The administration of government agencies or nonprofit organizations has evolved over the last century and has gone through a number of models in which the practice in governance was constructed. Authority and hierarchy formed the most common methods of practice in the federal and state jurisdictions. Prescriptive techniques of operation were established to guide the practice of public officials in the conduct of government policy implementation. Competing fields of study in the areas of economics, political science, and sociology challenged the status quo of public administrative theory by using more scientifically based theories and tools. The field of public administration was feeling a tug toward the predictive models of social sciences.
The foundations of public administration theory can be associated with four possible paradigms. They are the Hamiltonian, Jeffersonian, Madisonian, and the Wilsonian traditions. They are named after prominent historical practitioners. Each model is an independent construction and shares very little with any other model.
The operation of policy making and policy implementation in the governments of the nation has at the same time established a boundary that elected officials and appointed professionals must observe. This concept has been part of the public administration community since the beginning of a professional civil service.
Public administration in the 21st century is in a transitional period that has yet to find a single foundational footing from which it can grow in a constantly changing environment. Through exploration and investigation of competing disciplines and their solutions, public administration professionals will modify the predictive paradigms into an acceptable theory that can be called our own.