IAS Mantra Series : Public Administration


Topic 1: CPA


  • What is its meaning and scope?
  • What are the approaches within CPA?
  • What has been the contribution of various thinkers?
  • Distinct Features
  • Does CPA have a universal theory?
  • Difference from non-comparative approach?
  • Themes in CPA
  • Literary map of CPA


  • Why did it evolve?
  • Why is it needed? What purpose it serves?


  • How did it evolve? Chronologically and conceptually & what is its current status?

Critical Evaluation

  • Limitations
  • What is its significance in the present day world?
  • How has it helped make the field of public administration more complete? How has it changed the field?
  • Has it contributed to the erosion of other methods or is it complementary to other methods? Or Are other approaches redundant now?
  • Where is it best to employ a comparative approach and where not to?
  • “CPA started with no paradigm of its own and developed none”. Peter Savage.
  • Is there a comprehensive science of CPA? <Refer: Universality of CPA>
  • Is CPA behavioural?
  • Relationship between CPA and policy process
  • Study of CPA has given rise to problems of methodological concerns and conceptual focus.
  • Has CPA been a neutral field?

What? :Meaning and scope

  • Meaning
    • Robert Jackson: CPA is concerned with making rigorous cross-cultural comparisons of the structures and processes involved in the activity of administering public affairs.
    • So, CPA is cross cultural and cross national.
    • Hallmark: Commitment to comparison as a tool of analysis
    • Is it only about developing countries?
      • No. It includes both developed and developing countries
      • It compares different institutions in different countries in relation to their diverse environmental settings.
      • Scope
        • Micro level: cross-institutional studies in a single country -> ideographic studies
        • Macro level: extends to structural and functional aspects of administration of common variables in the nations across the world
        •  Cross temporal in dimension
        • Includes various comparative theories and models such as  the bureaucratic model and ecological model
        • CPA is a caution against administrative monocultures.
        • CPA attempts at cross-cultural administrative theories through twin process of theory testing and theory building.
        • The empirical approach to CPA is an extension of the open systems theory of organisation where the very idea of one best prescription is questioned and instead of one best, the most fitting is attempted to be discovered in view of actual reality prevailing.
        • Cross cultural (eg. Developed vs Developing nations)
        • Cross National (eg USA vs India)
        • Cross temporal (eg India pre independence vs India post independence)
        • Supra national (eg ASEAN vs SAARC)
        • Sub national (eg UP vs Kerala)
        • Universalistic Approach: seeks to find commonalities among public bureaucracies in various countries in the world by conceptual means
          • Weber’s bureaucratic model
          • Wilson’s transfer of administrative practices model
            • Importance of historic and comparative studies
            • Need to use cultural filtering lens
            • Ecological Approach
              • General systems approach
              • Development oriented approach
              • Weber
                • Compared different bureaucracies
                • Provided the theory of domination  which catalysed further comparative research
                • Concept of field bureaucracy (?)

Public Administration :CPA

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