A great schism approaching? Towards a micro and macro public administration

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Donald Moynihan


Design, Administrative behavior, Experiments, Public Administration


As an emerging field, behavioral public administration (BPA) has spurred important new research, documenting human biases and heuristics in public sector contexts. In doing so, it has embraced Herbert Simon's call to draw from psychology to understand administrative behavior.  To fulfill its potential, BPA should also pursue another goal of Simon: a normative aspiration toward design science, using its powerful analytical techniques to solve, and not just document, real administrative problems. Another challenge for BPA is understanding where it fits in the constellation of public administration research. One critique of BPA is that a focus on micro-level behavior leads to a neglect of big questions that were once central to public administration. But this tension may also signal the possibility of a productive division of labor, with a micro and macro public administration that addresses distinct questions, but which are connected by common research concepts

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