Demonstrating Neutrality: The Rockefeller Philanthropies and the Evolution of Public Administration, 1927-36
Public Administration Review, Vol. 54, No. 3, pp. 221-228, 1994
29 Pages Posted: 22 Dec 2008
Date Written: August 19, 1993
This paper explains why the politics-administration dichotomy became entrenched in the field of public administration in its first decade. The expansion of the public administration community depended on funding from three Rockefeller philanthropies who were sensitive to public criticism of their involvement in political work, and who had resisted supporting governmental research on the grounds that it would be perceived by the public as meddling in politics. The politics-administration dichotomy - an already well-known idea that suggested there was a certain sphere of governmental work that could be considered non-political - was a rhetorical device that allowed the philanthropies to defend their support of governmental research. Scholars and practitioners in public administration re-asserted their faith in the dichotomy, and tailored their work routines to bolster such assertions, in order to allay the philanthropies' concern about public criticism of the financial support which they provided to the new field. In other words, the dichotomy was an important part of a rhetorical strategy that was integral to the institutional development of the public administration community in its early years. It may be that the dichotomy continues to serve this function today.
Keywords: public administration, politics-administration dichotomy, Rockefeller Foundation, philanthropies, rhetoric
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation