Public Administration & Sociology

The Relationship Between Both Social Sciences

SociologyOpens in new window is broadly defined as the study of human social relationships in totality. It is a discipline that synthesizes political, economic, familial, religious, and other relationships in order to arrive at a complete understanding of man’s social life.

Public administration deals with management of man’s administrative affairs in society and is concerned with the fulfilment of the communal needs such as security of life, health, education, etc.

In order to be responsive to the needs of the people, the administrators should be conscious of the social goals of the administration. To this end, public administration has recently become closely associated with sociology.

Prof. DimockOpens in new window rightly points out the intimate relationship between public administration and sociology in the following words,

  • “… administration exists in a social setting and the pattern of administration is determined by society; but through sensitive administrative leadership, society itself may be changed. That the administrator is not merely an executive; he is also a social engineer, helping society to fulfil itself.”

Public administration acts as an instrument of social change, particularly in the developing countries of Asia and Africa. Through public administration the governments of these countries have been trying to usher in an egalitarianOpens in new window society by bringing about the desired changes in the social relationships. Scholars like F. W. RiggsOpens in new window argue that public administration in developing countries can be understood through an understanding of their social environment alone.

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In today's administrative state of affairs even such matters as marriage and family are affected by public administration in terms of welfare, social security and taxation. To a considerable extent administrative controls have replaced more traditional social control exercised by families, castesOpens in new window and religious organizations.

Through the contributions made by various sociologists, it is realized that Sociology has great influence on public administration. The distinguished German Sociologist Max WeberOpens in new window made the greatest contribution to the theory of bureaucracyOpens in new window. Besides bureaucracy, such concepts and terms as authority, organization, association, alienationOpens in new window and social changeOpens in new window are often studied in both the disciplines.

The relationists in administration have drawn much on sociology. They have highlighted the significance of informal groups, motivating workers through social rewards and sanctions, and the influence of group norms in the functioning of an organization. The behaviouralists applied the methods and findings of sociology in order to understand organizational behavior. Recent behavioural studies in administration have emphasized socio-psychological dimensions, particularly in the areas of leadership and motivation.

Despite their close relationship, Sociology and Public administration, however, differ from each other. Sociologists are widely interested in such matters as family, tribe, moresOpens in new window, and society in totality which do not concern students of Public administration.

Sociology is concerned with all forms of social associations—both organized and unorganized. Public administration, on the other hand, is concerned mainly with organized political life. Sociology may be considered as a general social science, whereas Public administration is a specialized social science dealing with society’s administrative aspects only. Therefore, the sphere of Public administration is narrower than that of Sociology.