26 July 2017 | The Creation of Perspectives on Public Management and Governance, By Ken Meier

Kevin, · Categories: monthly_posts

The Public Management Research Association—through its flagship journal, the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory (JPART)—has always stressed building knowledge through theoretically informed analysis. JPART is clearly a success by all measures. Continued empirical progress, however, needs significant theoretical development. Theory can be viewed as the capital base or the seed corn of our profession. Perspectives on Public Management and Governance (PPMG) was established to create incentives and a dedicated venue for scholars to contribute to theory in public management and governance and, in the process, engender new and creative efforts to push research in innovative directions and on new topics. Good theory has many characteristics. Theory integrates our research agendas and provides for a parsimonious cumulation of knowledge and a more precise focus for research. Good theory also suggests new ideas, new relationships, and new methods of analysis. Good theory challenges orthodoxy and thus stimulates intellectual exchanges and the pursuit of new knowledge. Improved theory could also help to balance the intellectual trade deficit with other fields by allowing us to export our ideas to other areas of study, rather than merely importing them.

PPMG seeks theoretical contributions broadly defined and without respect to method or approach. PPMG is interested in theory that is normative or positive, inductive or deductive, and formal or informal. Our only requirement is that addresses important topics in public management, governance, and public administration.

There are many areas of public management and governance where additional theoretical contributions are needed. The long-standing questions relating bureaucracy to democracy need to be reexamined in an era when political institutions do not or will not provide a positive leadership role for bureaucracy.The rapidly changing nature of public administration as forms of governance and service delivery evolve suggests that theories on the content and scope of public administration, governance, and public management remain important topics. What is unique about what we do as a profession?  The role of nonprofits and nonprofit research needs to be better integrated into public management. We deliver public programs with a wide array of institutional formats including government, nonprofits, private organizations, extranational organizations, and so forth.  Public administration should not limit its field of study or its contributions to theory simply because some institutions are less public than others. Just as topics in public management evolve so too do concepts, and we could benefit from greater focus on our core concepts and whether these concepts are generalizable across time and space.  Good theory also requires good methods; rather than borrowing methods that may or may not be appropriate to the theories we use and the problems we study, we need to invest in the development of methods (quantitative, qualitative and mixtures of the two) with an appropriate theoretical basis and that will help us answer the most important theoretical questions. PPMG sees that theory, empirical analysis and methods all influence each other. Governance implies a concern with the entire process of governing, from the formulation and adoption of policy to implementation and feedback processes. Theories that help us reduce the complexity of the governance process are clearly needed.

This list of topics is illustrative and not an attempt to discourage theoretical work in other areas or on other topics. The creation of PPMG is the first step in a long journey. There will be many paths to developing better theory using many different approaches. Intellectual debate rather than intellectual hegemony is the objective.  Let the journey begin and the intellectual debate commence.

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