By Gavin Drewry
Gavin Drewry is Professor of Public Administration at Royal Holloway, University of London and an Honorary Professor in the Faculty of Law at University College, London. He has written extensively on public sector reform, on parliamentary select committees, on the legislative process and on public law. His most recent books include Public Service Reform (Pinter, 1996) and The Law and Parliament (Butterworths, 1998) – both co-authored with Dawn Oliver; Law and the Spirit of Inquiry (Kluwer, 1999), co-edited with Charles Blake; and Britain in the European Union (Palgrave, 2004), co-edited with Philip Giddings. He is currently directing a major research project on the operation of the UK Court of Appeal, funded by the Nuffield Foundation. Professor Drewry is a former Chair of the Study of Parliament Group and is co-convenor of a permanent study group of EGPA on Contractualisation in the Public Sector. He is Deputy Editor of the Statute Law Review, and serves on the editorial boards of several other journals, including the International Review of Administrative Sciences
The Administrative Sciences, from the past to the future (by a roundabout route)
The generic term, ‘administrative sciences’, embraces a bewildering multiplicity of theories and activities to do with the scholarly study of public administration and with devices for improving the quality of public service. It is an amorphous and an eclectic field, drawing upon many different intellectual disciplines and traditions and its boundaries are both permeable and elastic. The character and the history of the administrative sciences vary widely from one country and region to another. At an international level there is an ever-present risk of linguistic confusion and of talking at cross-purposes.
This lecture takes a journey down the evolutionary road along which the administrative sciences have developed. This metaphorical road is a long one, with many twists and turns and diversions along the way. Over the years, it has expanded from a country lane to a multi-lane motorway, carrying a substantial volume of traffic that has grown pari passu with the development of the modern interventionist state, and accommodating a wide variety of travellers, moving at different speeds, in different directions and with different reasons for their journeys. Traffic jams and collisions are familiar occurrences. The lecture has an historical aspect (drawing for illustrative purposes substantially but not exclusively on aspects of the UK experience), but it looks also to the future – suggesting that one important role for national and international organisations concerned with the administrative sciences may appropriately be seen as analogous to that of road traffic management. The bottom line is to ask ourselves, with reference to the present, whether the long and sometimes difficult evolutionary journey of the administrative sciences has really been worthwhile – and what do they offer us in future in terms of added value?