every governmental system, for administrators tend to develop vested interests in the territories or activities over which they have jurisdiction and to exercise their authority with growing disregard for the formal rulers, and even in defiance of them. Rulers in all ages have faced the problem of preventing the reins of government from slipping out of their hands and into the hands of their administrative officials.

The problem was relatively easily solved in societies that were simple in comparison to the modern industrial state. The tasks of government were relatively uncomplicated, so the formal rulers could keep themselves well informed, even about details. The size of bureaucracies was comparatively modest, so the rulers could maintain personal contact with many of their subordinates. The duties of administrators were not highly specialized, so an untrained and inexperienced but obedient man could easily replace an official of long experience who showed signs of contumacy. Even so, many rulers lost effective command of many of their administrators. But at least they were in a position to reassert their leadership if they had the will and skill to try.

The rise of industrialism dramatically altered the position of the formal rulers. The kinds and the volume of services that governments of industrial states are called upon to provide multiplied rapidly. The varieties, intensity, and techniques of governmental regulation of economic and social relations increased abruptly. Even the traditional activities of government—defense, maintenance of internal order, administration of justice, and collection of taxes—grew more complicated and technical. Administrative departments and bureaus burgeoned profusely. Bureaucracies expanded quickly. And the urgency of specialization, technical training, and thorough mastery of procedure, as well as of substantive information, mounted correspondingly. No longer could officials be transferred casually from one office to another, or individuals plucked from unrelated nongovernmental functions and assigned successfully to government posts. No longer would obedience and loyalty to the ruler be the principal test of fitness for public administration; technical competence would have to get a higher priority if governments were to operate effectively.

By the end of the nineteenth century most industrial states had adopted some form of merit system for selecting administrative officials in the service of the national governments, and many extended the practice to subnational governments as well (although the state and local governments of the United States have on the whole been slow to follow the lead of the federal government). Most such administrators are now appointed on the basis of performance on examinations and of educational qualifications and experience and are protected against arbitrary removal. In Europe young people enter the public service at an early age and spend their lives in it, advancing as they accumulate seniority and demonstrate proficiency. In the United States people are recruited at all levels of administration and at all ages to fill specific jobs. In either case, expertise and aptitude are the qualities sought.

For the formal rulers of industrial states, consequently, the power of administrators has been especially unsettling. Not only do administrative agencies serve as governmental decision-making organs alternative (and even rival) to all other organs of government, but administrative officials are less and less vulnerable to the influences of the formal leaders. Too much goes on, too many people are involved, and the activities are much too technical for the rulers to keep track; the system has almost outrun their capacity to monitor it. Moreover, the administrators are quite firmly entrenched—by virtue of their expertise, even when their tenure enjoys no legal guarantees and safeguards—and immune to many of the sanctions in the hands of the rulers. Indeed, since it is from the administrators that the rulers get much of their information about governmental needs and performance, and since the administrators are so much better informed and so expert, the rulers are often compelled to accept and support judgments and recommendations of their nominal subordinates. More than ever before, administrators have become a political power to be reckoned with.

The traditional organs of government did not welcome into the governmental arena the specialized, increasingly autonomous, and ever more numerous administrators. Chief executives fostered reorganization after reorganization to reduce the autonomy of administrative agencies and fought against the extension of merit system procedures to the top administrative levels. Legislative bodies delegated authority reluctantly and often hedged the authority with detailed restrictions on the substance and procedure of its exercise. Judges insisted on the right to examine administrative decisions and to reverse decisions that seemed unreasonable or unfairly reached. Political parties often opposed merit system requirements. Regulated interest groups fought the establishment of the regulatory agencies affecting them unless and until the interests managed to “capture” the agencies and obtain more sympathetic decisions. The administrators did not have a smooth road to political influence.

Yet they had to be accepted because no one could think of any other institution to assume the new burdens and responsibilities of government in the industrial era. The times called for more legislation than the legislature could possibly furnish, more management and direction of work forces than the chief executive could hope to provide, more adjudication than the courts could accommodate, more skilled personnel than the parties could present, broader social perspectives than special interests typically exhibited. Every older participant in the governmental process viewed the new development uneasily, sometimes voiced protest, and occasionally resisted it. In the end, however, out of necessity, they all acquiesced.

So the function of administration is now to share, and to share importantly, in governing. Administrators are powerful partners in governing coalitions and are significant factors in the shaping of governmental policies and practices.

Administrative powers and influence

The other organs of government are well endowed with means of influencing the behavior of administrators. Legislatures possess the powers of appropriation, of legislation (with which they can theoretically alter or abolish administrative agencies), of investigation, and of immunity to legal action for opinions and charges voiced on the floors of their chambers. Power over budgets and appointments and removals from high office, personal influence growing out of party and popular support, and the majesty and legitimacy of executive office lend great authority to chief executives. Courts have their power to review. Interest groups are as expert in their fields as the administrators they deal with. Parties have access to legislators and executives by virtue of their control of nominations for elective office and their influence on voters. Administrators must come to terms with all these participants in government and politics in order to survive.

Administrative discretion

When administrators act in their legislative, executive, judicial, interest group, or partisan capacities, they enjoy wide discretion for several reasons. First, the directives they receive from the other participants often express abstract principles in highly general terms; it is frequently not clear what kinds of specific actions would be in accord with the directives and what kinds would violate them. These crucial specifics the administrators must announce, and their own views and the positions of their agencies inevitably play a large part in the character of the decisions. However strenuously other participants seek to expand and elaborate directives to administrators, such directives are limited because they have to provide for extremely broad categories of events; they are inevitably expressed in generalities. And it is in the ambiguities of the generalities that administrators find the opportunity (if not the mandate) to exercise discretion about what concrete acts are indicated.

Second, as efforts are made to expand and elaborate instructions to administrators, the volume of communication reaches such a level that conflicts and contradictions are certain to appear. In these internal inconsistencies, administrators may find plausible justifications for any course of action they elect to pursue.

Third, even when they receive unambiguous communiqués, administrators may choose to act either vigorously and imaginatively or cautiously and ploddingly. They may move quickly and forcefully or hesitantly and fearfully. They may work enthusiastically or make evident their reluctance. The effects of a policy are determined in larger measure by these administrative choices than by the text of the directives that presumably govern the actions.

Fourth, should other participants in the political process attempt to impose their own ideas of appropriate action on administrators, the administrators generally prove capable of defending their positions. They may retreat into the labyrinths of law, or mobilize their clienteles and their friends in other organs of government, or assemble masses of expert opinion to support their contentions. They may appeal to the general public through public relations techniques. They may even engender crises to prove their points. Whatever their strategies, they are rarely passive or docile, even when the highest formal rulers are involved.

Influence in dictatorships

The influence of administrators is not equally great in all systems of government. Under totalitarian governments, for example, the opportunities for administrators to employ their strategies are restricted by the suppression of groupings with which they might join forces in order to maximize autonomy and by the rulers’ use of a single party to maintain close surveillance and ensure loyalty and obedience—even to the extent of assigning political officials to military units. Yet reports from the Soviet Union suggest that political leaders have been disappointed over the interpretations placed on political directives by administrative officers and that administrators have sometimes falsified records in order to conceal their deviations from official policy pronouncements. Like Western countries, the Soviet Union has had recourse to relatively frequent reorganization of its administrative machinery to secure full compliance. Even under dictatorship, then, administrators have acquired political influence—limited, it is true, but not insignificant.

Influence in developing countries

At the other extreme from dictatorships, administrators in underdeveloped countries whose governments are attempting to industrialize enjoy unusually great influence. The small reservoirs of trained and technically expert personnel in these nations tend to concentrate in key administrative posts. Administrative careers are often more highly prized and respected than political or business careers, and the weakness of political, commercial, and industrial institutions often puts administrators in the strongest position in the political process. In Japan, for example, it was the administrators who organized the industrialization of the economy, and administrators or former administrators are leaders in every phase of Japanese political life. Nevertheless, Japan has also developed strong representative institutions, whereas in many less advanced states politics consists largely of rivalries among wings of the bureaucracy (including the armed forces). Administrative discretion is probably broadest in such situations, the only effective check on administrators being other administrators.

Influence in industrial democracies

Somewhere between the powerful bureaucracies of the underdeveloped countries and the subservient bureaucracies of the industrialized dictatorships stand the administrators of the governmental agencies of the Western democracies. On the one hand, they must contend with strong centers of power throughout their societies. Business, labor, agriculture, the professions, competitive political parties, elected officials, ethnic groups, and many other segments of the population are organized, alert, aggressive, well financed, vocal, respected, and politically sophisticated; they can be neither suppressed nor ignored, and thus they impose on the administrators’ freedom of action restraints almost unknown to administrators in developing nations. On the other hand, the pluralism of the democratic system and its emphasis on law and legalism offer administrators in the democracies many chances to broaden their discretion and intensify their autonomy that their counterparts in totalitarian systems never enjoy.

In short, wherever administrators have acquired discretionary powers, administrative agencies have become centers of political decision. In the dictatorships these centers are still overshadowed by the single parties permitted in such states. In the developing nations they tend to overshadow much weaker decision-making institutions. In the Western democracies they are parallel to the alternative institutions and provide an additional arena for the peaceful resolution of controversies. But in all cases people turn with ever greater frequency to administrative agencies for service, for assistance, for redress of grievances, and for relief from policies that affect them adversely.

Research trends and needs

The rise of administrators to political prominence generated a spate of literature on administrative theory, chiefly in the twentieth century. Three scholarly approaches to the subject have emerged. One may be described as an engineering approach; it is concerned with the techniques of arranging work forces and their activities in order to achieve the maximum output at the lowest cost. The second views administration from the standpoint of political analysis, describing the characteristics of bureaucracies, the place of bureaucracies in the political systems in which they develop and the consequences of their development in terms of the shifting distribution of political influence, the impact on policy formation, and the philosophy of government. The third approach is sociological, treating organizations as a class of phenomena moved by a common dynamics and displaying regularities of behavior (i.e., governed by “laws” of organizational behavior) that can be discovered by empirical research and formulated systematically in a body of theory roughly analogous to theories in the life sciences and the physical sciences. All three approaches overlap and affect one another, but most writing on administration emphasizes one or another sufficiently to distinguish them.

Engineering approach

The engineering viewpoint found its earliest expression in the work of Frederick W. Taylor (1911–1912), which blossomed into the “scientific management” movement. The theoretical assumption of this movement was that the speed, cost, and quality of goods and services are dependent variables that can be maximized by adjustments of a number of independent variables, including division of labor, patterns of supervision, financial incentives, flow of materials, and physical methods and conditions of work performance. “Human factors in management” were added to the roster of independent variables after the famous Hawthorne Experiment (Mayo 1933, The Human Problems of an Industrial Civilization; Roethlisberger & Dickson 1939, Management and the Worker) disclosed that social interaction among workers and between workers and management had a profound effect on output. Study of the variables has been steadily refined over the years, particularly as high-speed computers, social interaction laboratories, and other devices are brought to bear on the analysis. Nevertheless, the theoretical foundations have remained substantially unaltered; the efficiency of organizations is related in specified ways to designated factors and can be increased by deliberate manipulation of those factors on the basis of scientific investigation. It appears that some very substantial improvements in operations have in fact been achieved by this means. At any rate, much of the writing in business management, industrial engineering, public administration, industrial psychology, and industrial sociology rests on this theoretical base.

Political analysis approach

For writers of the engineering orientation, and for some concerned with the politics of administration (Finer 1932), administrative organizations are largely neutral instruments that do the bidding of others. But many writers who approach administration from the standpoint of political analysis see bureaucracies as active participants in politics. Max Weber (1906–1924) and Carl J. Friedrich (1937; see also Friedrich & Cole 1932) were among the first to treat administrators as the key to governmental control in any modern state; the rationality and expertise of the bureaucracy are now required for rulership, they argued, and whoever controls the administrators can govern the state. Indeed, they suggested, the expertise of the administrators may make it virtually impossible for any outside influence to control them. Some later theorists (Burnham 1941, The Managerial Revolution) did in fact take the position that administrators have attained dominance in politics and every other phase of organized life in industrial societies. A host of polemicists, writing denunciatory tracts rather than scholarly analyses, also seized upon this theme to indict “the new despotism” of administrators and the “dead hand of bureaucracy,” but their outcries seldom added much to an understanding of the phenomenon against which they inveighed without restraint. Others regarded administrators as outriders of a ruling class (Kingsley 1944, Representative Bureaucracy). Many treated administrators as independent and highly important, but not dominant, elements in the process of government (Neumann 1942, Behemoth; Truman 1951, The Governmental Process), a view reflected in expressions of anxiety in both the United States and England and in proposals for increased executive control (U.S. President’s Committee on Administrative Management 1937) or increased legislative control (e.g., U.S. Congress, Senate 1937; Great Britain, Ministry of Reconstruction 1918; Great Britain, Committee on Ministers’ Powers 1932). Increasing attention is now given also to the growing political influence of the rank and file of governmental bureaucracies as they organize in trade unions and professional associations (Sayre & Kaufman 1960). Dwight Waldo (1948) undertook to demonstrate that writers on administration, as well as administrators, have an implicit political theory about who should govern. The expanding power of administrators and bureaucrats is thus engendering a re-examination and modification of philosophies of government, traditional and contemporary, democratic and totalitarian. Research and writing on the problem will doubtless multiply in the years ahead, for the problem, from all present indications, seems likely to grow more pressing with the passage of time.

Sociological approach

The sociological approach is increasingly being used in work on organization theory, bureaucracy, and administrative behavior. It differs from the work of political analysts in that it is more concerned with the internal structure and operation of organizations than with the political consequences of growing bureaucratic influence. Yet, unlike the engineering orientation, it is not focused exclusively on factors related to output, and therefore it tends to be more comprehensive; it aims at a complete, systematic description of organizational behavior. Much of the research is experimental, and most of the reports of findings or statements of theory are studiously rigorous. There have even been a number of attempts to present mathematical models of organizations. (An excellent summation of much of the relevant literature will be found in March & Simon 1958.) Most researchers prefer striking out in their own directions and devising their own experiments to duplicating the experiments of others, so the level of theorizing is still very modest and the accumulation of evidence very slow.

The literature on administration has been enriched by a large number of case studies and case histories, especially in the field of public administration since the beginning of World War ii. The cases have not been mobilized around any common theoretical statements and have therefore been employed for illustrative and teaching purposes rather than for the testing of generalizations. Nevertheless, they constitute a large reservoir of experience and observation upon which theorists may find a way to draw profitably.

The function of administration has both stimulated and challenged theories about administration. The expansion of the role of administrators in government has been especially rapid, but similar observations could be made about administrators in commerce, industry, charitable associations, universities, trade unions, and other forms of organized activity. As more and more decision making of all kinds gravitates toward administrative officers, and as these officers come to rival and perhaps even to overshadow the other decision-making institutions in governments and other organizations, we can anticipate an intensification of study, experimentation, and theorizing in all three approaches to administration. What the fruit of this activity will be—whether, indeed, it will be truly fruitful at all—remains to be seen.

Herbert Kaufman


Barker, Ernest (1937) 1944 The Development of Public Services in Western Europe, 1660–1930. New York and London: Oxford Univ. Press.

Burnham, James 1941 The Managerial Revolution: What Is Happening in the World. New York: Day. → A paperback edition was published in 1960 by Indiana Univ. Press.

Finer, Herman (1932) 1949 The Theory and Practice of Modern Government. Rev. ed. New York: Holt.

Friedrich, Carl J. (1937) 1950 Constitutional Government and Democracy: Theory and Practice in Europe and America. Rev. ed. Boston: Ginn. → First published as Constitutional Government and Politics: Nature and Development.

Friedrich, Carl J.; and Cole, Taylor 1932 Responsible Bureaucracy: A Study of the Swiss Civil Service. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press.

Great Britain, Committee on Ministers’ Powers 1932 Report. Papers by Command, Cmd. 4060. London: H.M. Stationery Office.

Great Britain, Ministry of Reconstruction, Machinery of Government Committee (1918) 1938 Report. Papers by Command, Cd. 9230. London: H.M. Stationery Office.

Kingsley, John D. 1944 Representative Bureaucracy: An Interpretation of the British Civil Service. Yellow Springs, Ohio: Antioch Press.

March, James G.; and Simon, Herbert A. 1958 Organizations. New York: Wiley.

Mayo, Elton (1933) 1946 The Human Problems of an Industrial Civilization. 2d ed. Boston: Division of Research, Graduate School of Business Administration, Harvard University.

Michigan, University of, Institute of Public Administration (1957) 1960 Comparative Public Administration: A Selective Annotated Bibliography. By Ferrel Heady and Sybil L. Stokes. 2d ed. Ann Arbor, Mich.: The Institute.

Mornstein Marx, Fritz 1957 The Administrative State: An Introduction to Bureaucracy. Univ. of Chicago Press.

Neumann, Franz Leopold (1942) 1963 Behemoth: The Structure and Practice of National Socialism 1933–1944. 2d ed. New York: Octagon Books.

Roethlisberger, Fritz J.; and Dickson, William J. (1939) 1961 Management and the Worker. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press. → A paperback edition was published in 1964 by Wiley.

Sayre, Wallace S.; and Kaufman, Herbert 1960 Governing New York City: Politics in the Metropolis. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Stein, Harold (editor) 1952 Public Administration and Policy Development: A Case Book. New York: Harcourt.

Taylor, Frederick W. (1911–1912) 1947 Scientific Management. 3 vols. in 1. New York: Harper. → Volume 1: Scientific Management, Comprising Shop Management. Volume 2: The Principles of Scientific Management. Volume 3: Testimony Before the Special House Committee.

Truman, David B. (1951) 1962 The Governmental Process: Political Interests and Public Opinion. New York: Knopf.

U.S. Congress, Senate, Select Committee on Investigation of Executive Agencies 1937 Investigation of Executive Agencies of the Government. Senate Report 1275. 75th Congress, 1st Session.

U.S. President’s Committee on Administrative Management 1937 Report of the Committee, With Studies of Administrative Management in the Federal Government. Submitted to the President and to Congress in Accordance with Public Law No. 739, 74th Congress, 2d Session. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Waldo, Dwight 1948 The Administrative State: A Study of the Political Theory of American Public Administration. New York: Ronald Press.

Weber, Max (1906–1924) 1946 From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology. Translated and edited by Hans H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

Yanaga, Chitoshi 1949 Japan Since Perry. New York: McGraw-Hill.


The administrative process is, in essence, the making of rules, the adjudicating of cases, and the issuance of orders affecting the rights and obligations of private citizens and parties by public officials other than judges or legislators. It is the exercise of undifferentiated governmental power—that power which simultaneously encompasses making the law, deciding its application in particular cases, and commanding that specific acts be or not be performed. The history of constitutionalism in the West has been largely concerned with the differentiation of governmental power and the elaboration of procedures for its exercise and control. Although this development has never gone so far as to inhibit the concentration of governmental powers in the same hands in all fields of governmental action, it has given rise to a widely accepted set of political ideas that oppose such concentration.

These ideas are roughly expressed in the conceptions associated with “the rule of law” and “the separation of powers.”

Rule of law

The meaning of the rule of law was given classic formulation by A. V. Dicey: “We mean, in the first place, that no man is punishable or can lawfully be made to suffer in body or goods except for a distinct breach of law established in the ordinary legal manner before the ordinary courts of the land. In this sense the rule of law is contrasted with every system of government based on the exercise by persons in authority of wide, arbitrary, or discretionary powers of constraint” ([1885] 1964, p. 188). Dicey’s formulation places each person, regardless of his official position and no matter under whose authority he is acting, under the ordinary law and amenable to the ordinary courts for any violation of that law. Of course, even in Britain this has represented more of an ideal than an actuality. As an ideal, however, it has powerfully influenced the legal profession in both England and the United States and through that profession has conditioned the thinking of important sectors of public opinion. The amenability of the officials of government to the ordinary courts to account for the legality of their acts symbolizes both the independence of the judiciary and the supremacy of Parliament.

Separation of powers

The doctrine of the rule of law has been powerfully reinforced in the United States by that of the separation of powers. These doctrines together form the simple model of government, widely held as the correct ideal, where one branch of government makes the law, another branch carries out the law, and a third branch decides cases arising under the law. It is this model of constitutional propriety that the administrative process violates in some measure. To accomplish an increasing range of objectives it has been found expedient and even necessary to invest the same hands with the power to make rules having the force of law, to adjudicate cases falling under these rules, and to issue binding orders.

For several centuries governments in England and the United States have been taking administrative action in such fields as public health, public safety, taxation, customs, immigration and other areas, in which powers were mingled and the vaunted supremacy of the rule of law itself avoided. However, a truly luxuriant growth of the administrative process has accompanied the development of complex, urban industrial society. In the United States the flowering of the administrative process dates from the creation of the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) in 1887. Its full maturity came with the New Deal and is most typically embodied in such agencies as the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In the states the growth came earlier and, indeed, the inability of state jurisdictions to cope with a transportation industry increasingly regional and even national in scope accounts in large part for federal action. But at a more fundamental level the states as the holders of the police power have always been in the habit of investing certain officials in the fields of health and safety with broad regulatory authority that could not be squared with any strict adherence to the separation-of-powers principle. Courts and public alike have found these exceptions so familiar that they have never forced reconsideration of the scope and validity of the principle violated.

The model of government that requires separate bodies to make the law, to enforce it, and to adjudicate cases arising under it breaks down in areas where expertness of knowledge, speed of action, number of cases, need for prevention, and rapid change render its operation cumbersome and ineffective. In theory, the legislature might know enough and have time enough to enact and keep up to date a code of public-health laws adequate for the citizens’ protection. In theory, aggrieved private citizens and zealous district attorneys might adequately police violations. And in theory, courts of general jurisdiction might know enough about public health to decide cases in such a fashion as to implement public policy adequately. In fact, however, in field after field the conditions requisite to the theory do not obtain. If rules are needed that reflect expert knowledge in a dynamic field, experts and not the legislature must make and remake them. If these rules are to be effectively enforced, preventive rather than remedial action must be available. A suit for damages, or even a criminal prosecution, is no substitute for preventive public-health measures to remove the potential cause of an epidemic. Knowledge, interest, and the vigor to ensure forceful action in developing and applying a concept in the public interest in any area is heavily dependent on program emphasis in organization structure and objective. Finally, the adjudication of cases by courts of general jurisdiction puts policy objectives at the mercy of judges who may not understand the subject matter or have a strong sense of urgency in policy fulfillment.

Administrative tribunals and values

The history of workmen’s-compensation legislation exhibits the frustration of legislative policy in courts whose judges, trained in the common law, were unsympathetic to objectives that seemed to them to conflict with traditional property rights. Ultimately, administrative tribunals were resorted to as a means of circumventing judicial hostility and placing the development and enforcement of policy in sympathetic hands. In effect, the legislature gave to an administrative body plenary authority to effect a public policy the legislature could only formulate after a fashion but could not itself bring into detailed existence or continuously push and superintend. The administrative body was charged with the responsibility of developing a body of rules, almost a body of law, governing an area of public policy and ensuring that these rules and their enforcement kept pace with relevant new developments and the policy mandate.

Initially, there was much naive faith that administrative tribunals or commissions would provide an effective means of turning pressing public problems over to bodies of experts, who would develop, through the application of their expertise, impartial nonpolitical solutions to the problems—thus taking hot issues out of politics and creating agreement that had previously proved impossible. Faith in experts and the quest for policy without politics were common to the credo of nineteenth-century reform and have died hard.

Irritation with the courts and their tenderness for private property, together with a contempt for the separation-of-powers doctrine as political metaphysics designed to hamstring effective and prompt governmental action, converted many liberals to a belief in a more or less unfettered administrative process. Judicial misgivings and reluctance to abandon a detailed superintendence of administrative action, especially where significant property and other rights were involved, occasioned a longdrawn-out struggle to delineate the roles of courts and administrative bodies. The result has been a continuous judicial retreat from earlier positions, in which proceedings before an administrative body could be all but ignored and matters started from scratch in the court, to one where the record of the agency is accepted and the agency’s finding upheld if supported by “substantial evidence.” The scope of review became narrowed to one of the law, with great weight, on occasion, given to administrative interpretation of it. Courts have found that the price of overzealous superintendence of administrative bodies is either substituting themselves for the agencies whose work they are supposed to review or hamstringing the agencies—in effect paralyzing the public policy to which they were intended to give life. Gradually, there came to be an acceptance that the agencies’ findings of fact were well nigh as conclusive as those of a jury.

The struggle over the roles of courts and agencies in the administrative process can be understood in terms of groups seeking expression through rival and competing institutions and in terms of differing sets of values whose realization is accentuated or diminished by the emphasis the rival institutions place on them. Whereas group analysis would concentrate on the differing group pressures and their modes of influence in administrative bodies, courts, legislatures, and executives, attention should also be paid to the procedures and values embedded in the different institutions. Liberals who at one time could see no ill in the untrammeled sway of the administrative process now have second thoughts regarding the fields of immigration and loyalty and security proceedings, where results are sometimes painful. In these cases they see real virtues in the courts. On the other hand, conservatives who at other times are vehement in their advocacy of judicial restraint on administrative action see little use for it in such instances. If the protection of the individual is highly valued the courts are in order. If policy is to be forwarded without hindrance the courts are an obstacle. The anguish of prosecutors and police before judicial safeguards increasing the difficulty of their task is paralleled by the rejoicing of the civil libertarian, who zealously seeks the protection of the individual with little concern for the problems of law enforcement.

The contrast between administrative concern with policy and court concern with individual rights is of course not nearly so black and white. Courts are concerned with the policy outcomes of their decisions and administrative agencies are concerned with the values of individual justice. The contrast, however, is justified in terms of emphasis. The courts have a general sphere of concern (although it is true the nonconstitutional courts are specialized); agencies, on the other hand, have a particular policy area to oversee and a public interest to promote; they cannot, therefore, be neutral toward the policy they are set up to effectuate. Again, however, the contrast may be too stark. The neutrality between state and individual in the courts is based on a commitment to the value of individual justice. This commitment is supposed to be not just the predilection of the court but also an overarching value of the political community. The conflict between the requirements of particular public policies and the demands of individual justice is unending. Neither value can be treated as an absolute without unacceptable loss. The dialectic of the resolution of the conflict is a constant process within agencies and between agencies, courts, legislatures, executives, and publics. However policy-bent, even in time of war, agencies can never, without danger, completely neglect the value of individual justice. And courts, however concerned that individual justice be done, still must reckon the cost to the political community.

Contrary and sometimes even contradictory value emphases are structured into political institutions and into the training and recruitment of their staffs. Thus, protagonists of differing value positions clash and interact in the ordinary processes of government. These value positions characteristically attract the support of the interests in the society who feel furthered by their action consequences. That this implies no necessary permanent commitment to particular institutions and the values expressed through them is well illustrated by the shifting attitudes of conservatives and liberals in the United States toward the Supreme Court.

Administrative agencies

The continuum between an administrative body and a court and the value conflict or disparity involved in the two kinds of governmental activity are well brought out in the critical connotations of the term “judicialized” administration. In many quarters this assumption of the judicial posture is regarded as the abandonment of the protective and fostering role appropriate to an administrative body in its policy area. Sitting back and waiting for the parties to present their case is frequently viewed as a retreat from the positive formulation and assertion of the public interest that is the appropriate function and use of the administrative process. In addition, the almost inevitable inequality in the resources of the parties at interest means that the adoption of the judicial role favors the regulated over those whom the regulations are designed to protect.

But while the judicialization of administration is criticized as a retreat from the positive role appropriate to the administrative process, it would be incorrect not to recognize that the administrative process implies concern of a judicial nature that differentiates it from simple executive action. Whereas a space agency or a department of defense may formulate rules of procedure to assure fairness in its procurement policies and even provide some review for decisions affecting those who do business with it, this is a long way from what is expected of administrative bodies in formulating rules and deciding cases.

A comparison of the ICC and the Civilian Aeronautics Board with the Department of Defense and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is suggestive of the differing roles and what is appropriate to them. The clearest difference is that in the one case the ground and air transport are predominantly in private hands and in the other the responsibility for achieving the defense or space objectives belongs to government agencies. Much of the criticism of the regulatory agencies stems from the ambiguity of their responsibility. This responsibility calls for them to make rules and adjudicate cases in such a way that the selfinterested action of private parties within the governmentally provided ground rules will produce results approximately in the public interest. Indeed, what is wanted is a positive program for a limited and public-goal-oriented form of laissezfaire.

Critics of the commissions frequently seem to suppose that there is a way to achieve the virtues of both government and private enterprise while avoiding the vices of either. A frequent result is to weaken the mechanism of competition in the allocation of resources without replacing it with a superior form of political decision making. The major task of regulation is the search for a means to produce a body of rules and an adjudication of their application such that the private interests of the regulated parties will produce a publicly desirable result. The most serious weakness is the almost inevitable belief in the sovereign efficacy of more rather than less regulation on the part of the regulators. Witness the unwillingness of the ICC to allow the no longer monopolistic railroads to compete for survival with the unregulated private carriage lest the competition jeopardize the vulnerable common carrier trucking and inland waterways transport.

Indeed, the sense of paternal responsibility on the part of the regulatory body may lead to a sincere belief that its charges, unless prevented, will do themselves harm. Such a view stems readily enough from the depression-born concept of destructive competition. The identification of the regulators with the regulated frequently leads to the charge that the agencies are industry-minded.

Given a sense of responsibility for the running of the railroad, even though lacking full power to do the actual running, it is scarcely surprising that regulators share many of the preoccupations of management. And since the success of management in the regulated enterprise may well depend on managing the regulators, it is scarcely surprising that this should occur. While the regulated must be concerned with the viability of their enterprise, the consumers of their product can scarcely be expected to rise to a statesmanlike concern over the profits needed to maintain the services they enjoy. Selfish interests weigh more heavily than theoretic concern with the health of a system for which individuals feel small responsibility and which they feel unable to affect.

The adversary balance of interests that pressuregroup analysts have seen as providing a basis for freedom of regulators to pursue an independent course is important in providing political freedom of maneuver. But even when agencies can play off the contending parties against each other, a longterm concern with the efficient operation of the regulated activity must give an appearance of industry-mindedness. Few agencies with the political strength to act would have faith that a neutral judicial posture between the parties is likely to produce a desirable result. The attitude of the agency is more like that of the nurse to a child than of a servant to an acknowledged master, though an occasional commission member may have the latter perspective.

The charge of industry-mindedness that is leveled against some commissions oddly enough is rarely raised with such concern about government bureaus and departments. The departments of Agriculture and Labor or the Army Corps of Engineers scarcely need apologize for championing their constituencies. Doubtless the judicial aura of an administrative agency makes any such open partisanship offensive. Yet the duty to foster a national transportation system is scarcely less compelling or markedly different from fostering the nation’s agriculture.

The administrative process has been utilized in agencies and within departments to secure needed reform where the formulation of rules and their development were the preferred means of action. It thus represents an approach to a desired result through regulatory alteration of the behavior of private parties rather than government production of the result through its own primary agency. The force behind the regulatory action is initially the political impetus behind the reform. This impetus is seldom long sustained, and the ebbing of the tide is apt to leave the agency in the shallows of day-to-day routine. Critics of the administrative process frequently complain of stagnation and the loss of creativity. This criticism often seems to suppose the existence of some organizational means to secure sustained administrative drive. The facts of political life seem to be that president, Congress, and public alike have the energy to press vigorously for only a few objectives at a time. In the absence of this kind of concern the currents of political action must run at a low voltage and their results be in measure to the strength of the current.

The fairest way to measure administrative agencies is to examine their product and compare it with the output of alternatives here and elsewhere. By any reasonable standard, such agencies as the NLRB and the SEC have taken difficult fields and reduced them to a satisfactory state of order, the interests of the private parties subordinated, without excessive harshness, to a broader public interest. While the CAB has been guilty of seeming gross inconsistencies in the nationalization of its decisions, the aviation network that has developed compares favorably with networks in other countries. Meaningful alternatives must suggest—and specify the criteria for determining—who or what would do a better job. Despite the real difficulties in the nation’s ground transport system it is doubtful that the record of the Department of Agriculture in its field is better than that of the ICC.

Executive action and administrative process

The power of presidential direction and coordination of administrative agencies seems to assure efficiency until it is scrutinized in the light of the operations of the constituents of the executive branch.

The administrative process although usually associated with the independent commissions and other regulatory tribunals is not confined to them. In one way or another it is utilized in areas as varied as the Treasury, the Post Office, and Agriculture departments. (Although the administrative process is usually associated with government it characterizes all organizations that desire to proceduralize their administration in such a way as to make their decisions conform to rules and secure uniformity of justice in the individual cases falling under their jurisdiction.) Once it is accepted that objectives cannot be satisfactorily attained through a governmental mechanism of separated powers, it becomes important to see how the values that mechanism is designed to implement can be given effective recognition in the administrative system. Granted the limited control of the legislature through statutory definition of purpose and through budgetary control, the limited power of the courts through their necessarily limited review, and the limited control of the executive through the exercise of the power of selection and retention, how are bodies possessing powers of decision and rule making in important policy areas to be kept from becoming tyrannous?

The administrative process is most appropriately contrasted not with the ideal of the separation of powers but with the actuality of the executive process. A functioning system of separated powers should, theoretically, provide adequate protection for individuals. In practice, however, it is likely to do considerably less for the individual than does the administrative process, which openly unites the powers.

The procedures or lack of procedures characteristic of the immigration and loyalty and security areas illustrate this point. In both cases—the one dealing with aliens, the other with government employees—privileges, not rights, are supposed to be involved. Accordingly, the concern of the courts is less tender and the processes permitted more rough and ready. The commitment to individual justice takes a back seat to particular public policy and even to administrative convenience. What is involved is basically the relative position of two values—the protection of the individual and his legitimate interests and the effective and economical attainment of a public purpose. The civil libertarian might wish to deny that there is any ultimate conflict between the two, but the hardpressed administrator and the defense counsel know otherwise, though from differing perspectives.

Another example is provided by the most fundamental governmental activity in political society, that of the police. Here, for the protection of the society the activity is supposed to be purely executive. The policeman is not supposed to make the rules or to decide their application in particular cases. In fact, however, both policeman and district attorney decide which rules to enforce and against whom and frequently with what degree of severity. Given the factual discretion of the police within the general mandate of law enforcement, their activity might seem an excellent example of the administrative process. They, in effect, make rules, decide particular cases, and issue binding orders. The reason for their doing so is much the same as that which occasions resort to the administrative process in other areas, need for speed and preventive action, multitude of cases, and presumptively expert knowledge. Yet, it would be a travesty on the administrative process to regard police administration as more than a parody upon it.

The essence of the administrative process is contained in the debate as old as Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Politics whether government by the unfettered judgment of the expert is preferable to government by law, by rule, and by procedure. Aristotle’s claim that government by law was indeed government by reason unaffected by desire and was alone compatible with human dignity and freedom has been the generally held ideal of the West, even though the Platonic claim for the philosopher-king, the businesslike expert, has had powerful appeal.

The administrative process, unlike purely executive action, aspires to act through known, intellectually defensible rules and procedures. It aspires further to defend its decisions and orders in terms of these rules and claims that these decisions and orders implement a concept of the public interest in the policy area in question. The administrative process is government by procedure rather than government by fiat. While it combines the powers of rule making and deciding in one area in the same hands, it subjects the use of these powers to an obligation to act in a regular fashion and to give a rational account of the relation of the means to the public end in view. The minimal procedures of notice and hearing, written opinions, publication of rules, and the like are the historic devices for encouraging, if not compelling, rational action. The proceduralized duty to state the grounds of action in terms of a concept of the public interest may produce no more than rationalizations; however, even the acceptance of this duty admits in principle the duty to do justice.

Norton Long

[See alsoJudicial process; Leadership; Political process; Public law. Other relevant material may be found inJusticeandPresidential government.]


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The phrase “administrative behavior” is used to designate human behavior in an organizational setting, particularly behavior that involves making decisions or influencing the behavior of others. The phrase is most often employed by scientists and scholars who are concerned with administration as a species of social behavior. The study of administrative behavior has thus been part of the wider development that is generally labeled “behavioral science.”

The work in administrative theory to which the phrase is applied tends, first, to be descriptive rather than normative—to explain what is rather than prescribe what ought to be. The literature that deals particularly with motivation, however, is a partial exception, being often concerned with applications advising, for example, how to secure greater worker productivity or acceptance of change.

Second, the behavioral approach to administration has emphasized operational definition of terms and empirical study: the observation of organizations in the field, controlled field experiments on organizations, and laboratory studies of organization-like groups. Third, this work is largely, but not exclusively, concerned with quantification, mathematization, and formal theory construction. For example, the mathematical theories of games and of graphs have been applied to organizational phenomena.

The study of administrative behavior thus is distinguishable from the other behavioral sciences only in the particular phenomena it takes as its subject matter. It makes much use of propositions drawn from psychology, sociology, and economics. It applies these propositions to the prediction of organizational phenomena and uses empirical data on administrative behavior to test them in an organizational context.

It is only since World War II that there has been any considerable body of research and writing on administration employing a behavioral approach. Most of this writing, which is fast becoming a torrent, can be traced back to four prewar sources. The work of sociologists in this field generally shows most strongly the influence of Max Weber (1922), whose approach has been adopted and developed by Robert K. Merton (1949) and his students (Blau 1955; Blau & Scott 1962). In public and business administration, the behavioral approach can largely be traced back to Chester I. Barnard’s The Functions of the Executive (1938) and to the Hawthorne experiments reported by Roethlisberger and Dickson (1939). The attention of social psychologists was attracted to administrative phenomena by the Hawthorne studies and the experiments on leadership by Kurt Lewin and his associates (Likert 1961).

The phrase “administrative behavior” gained currency with the book by Simon (1947) that developed and extended Barnard’s work. Along with this general acceleration of activity in the behavioral sciences after World War II, the study of administrative behavior became inextricably interwoven with the human relations movement (McGregor 1960) and with the study by sociologists and social psychologists of small groups (Homans 1950) and leadership. There has also been much borrowing between research on administrative behavior and work in industrial sociology and the economic theory of the firm (Chappie & Sayles 1961; Cyert & March 1963).

The convergence of so many social science disciplines upon human behavior in organizations has led to great diversity in approach and vocabulary (Foundation for Research on Human Behavior 1959). A few strategic frameworks for organizing the study of administrative behavior are beginning to emerge, and it is clear that far fewer concepts are needed than there have been distinct technical terms for labeling them. As a consensus on vocabulary develops, the area of administrative behavior, comprising phenomena of great interest to all the social sciences, is becoming a major channel of communication among the various social science disciplines. An attempt to provide some common frameworks for a wide range of approaches is found in March and Simon (1958).

Contemporary research on administrative behavior can generally be classified in one of four major categories:

(1) research on bureaucracy, belonging to the Weberian stream;

(2) human relations research focused on motivations and concerned with increasing job satisfactions and productivity;

(3) research, employing the Barnard-Simon model of organizational equilibrium, aimed at explaining survival and growth of organizations in terms of the interrelations of motivations of their participants;

(4) research on the decision-making process, with primary emphasis on cognitive processes and the rational components in administrative behavior.

The study of bureaucracy

The notion of studying organizations as bureaucracies and the construction of the ideal type of that social institution are due to Max Weber. For Weber, the rise of bureaucracies was an integral part of the development of modern Western social institutions. He was interested in identifying the characteristics of bureaucracy and explaining the manner of, and reasons for, its growth; identifying accompanying social changes; and stating the consequences of bureaucratic organization for the achievement of bureaucratic goals. In assuming, as he does, that employees will generally be willing and able to perform their bureaucratic roles, Weber’s postulates about motivation are closer to the views of the scientific management movement than to those set forth in more recent writings on human relations [seeWeber, Max].

American sociologists, who, led by Robert K. Merton, have taken Weber’s ideal type as the starting point for their analyses, have been primarily interested in the consequences of bureaucratization for the bureaucracy and its employees and, in particular, in the unanticipated consequences of action based on rational calculation within the bureaucratic framework. For example, the need for control by those in authority leads to an emphasis on reliability, to the elaboration of rules, to overrigid behavior, and, hence, to inappropriateness of organizational action in individual cases; again, the division of labor leads to specialization, to the development of independent or antagonistic goals in specialized subgroups, and finally to conflict among the subgroups.

Thus, the bureaucracy framework has provided not so much a comprehensive system of theory as a way of investigating the critical boundary between the rational and intended, and the irrational and unintended, in administrative behavior. It has been a fruitful approach in accounting for peculiarly organizational species of behavior. It has shown how to explain administrative phenomena that appear irrational or nonfunctional by deriving them from simple psychological mechanisms combined with the postulate that in complex systems the indirect consequences of action are not generally foreseen or calculated. In this respect it has much in common with the theories of bounded rationality discussed below.

Motivation: human relations research

By far the greatest part of the research and writing on administrative behavior comes under the general rubric of human relations, arising out of an interest in discovering how employees could be motivated to higher productivity and how their satisfactions could be increased. Surveys of such research and its empirical findings are provided by the recent books of McGregor (1960), Argyris (1960), Chappie and Sayles (1961), and Likert (1961).

Some human relations research has used the case study as its primary source of empirical data and has been content with informal and intuitive methods for interpreting and drawing inferences from the data. A considerable body of work, however, is based on laboratory experiments or field studies that devote considerable attention to defining variables operationally, devising scales and other measuring instruments for objectifying observations, and testing hypotheses systematically. In these studies, the methodological framework is characteristically borrowed from applied experimental psychology: One or more dependent variables, or “criterion variables,” measure such aspects of organizational output as productivity or employee satisfaction; the independent variables measure amounts and kinds of rewards, style of management or supervision, pattern of communication, etc. A typical finding from such studies is that of Likert: “Employees who feel more free to set their own work pace prove to be more productive than those who lack this sense of freedom” (1961, p. 20).

Two central themes are prominent in the findings of this research. First, noneconomic motivations, especially those arising out of interpersonal relations in the primary work group, are found to be far more important determinants of behavior than economists and writers on scientific management had believed. Second, under a wide range of circumstances, shifts in management styles in a nonauthoritarian and egalitarian direction have been shown to increase productivity, acceptance of change, and worker satisfactions.

Most of the empirical studies of human relations have been restricted to the blue-collar and lower supervisory levels of organizations. The attention paid to motivation in the research is not unrelated to the fact that at these levels identification with organizational objectives is characteristically, and understandably, lower than at executive levels. Hence, the research and its interpretations have had much more to say about the use of motivations by executives than about the motivation of executives or about the relation between personal and organizational goals in the behavior of executives.

Motivation: organizational equilibrium

One of Barnard’s major contributions to administrative behavior was a theory of the growth and survival of organizations based on the interaction of individual motivational mechanisms; the theory has been further developed and formalized by Simon. According to Barnard, each participant in an organization is both positively and negatively motivated to remain in the system. Barnard calls the positive motivations the “inducements” provided by the organization to the participant; and the negative motivations he refers to as the “contributions” provided by the participant to the organization. (As a simplified example, an employee’s inducements are his wages and, perhaps, pleasant associates; his contribution is the work he performs.) Each participant will remain in the organization as long as his inducements outweigh his contributions, on his personal utility scale.

The contributions made by the several participants are transformed by the organization into the inducements, which it then redistributes. The organization can survive and grow (is “efficient,” in Barnard’s use of the term) as long as it can dis-tribute enough inducements, manufactured out of the contributions it receives, to maintain the stream of contributions; that is, it must receive enough money from its customers to pay its employees and suppliers, and it must receive enough work and raw materials from employees and suppliers to produce output adequate to maintain the flow of money from customers. It is convenient, in applying this theory, to include customers and suppliers among the participants along with the groups, such as employees, who are more usually thought of as members of the organization.

The conditions under which Barnard’s theory becomes testable and not merely a tautology are discussed by March and Simon (1958, pp. 84–88). To date, its main value has been not in stimulating empirical research but in showing how the psychologist’s conceptions of organization can be correlated with the economist’s conceptions of organization. Description of administrative behavior in terms of individual motivations relates that behavior to one of the main streams of psychological research; and the quid pro quo dissection of motivations into inducements and contributions is a generalization of the economist’s concept of a demand function or a supply function. The labor supply function, for Barnard, is a schedule showing the number of persons willing to participate as employees and contribute labor for varying amounts of wage inducements. The other supply and demand functions in the markets surrounding the firm can be interpreted similarly. The accountant’s profit-and-loss statement records those portions of the system of inducements and contributions that, for reasons of convenience or history, are customarily put down in money terms.

Thus the inducements-contributions schema provides a common meeting place for, say, the economist of consumption behavior, the marketing specialist, and the psychologist, who want to understand the product purchases, brand preferences, or response to advertising of consumers. It directs the economist’s attention to the noneconomic components in the total motivational structure, while at the same time giving the psychologist a means for tracing the indirect systems effects of the individual motivational mechanisms [seeBarnard].

Decision making

Until very recently, motivational variables have received the lion’s share of attention in empirical research on administrative behavior, as they have in many areas of study within psychology—for example, in research on learning and in research on perception. But as Weber emphasized in his descriptions of bureaucracy, one of the salient characteristics of administrative behavior, as compared with human behavior in other institutional settings, is its large rationalistic component. Because organizations are goal-oriented systems, administrative behavior is largely concerned with finding effective patterns of activity directed toward the goals and with influencing subordinates to adopt these patterns. The theory of this large cognitive component of administrative behavior is closely tied to the theory of thinking and problem solving.

Thinking and problem solving that is directed toward the discovery and selection of courses of action is usually called decision making. If the term is used to describe what takes place in organizations, it must be interpreted broadly (Simon 1960). Only a small fraction of the time of administrators is spent in actually choosing among courses of action once they have been presented for selection. A larger fraction is spent in what the military calls “intelligence activities”: searching for situations and problems that call for attention, and filtering and interpreting incoming information about the changing environment that might signal such situations and problems. An even larger fraction is spent in designing action alternatives, that is, sharpening the formulation of problems to which attention has been drawn by intelligence activities, specifying possible courses of action, and elaborating and evaluating them. Approval of an action, the final act of choice, takes place in administration only within this larger context of intelligence and design activities. Administrative decision making involves all three processes.

Theories of rational decision

A considerable body of formal theory of rational decision making has accumulated in economics and mathematical statistics [seeDecision theory]. The theory can be interpreted either normatively or descriptively—either as a theory of how a man should choose in order to behave rationally or as a theory of how a man does choose (e.g., the rational economic man). The normative interpretation, which we shall not be concerned with here, has been of primary interest in statistics and management science; the descriptive interpretation has played a central role in the economic theory of the firm.

The formal theory of rational decision making has been enormously important in clarifying the concept of rationality and the associated concepts of utility and expectations. It has been less successful in explaining the real-world facts of administrative decision making, because of (1) its preoccupation with choice behaviors, to the near exclusion of intelligence activities and design activities, and (2) its assumptions of the chooser’s omniscience. Typically, formal decision models assume that all the alternatives of choice are known, that all the consequences attached to each alternative are known, and that each set of consequences has attached to it a known utility, i.e., a magnitude by which it can be ordered relative to the other sets. Rationality (optimization) then consists in choosing the alternative whose consequences have the greatest utility (Simon [1947] 1961, chapter 4; March & Simon 1958, chapter 6).

In recent years there have been some efforts to extend the theory to take account of uncertainty of consequences (statistical decision theory), of time and cost involved in obtaining information (sequential sampling, search theory, theory of teams), and of opposition of interest among rational actors [seeOligopoly; Game Theory]. Nevertheless, limitations on the information available to the chooser about alternatives, consequences, or utilities, and limitations on his ability to perform the computations presupposed by the theory, enter the theory, if at all, as boundary conditions rather than phenomena of central interest.

Theories of bounded rationality

An alternative approach to administrative decision making takes as its starting point the very limitations upon omniscient rationality that formal decision theory tends to de-emphasize. In real life, human beings exhibit only bounded rationality (Simon [1947] 1961, chapter 5). The central phenomenon to be explained is how organisms are able to behave in a relatively adaptive, goal-oriented fashion in an environment whose complexity is grossly disproportionate to their information-processing and computational powers. How does the organism notice and attend to those aspects of the environment calling for action (intelligence processes); how does it discover and integrate adaptive responses (design activities); and how does it select action alternatives (choice activities)?

These questions about administrative behavior are, of course, also central questions in the psychology of cognition—in learning, perception, and problem solving. Research on administrative decision making based on the concept of bounded rationality has drawn heavily upon, and contributed to, research in individual and social psychology of cognition. Several generalizations have emerged:

First, intelligence processes in organizations, as in individual behavior, are governed by laws of selective perception. In particular, specialization will cause different administrators to be exposed to different environments, to have different sensitivities to particular events in their environments, and to internalize different subgoals (identification).

Second, the processes of design in administration are largely identical with the processes that have been identified in individual problem solving in the psychological laboratory. A reasoned account has been given of design activity as an organized system of means-end analysis (Simon 1960).

Third, satisficing—choosing good alternatives rather than searching for an unattainable “best”—is a central means used by decision makers for matching the choice process to their information-processing limitations. Moreover, satisficing provides an important connection between cognitive and motivational systems. The satisficing criterion is familiar to psychologists as the aspiration level, which adjusts upward or downward, over time, as a function of the ease or difficulty that the decision maker encounters in finding satisfactory alternatives.

There is not complete agreement that the phenomena that have been treated in terms of bounded rationality and satisficing cannot be handled by an expansion of classical formal decision theory. The chief difficulty is to account for the observed dependence of behavior upon the sequence in which action alternatives are presented by the environment or are discovered by design activities. Whatever the possibilities of reconciling the two view-points, the emphasis upon the limits of rationality has directed attention in research on administrative decision making to new variables and processes.

Describing the decision process

Until quite recently theories of decision making had far outgrown the means available for testing them empirically. The relatively few studies of administrative behavior that focused specifically upon decision making were mostly case studies; and no matter how competently executed, they tended to suffer from subjectivity and did not easily lend themselves to empirical hypothesis testing. Labora-tory experiments with small groups, particularly the work of Freed Bales, Alex Bavelas, and Harold Guetzkow brought some methodological advance. Category systems were developed, for example, that allowed at least some aspects of decision-making behavior in different situations to be objectively recorded and compared. Most of these systems, however, retained only a small part of the information in the raw data and ignored a great deal of the structure and organization of the decision-making process.

The prospects for testing theories of decision making changed radically with the invention of the electronic digital computer and the discovery that computer programs could be written to simu-late human cognitive processes. These new techniques have led to the development and partial testing of some fairly general theories of human problem solving and of specific applications of these theories to the administrative behavior of middle managers. For example, we now have a fairly well-substantiated picture of some of the decision-making processes of a bank trust officer and of a department store buyer (Cyert & March 1963).

Computer simulation techniques have also led to improvement in our less formal methods for handling data. Central to simulation and independent of computer technology is the idea that an effective and parsimonious way to explain a segment of human decision-making behavior is to prescribe a program that would generate such a behavior segment—or a highly similar one. A program can be prescribed at the level of detail necessary to instruct a computer; but it can also be described much more generally and approximately. Thus, the concept of “program” provides a means for formalizing and analyzing case-study of historical data in whatever detail and structure the data will support. The components of programs are themselves smaller programs called subroutines, which may be equated with the decision premises in an earlier nomenclature of decision making.

Organization structure

The behavioral study of administration has brought about a substantial change in theories of organization structure—of the consequences of arranging systems of specialization, authority relations, and communication patterns in one way rather than another. A first contribution has been operational definitions of some of the key variables.

The concept of authority provides an example [seeAuthority]. In traditional administrative theory, authority was generally defined in quasi-legal terms. Barnard pointed out that authority is significant for administration to the extent that it has behavioral consequences. He proposed that we speak of an authority relation between two persons only when the commands of the superior are generally obeyed by the subordinate. If this definition is accepted, then the way is open for empirical research to discover what conditions have to be satisfied for an authority relation to be maintained, i.e., what the motivational bases are for the acceptance of authority. The question of whether legitimacy buttresses authority, whose answer is tautological in a legal theory of authority, thus becomes an empirical question; and research on attitudes toward legitimacy can be related to other psychological research on superego formation, the authoritarian personality, and so on.

A few samples can be given here of the generalizations that have been formulated and tested when organization structure has been approached as a behavioral phenomenon (Simon, Smithburg, & Thompson 1950). A unit within an organization is said to be self-contained, to the extent that its work is carried on without coordination or communication with other units; such units will be self-contained to the extent that the division of work among units parallels the division of the goal of the organization into subgoals. Further, conflict among units will vary inversely with their degree of self-containment.

Goals are called operational insofar as their attainment can be evaluated objectively and insofar as the connections between actions and attainment can be determined. Then, organizational conflict will be settled by analytic techniques when there is a set of common operational goals that apply to the disputing units, and by bargaining techniques when there is not.

The phenomena examined in classical organization theory remain—the division of work, the processes of coordination, the hierarchy of authority, and the hierarchy of status relations. But with a behavioral approach, the task of understanding these phenomena becomes a task of explaining them in terms of social and psychological mechanisms that are familiar from research in other areas of sociology and psychology. From this point of view, administrative behavior is examined as human behavior in a particular kind of social setting. An organization is thus a relatively stable pattern of human behaviors, which is maintained by motivational forces. When analyzed in terms of the inducements and contributions of its participants, it is at, or near, equilibrium. The individual behaviors are components in a complex decision-making process comprising intelligence, design, and choice activities. The behavioral “outputs” of the decision-making individual administrators are information and decision premises that serve as “inputs” to the processes of other participants. These interpersonal relations derive in part from a formal and legitimized plan of authority and status relations and decision procedures and in part from informal and social processes. The study of administrative behavior becomes a study of basic psychological mechanisms—motivational and cognitive—under conditions where these mechanisms are linked together in a complex, formalized, goal-oriented social system.

Herbert A. Simon


Argyris, Chris 1960 Understanding Organizational Behavior. Homewood, III.: Dorsey.

Barnard, Chester I. (1938) 1962 The Functions of the Executive. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press.

Bass, Bernard M. 1960 Leadership, Psychology, and Organizational Behavior. New York: Harper.

Blau, Peter M. (1955) 1963 The Dynamics of Bureaucracy: A Study of Interpersonal Relations in Two Government Agencies. Rev. ed. Univ. of Chicago Press.

Blau, Peter M.; and Scott, W. Richard 1962 Formal Organizations: A Comparative Approach. San Francisco: Chandler. → Contains an extensive bibliography.

Caplow, Theodore 1964 Principles of Organization. New York: Harcourt.

Chapple, Eliot D.; and Sayles, Leonard R. 1961 The Measure of Management: Designing Organizations for Human Effectiveness. New York: Macmillan.

Collins, Barry E.; and Guetzkow, Harold S. 1964 A Social Psychology of Group Processes for Decision-making. New York: Wiley.

Cyert, Richard M.; and March, James G. 1963 A Behavioral Theory of the Firm. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.

Foundation for Research on Human Behavior 1959 Modern Organization Theory: A Symposium. Edited by Mason Haire. New York: Wiley.

Homans, George C. 1950 The Human Group. New York: Harcourt.

Likert, Rensis 1961 New Patterns of Management. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Mcgregor, Douglas 1960 The Human Side of Enterprise. New York: McGraw-Hill.

March, James G. (editor) 1965 Handbook of Organizations. Chicago: Rand McNally.

March, James G.; and Simon, Herbert A. 1958 Organizations. New York: Wiley.

Merton, Robert K. (1949) 1957 Social Theory and Social Structure. Rev. & enl. ed. Glencoe, III.: Free Press.

Roethlisberger, Fritz J.; and Dickson, William J. (1939) 1961 Management and the Worker: An Ac-count of a Research Program Conducted by the Western Electric Company, Hawthorne Works, Chicago. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press. → A paperback edition was published in 1964 by Wiley.

Simon, Herbert A. (1947) 1961 Administrative Behavior: A Study of Decision-making Processes in Administrative Organization. 2d ed. New York: Macmillan. → See especially chapters 4 and 5.

Simon, Herbert A. 1960 The New Science of Management Decision. New York: Harper.

Simon, Herbert A.; Smithburg, Donald W.; and Thompson, Victor A. 1950 Public Administration. New York: Knopf.

Weber, Max (1922) 1957 The Theory of Social and Economic Organization. Edited by Talcott Parsons. Glencoe, III.: Free Press. → First published as Part 1 of Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft.


views updated May 23 2018

ad·min·is·tra·tion / ədˌminəˈstrāshən/ (abbr.: admin.) • n. 1. the process or activity of running a business, organization, etc.: the day-to-day administration of the company. ∎  (the administration) the people responsible for this, regarded collectively: the university administration took their demands seriously. ∎  the management of public affairs; government: the inhabitants voted to remain under French administration. ∎  Law the management and disposal of the property of an intestate, deceased person, debtor, or other individual, or of an insolvent company, by a legally appointed administrator: the company went into administration.2. the officials in the executive branch of government under a particular chief executive: the Bush Administration's demand. ∎  the term of office of a political leader or government: the early years of the Reagan Administration. ∎  a government agency: the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.3. the action of dispensing, giving, or applying something. the administration of justice.


views updated May 18 2018


The performance of executive duties in an institution or business. Thesmall business administrationis responsible for administration of some disaster-relief loans. In government, the practical management and direction of some department or agency in theexecutive branch; in general, the entire class of public officials and employees managing the executive department. The management and distribution of the estate of a decedent performed under the supervision of the surrogate's or probate court by a person duly qualified and legally appointed. If the decedent made a valid will designating someone called an executor to handle this function, the court will issue that person letters testamentary as authority to do so. If a person dies intestate or did not name an executor in his or her will, the court will appoint an administrator and grant him or herletters of administrationto perform the duties of administration.

An executor or administrator must carry out the responsibilities of administration, including collection and preservation of the decedent's assets; payment of debts and claims against the estate; payment of estate tax; and distribution of the balance of the estate to the decedent's heirs.