Elucidating the Complicated Structure of ‘Public Administration’ Spreading Inside and Outside of Japan
Yuichi Murakami , Ph.D., Associate Professor
Public Policy School Graduate School of Law, School of Law
High school : Ehime Prefectural Matsu-yama Higashi High School
Academic background : Faculty of Law, and Graduate School for Law and Poli-tics, The University of Tokyo; Ph.D.
- Research areas
- Public Administration, Public Management, Technology Policy
- Research keywords
- From government to governance’, role of government, international regulations, science and technology, administrative reform
What kind of discipline is public administration?
If there is snow on the road, it is removed by the following morning. Turn a faucet and you can drink potable water. Sort and carry household refuse to a garbage collection point and the refuse is removed.
Behind these scenes in everyday life is public administration. For snow removal, the responsible local government creates a budget based on a plan and then implements that plan internally, or assigns the service to a private entity. Tap water is supplied to each home through water purification plants run by local governments. The quality of the water should comply with the standards provided by the Ordinance of the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare. Recyclable household refuse is reused, which contributes to achieving GHG reduction targets stipulated by an international treaty.
The concept of public administration for research has changed significantly in the past several decades. In the past, public administration was conceptualized as ‘the role played by bureaucracy’ and the discipline was characterized by a popular textbook as ‘focusing on the collective actions of public bureaucracy for political investigation’.(1) Recently, however, the approach to understanding public administration broadly as a provision of public service and not as a limit on the providers for bureaucratic groups has been rising. One textbook defines public administration broadly as the discipline used ‘to understand modern society through investigation of the division of labour and delegation between politics and administration, ministries, and agencies, the government and private sectors, the central and local governments or states, and international organizations, as well as the reasons for the division’.(2) According to another textbook, the change ‘from unified governance by authority to mutual cooperation and multifaceted coordination by many independent bodies so as to establish stable society’(3) has become a major research theme of today’s public administration scholars. This change is called, ‘from government to governance’.
What kind of research have you been doing recently?
In this transition ‘from government to governance’, what changes are found at the domestic and international levels and in public administration? What is it that has brought about these changes and what will follow them? I am studying these questions through immediate and specific cases.
There is dispute as to whether the role of the government is shrinking in public administration. In an extremely complicated society, governments may not have the ability to fully control society, and various government regulations may have been impacted by market mechanisms. Alternatively, according to other dominant theories, though the private sector and the market are increasingly important, governments are still at the centre of governance, and they control governance by building relationships with the private sector at various levels; public administration is the mix of regulations of various forms and methods formulated and implemented together by governments and the private sector. Therefore, both government and governance are evolving, spreading, and increasing their influence on society.(4)
For example, have you seen these marks (shown to the right) on your electric products? Electric products are subject to regulations to prevent electrification and other risks and failures caused by electromagnetic interference.
Domestic and international marks on electric products convey safety
and other information to retailers and consumers.
The system implements many global regulations domestically, including those of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and Comité International Spécial des Perturbations Radioélectriques (CISPR). There are also voluntary regulations by industry groups, in addition to the legal regulations based on the Electrical Appliances and Materials Safety Act (EAMS Act) and the Radio Act. There is a division of roles among them. With recent deregulation, there are moves to introduce third-party certifications, make individual businesses confirm safety practices, and even leave product safety screenings for individual consumers.
Amid the rising importance of international regulations and the advancement and specialization of science and technology, the government may not have the policy discretion that it had in the past. In recent act amendments, however, the government is strengthening its participation through systematic safety regulations, with the EAMS Act at the top, in addition to on-site business inspections and stronger penalties on legal violations.(5)
How does your research contribute to society?
There are three points to emphasize. First, shedding light on the actual state of and changes in public administration itself is a mission for social scientists: that mission is a search for truth. For this purpose, it is necessary to keenly observe phenomena showing the change ‘from government to governance’, analyse them from an independent perspective, and then argue them in a persuasive manner. Second, public administration is expected to draw lessons for better administrative reforms through studying past and current trends in the field. In doing this, we will produce stronger research via multiple measures to evaluate what is ‘better’ in terms of efficiency, effectiveness, democratic nature, and so forth. Third, I believe that public administration is a practical discipline that can contribute to strengthening the industrial competitiveness and international position of Japan, as well as improving each citizen’s life. For example, when formulating an international standardization strategy, public administration first investigates the relevant situations, then analyses what we can do in terms of operating within the framework of the current system, and finally, what new systems we need to build.
Why don’t you come and study public administration, something that is closely related to your life, with us at Hokkaido University?
(1) Nishio M. (2001), Public Administration - New Edition (Shinpan Gyoseigaku) Yuhikaku. p. 47.
(2) Soga K. (2013), Public Administration (Gyoseigaku) Yuhikaku ARMA. p. 3.
(3) Morita A. (2000), Modern Administration - Revised Edition (Kaiteiban --- Gendai no gyosei). The Society for the Promotion of the Open University of Japan. p. 166.
(4) Levi-Faur. D. (2012), From ‘Big Government’ to ‘Big Governance’? Oxford Handbook of Governance, pp. 8-14. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
(5) Murakami Y. (2013). The Structure and Transformation of ‘Regulatory Space’: Case Studies on Governmental Discretion in Public-Private Collaboration (5) (Kiseikukan no kouzouhenyou to kanryousei no sairyoukousisenryaku (5)). The Journal of the Association of Political and Social Sciences 126 (9-10) (Kokka gakkai zasshi 126). pp. 868-923.