Forvaltningshistorie og forvaltningsvidenskab - en undersøgelse af efterkrigsårenes forvaltningshistorie og Forvaltningskommissionen af 1946

Nils Bredsdorff


Summary The aim of the dissertation is twofold. One angle is to enhance knowledge about public administration reforms in the post-war years. To do this it was necessary to examine the archives of the Reform Commission. The task was, hereafter, to try to create a picture of what ideas the agents in the reform work had about administration and reform. This perspective could be called the history of public administration, i.e. a reform is studied in its context and on its own premisses. The Public Administration Reform Commission of 1946 was influenced by the reform zeal of the post-war years as well as by the lack of political will (consent) to reform in the 481 last part of the period. The work (effort) of the commission was coloured by the discrepancy between the dominating idea of public administration and elements of a new reality in public administration. Between discourses from the "bürgerliche Rechtsstaat" and discourses from the emerging social engineering. From another angle the aim is to enhance the understanding of an indispensable new debate of the methods in the study of comparative public administration. Diacrone and syncrone comparisons between systems of administration raise innumerable methodological problems, e.g. ethnocentricity and anacronism. The majority of important social science theories about administrative behaviour and administrative organizations try to abstract from the historical context of the subject in question. Some theories pay lip service to contextual analysis without any consequences for the comparative approach. Instead of confronting the problems in comparisons most of the theories unwillingly stresses them: The fundamental concept of Bounded Rationality simply cries for an answer to the question, bounded by what? The next question must be: Are the bounds metahistorical invariants? The dissertation tries to weave the answer into the study of the revolution in the post-war (American) social sciences and its effects in establishing the Danish science of public administration. The discussion of methods is a clarification and a clearing operation. It leads to one question: how to proceed? A sketch to a historical sociological approach is given which could be called a historical institutionalist approach. It concentrates on the peculiar, historical and institutionally bounded distinctive behaviour among administrative personel which makes the contextual approach indispensable to a study of public administration. Without a detailed investigation of the historical conditions and on how the ruling ideas about society influences public administration and its agents the results of comparisons will be limited to pure heuristics. The main part of the study is an attempt to make such a detailed description. If you wish, an example of a possible answer to the question about how to proceed. The presentation of the historical material and the examination of the archives from the Commission has no intention of being analytical in the traditional social science meaning of the word. The historical part of the work does not intend to generate theories or to be part of such an enterprise. The public administration history angle is, however, the prerequisite to approach the Public Administration comparative angle. On the other hand, working with the methodological problems in comparisons has offered some productive angles to the study of the history of public administration and policy: The entry of economists and (later) keynesians into public administration, the spreding of the new "scientific study" of public administration, the triumphal progress of the discourse of rationalization, the concept of ground rules or core values etc... Chapter I deals with the methodological problems and ways of studying public administration in its development. Chapter II sketches the social and political environment of the Reform Commission. Chapter III gives the outlines of the history of the Commission, its composition etc.. Chapter IV gives three interviews with comtemporary civil servants and politicians and some until now unpublished papers concerning the start of the Commission. Chapter V goes into the micropolitics of the Commission, i.e. studies the performance of selected subcommittees and Chapter VI follows the Commission to its last report and the establishment in 1952 of a permanent 'auditing' body for the Danish public administration. Two additional articles recapitulate the methodological discussion and the historical account at the request of the assessment committee.

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