The Politics–Administration Dichotomy: An Empirical Search for Correspondence between Theory and Practice

Authors

  • Tansu Demir,

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Illinois
      Tansu Demir is an assistant professor in the Department of Public Administration at the University of Illinois–Springfield. He received his doctoral degree in public administration from Florida Atlantic University. His research interests include public administration theory, bureaucratic politics, and public policy process. He has forthcoming articles in Administration & Society and the International Journal of Public Administration.
      E-mail: tdemi2@uis.edu
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  • Ronald C. Nyhan

    Corresponding author
    1. Florida Atlantic University
      Ronald C. Nyhan is an associate professor in the School of Public Administration at Florida Atlantic University. He has published in such journals as the American Review of Public Administration, International Journal of Organization Theory and Behavior, State and Local Government Review, Public Administration Quarterly, International Journal of Public Administration, International Review of Administrative Sciences, and Review of Public Personnel Administration.
      E-mail: rcnyhan@fau.edu
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Tansu Demir is an assistant professor in the Department of Public Administration at the University of Illinois–Springfield. He received his doctoral degree in public administration from Florida Atlantic University. His research interests include public administration theory, bureaucratic politics, and public policy process. He has forthcoming articles in Administration & Society and the International Journal of Public Administration.
E-mail: tdemi2@uis.edu

Ronald C. Nyhan is an associate professor in the School of Public Administration at Florida Atlantic University. He has published in such journals as the American Review of Public Administration, International Journal of Organization Theory and Behavior, State and Local Government Review, Public Administration Quarterly, International Journal of Public Administration, International Review of Administrative Sciences, and Review of Public Personnel Administration.
E-mail: rcnyhan@fau.edu

Abstract

The politics–administration dichotomy has been one of the most disputed theories of public administration. Despite serious critiques, neither the theoretical utility nor the normative power of the dichotomy has totally disappeared over the past decades. The dichotomy has been advocated on the grounds that the dichotomous division of labor and authority between elected and administrative officials increases the democratic accountability and planning ability of public administrators. This article first builds a theoretical model of the politics–administration dichotomy and then evaluates the model using empirical data collected from a nationwide sample of city managers serving in council-manager local governments. Results of structural equation modeling illustrate that the politics–administration dichotomy fails to obtain its predicted tendencies in actuality. The authors interpret the findings in light of the contemporary public administration literature. The article aims to make a theoretical-empirical contribution to one of the most challenging questions in public administration.

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