Christopher Pollitt, Advanced Introduction to Public Management and Administration, (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2016) 192 pp. $23.80 (paper), ISBN: 9781784712334.

Published date01 March 2018
Date01 March 2018
Book Reviews 321
Christopher Pollitt , Advanced Introduction to Public Management
and Administration , ( Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing , 2016 )
192 pp. $23.80 (paper), ISBN: 9781784712334 .
C hristopher Pollitt s book is not only a clear
and succinct introduction to the theories of
public management and administration, the
methods used in the discipline, but also a description
of the academic community and the links between
scholars and the world of practice. Pollitt, emeritus
professor at the Public Governance Institute,
Leuven KU, is one of the leading authors in public
administration. You can feel, reading the pages of the
book, the decades of work in the field as a practitioner
and then as a scholar, giving the author the unique
capacity to address the book to a large and varied
audience. Pollitt offers a fascinating introduction to
public administration and management, how it can
be approached, why it is useful for practitioners, and
some scenarios on the evolution of the discipline.
The book can serve as a guide for advanced students
in the polymorphous field of public administration
with given paths for the future and a thoughtful
introduction to public administration for less
advanced students. The book is also of interest
for researchers in public administration who want
to nourish their reflections on the future of the
The book starts with the overview of the differences
and similarities between public administration and
public management. Pollitt claims that there are
no significant differences between the two subjects
because they both use the same methods and academic
theories in fine . According to Pollitt, while public
administration is static and focuses on machinery of
government, public management is dynamic and deals
with managing resources, efficiency, and performance.
Public management was thus a “province” of public
administration for many years, but the idea that
public administrators have no interest in efficiency
and managing resources is now outdated. The
differences between public management and public
administration are rather stereotypical and there is
a rather unified discipline and community. Pollitt
then differentiates public management from private
management, using Hal Rainey ’ s ( 1997 ) work on
publicness. Public management is distinctive of
private management because of a range of factors,
such as the nature of the markets and the goods,
political influences and public scrutiny, public service
ethos, and fewer extrinsic incentives, which can lead
to “knavish” behaviors of public servants (Le Grand
1997 ). There is, of course, a full range of hybrid
sectors or activities in the public and private sectors
experiencing different levels of publicness.
Pollitt ends the first chapter with an interesting
question—“why study it?”—for prospective students
and researchers looking for arguments to explain,
during cocktails, why they did their full career in the
field. There are many reasons why one should study
public management such as improving public services
for citizens, implementing new powerful programs,
and improving ethics. I would add an intellectual
argument: in most countries, public administrations
have preceded large industries, and understanding
the functioning and the organization of public
administrations is usually a good way to understand
the different organizations of the firm, from one
country to another.
The second chapter describes some of the main
theories in public administration. Pollitt identifies
three “big name” theories: neo-institutionalism,
rational choice and principal-agent theory, and
governance theories. The descriptions of the theories
are rather brief but sophisticated. There are, however,
at least two drawbacks in the presentations of theories.
First, Pollitt could come up with some figures of
the number of papers published in the main public
administration and management reviews using the
“big name” theories he identifies. Indeed, one might
argue that some landmark theories are missing, such
as transaction cost economics or public choice, which
are used in an important literature in the discipline.
Second, Pollitt could have used a different approach
to present the main disciplines influencing research in
public administration and management. Researchers
in public management have naturally been picking
Reviewed by: Simon Porcher
Sorbonne Business School
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 78, Iss. 2, pp. 321–323. © 2018 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
DOI: 10.1111/puar.12928.
Simon Porcher is an associate professor
at Sorbonne Business School, IAE Paris,
France, where he is vice-director of the
Economics of Public-Private Partnerships
Chair. He is also the associate editor of
M@n@gement. His research covers public–
private contracting and the privatization of
public services such as water, sanitation,
and waste management.

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