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The Complementarity View: Exploring a Continuum in Political—Administrative Relations


Tansu Demir is an assistant professor in the Department of Public Administration at the University of Texas at San Antonio. He received his doctoral degree in public administration from Florida Atlantic University. He previously taught classes at the University of Illinois–Springfield and the University of Central Florida. His research interests include public administration theory, bureaucratic politics, and public policy process. His research has been published in Public Administration Review, Administration & Society, and the International Journal of Public Administration.


The politics–administration dichotomy has drawn criticism from contemporary public administration scholars largely because of its lack of descriptive accuracy and particular normative inclinations. In their search for an alternative model to the dichotomy, some scholars developed what is widely known today as complementarity. Although this emerging view received an enthusiastic welcome from many scholars and practitioners, more research has yet to be done to address its conceptual and empirical shortcomings. Using survey data collected from a nationwide sample of city managers, this study explores empirical foundations of the complementarity view of the politics–administration relationship. Specifically, the author first identifies a politics–management continuum based on a review of public administration literature on the complementarity view and then analyzes survey data to see whether the relationship between elected officials and public administrators is characterized by complementarity. The results of the analysis generally support the complementarity view, in that the responses of city managers mostly parallel the idea of a continuum in elected official–public administrator relationships, a continuum that moves from politics on one end to management on the other end, with various policy and administration activities in the middle. This paper aims to make a conceptual and empirical contribution to an important question in public administration.