Administration as an activity is as old as society itself. But as an area of study it originated, with the publication of Wilson’s essay on study of Administration in 1887. As a process, administration occurs in both public and private organisations.
Its nature is affected by the sphere with which it is concerned. Administration is commonly divided into two types, Public and Private Administration. As an aspect of government activity it has existed since the emergence of political system(s). While public administration relates to the activities carried out by government, private administration refers to the management of private business enterprises.
The word ‘administer’ is derived from the Latin word administere, which means to care for or to look after people, to manage affairs. Administration may be defined as “group activity which involves cooperation and coordination for the purpose of achieving desired goals or objectives”.
Broadly speaking, the term administration appears to bear at least four different meanings or different senses depending upon the context in which it is used:
(1) As a Discipline: The name of a branch of learning or intellectual discipline as taught and studied in colleges and universities.
(2) As a Vocation: Type of work/trade or profession/occupation, especially one that involves knowledge and training in a branch of advance learning.
(3) As a Process: The sum total of activities undertaken to implement Public Policy or policies to produce some services or goods.
(4) As a Synonym for ‘word’ Executive or Government: Such other body of persons in supreme charge of affairs, for example, Manmohan Singh Administration, Bush Administration, etc.
Administration is also called a ‘technology of social relationships’. Thus, administration is a process common to all group effort, public or private, civil or military, large scale or small scale. It is process at work in a department store, a bank, a university, a high school, a railroad, a hospital, a hotel or a local government
Following is the definition offered by F.A. Nigro and L.G. Nigro. According to them Public Administration:
• is co-operative group effort in a public setting;
• covers all three branches-executive, legislative, and judicial, and their inter-relationships;
• has an important role in the formulation of public policy and is thus a part of the political process;
• is different in significant ways from private administration; and
• is closely associated with numerous private groups and individuals in providing services to the community”.
In sum, public administration:
• is the non-political public bureaucracy operating in a political system;
• deals with the ends of the State, the sovereign will, the public interests and laws;
• is the business side of government and as such concerned with policy execution, but it is also concerned with policy-making;
• covers all three branches of government, although it tends to be concentrated in the executive branch;
• provides regulatory and service functions to the people in order to attain good life;
• differs significantly from private administration, especially in its emphasis on the public; and
• is interdisciplinary in nature as it draws upon other social sciences like political science, economics and sociology.