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Administrative Management: Does Its Strong Executive Thesis Still Merit Our Attention?


Herbert Kaufman was a professor of political science at Yale University and then a senior fellow in governmental studies at The Brookings Institution. Now retired, he lives in New Haven and is a visiting fellow in political Science at Yale. Public administration and organization theory and behavior are his main areas of study. His publications include The Forest Ranger: A Study in Administrative Behavior, Governing New York City (with Wallace S. Sayre), The Limits of Organizational Change, Administrative Feedback, Are Government Organizations Immortal, Red Tape: Its Origins, Uses and Abuses, The Administrative Behavior of Federal Bureau Chiefs, and Time, Chance, and Organizations.


Tasked with the responsibility of finding new and innovative ways of improving administrative management, Arthur W. Macmahon, James W. Fesler, and Herbert Emmerich creatively enriched the final report of the President’s Committee on Administrative Management with their analyses. But that is not the only reason for celebrating this work today. These documents still merit attention because they are historical landmarks that draw attention to the continuing tensions between Congress and the president over which branch of government should have control over executive branch agencies. This study makes the case for a strong executive in a manner that has rarely been as clearly and forcefully stated as it was in 1937. It reminds the field that policy decisions remain nothing but aspirations until they are turned into action. Reading this study is like reading any classic treatise on government—it generates thought.