From its modern start onwards, the field of Public Administration has been practice-oriented. Its normative position has had consequences for the choice of the themes studied and the recommendations given. Reforms have often been defended as universal truths or global trends, irrespective of public preferences or differences in political regimes. There has been little attention to societal plurality and discrepancies in collective choices. In order to make Public Administration more practically relevant, this book argues to broaden its locus and focus. Public Administration is more than the study of government. It can be considered as the study of public reasoning. That reasoning takes place in politics as well as in administration and societal institutions. With regard to its focus, Public Administration has to take politics and law into account as well. We need to recognize that government is a state and that the state-like and public character of it has unique consequences. Public Administration has a normative core, with an emphasis on the democratic Rechtsstaat, with the procedural and substantive values connected to it. It has to reflect on the values of the public culture we live in.
Arthur Ringeling (1942) is emeritus-professor of Public Administration at Erasmus University Rotterdam.