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Characterizing American public administration: The concept of administrative culture

Keith M. Henderson (SUNY College at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York, USA)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 1 May 2004



Comparative administrative study lacks agreed‐upon concepts for cross‐national analysis. This essay suggests “administrative culture” as a useful concept which has been overshadowed by two related concepts, “organizational culture” and “political culture.” The American experience is highlighted in its public personnel dimension and administrative sub‐cultures are introduced to characterize the enormous diversity of values, beliefs, and attitudes in the public sector. An evolutionary perspective is used to show change over time from the earliest “Government by Gentlemen” period to the current emphasis upon merit, modified by affirmative action and demands for accountability, flexibility, and entrepreneurial behavior. Sources of administrative culture are also discussed to reveal the unique origins of the system which, nevertheless, has been exported to numerous other nation‐states.



Henderson, K.M. (2004), "Characterizing American public administration: The concept of administrative culture", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 17 No. 3, pp. 234-250.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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