The Public Administration Theory Primer explores how the science and art of public administration is definable, describable, replicable, and cumulative. The authors survey a broad range of theories and analytical approaches—from public institutional theory to theories of governance—and consider which are the most promising, influential, and important for the field. This book paints a full picture of how these theories contribute to, and explain, what we know about public administration today.

The third edition is fully revised and updated to reflect the latest developments and research in the field including more coverage of governments and governance, feminist theory, emotional labor theory, and grounded research methodology. Expanded chapter conclusions, additional real-world application examples throughout, and a brand-new online supplement with sample comprehensive exam questions and summary tables make this an even more valuable resource for all public administration students.

What's Inside

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Reader Reviews


“In all honesty, I revere this book. Many graduate students refer to the text as their “bible.” It is the number one recommended resource for preparing students for comprehensive exams. My students regard it with equal deference and appreciation, saying that it is the source that they use to make sense of the hundreds of readings I assign in the seminar. This book is more than just a work of scholarship. It is a companion that provides constant reassurance along the path of my career, and without it I am all but certain I would never have earned my doctoral degree or found inspiration for the research questions I pursue as a faculty member. Words cannot begin to express how many times this book has sparked a research question or helped me to articulate a puzzle to work on […] I would recommend this book in a heartbeat. As mentioned above, this is a succinct introduction to almost every major idea in the discipline of PA in the past 130 years. This book is an absolute necessity for graduate students (especially in comps preparation) and scholars (in fostering new research ideas). The book is an intellectual treasure, headed by a masterful scholar, which provides a sense of comfort and awe.”
Casey LaFrance, Western Illinois University
"The Public Administration Theory Primer is a succinct, clearly written text that engages thematically with historical and contemporary developments within public administration. Its broad topics leave readers with a clear understanding of how and why theoretical lenses emerged, and lead to critical thinking regarding the applicability of some theoretical foundations today.”
Staci M. Zavattaro, Mississippi State University
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