Speak Your Mind: Building Global PA Knowledge


“Speak Your Mind” is a PAR webpage feature that allows you to offer insights about big questions in public administration. The responses serve as a community forum for discussion of specific editorial contributions, and the format provides a platform for exchange of different ideas about how we think of public administration as a professional and scholarly enterprise.


In his latest editorial, Building Global Public Administration Knowledge, PAR Editor in Chief Jim Perry discusses the state of global public administration knowledge and the process toward advancing it. He posits that middle range theories might work best as a foundation for global public administration knowledge and describes five strategies toward building this knowledge. They include  (1) comparative topical focus; (2) database and measurement development; (3) cross-national collaborations; (4) research synthesis and meta-analyses to aggregate and assess empirical research; and (5) greater emphasis on history and culture.

Click here to listen to Dr. Perry’s podcast associated with his editorial.

We would appreciate your feedback below on the topics Dr. Perry discusses. Keeping in mind the strategies Dr. Perry discussed, is the field of public administration on the right path to building global PA knowledge? Do you agree with the strategies Dr. Perry outlines? Are PAR and other prominent publications taking the right approach toward furthering this process? What are the challenges and hindrances to moving towards global PA?

3 responses

  1. While it is refreshing to hear that Dr. Perry supports a need for theory in PA, the type of middle range theories Dr. Perry is referring to should not preclude doctoral faculty from teaching inquiry approaches using deep or foundation theory. Foundation theory is not only global in nature, but has the added benefit of training a philosophical mindset essential for intellectual argumentation and inquiry.

  2. I agree with Dr. Perry’s thoughts on building global public administration knowledge. Currently, our knowledge about public administration is still local. Practitioners are talking about the stories in their own countries. The practices in every country are different and it is difficult to measure which one is better. Comparative study is a useful way to build middle range theories. It is important to locate the comparative study on specific research topics, such as motivation, decision-making, government performance, collaborative governance, government-nonprofit relations, and so on. I think it is useful to introduce multiple research methods to build global public administration knowledge. Besides quantitative study, some qualitative research methods like case study, historical analysis and ethnographic research are also effective in comparative study.

  3. While I welcome Dr. Perry’s thoughts on the need to build a global public public administration, there is a need to be cautious of a simplistic interpretation of such an endeavor due to the following reasons:
    First, despite the useful critiques of post-modern and post-structural researchers, positivism continues to be the dominant paradigm in public administration. We are still on the look out for grand unifying narratives; hence the focus on meta-analyses. A global public administration envisaged on a positivist onto-epistemology risks colonizing and subjugating local public administration traditions. Therefore, there is a need to move away from grand, even simplistic comparative narratives; comparison often treats the West as the normal and the proverbial East as the “other”. More importantly, the onto-epistemological assumptions of public administration scholarship need to be clearly laid out as pointed out by many researchers over the years.
    Second, for a variety of reasons, the West continues to be the “normal” for public administration scholarship. For a move towards truly global public administration, this attitude of reviewers and editors needs to change. In a world, where the meaning of most local terms and traditions is a click away, continuously asking international scholars to “please explain your research context better for unfamiliar readers” increasingly seems unfair. If international researchers have to understand many contextual features of American society and culture on their own to understand contemporary public administration scholarship, why should the American scholars not extend the same courtesy to their international counterparts?
    Finally, a truly global public administration also warrants a research agenda which caters to the needs of different cultural and administrative traditions. In this regard, the onus is on international public administration scholars to not be constrained by the existing research agenda in public administration scholarship which in many cases does not account for the local priorities and traditions of many developing countries.

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